TIMELINE: China milestones since 1978

(Reuters) - China this month marks 30 years since the launch of economic reforms that have transformed the country from an isolated backwater to the world’s fourth-largest economy.

Here are some landmark dates:

* 1978: Chinese Communist Party launches reforms backed by the recently rehabilitated veteran leader Deng Xiaoping, two years after death of communist leader Mao Zedong. China starts the “household-responsibility system” in the countryside, giving some farmers ownership of their product for the first time.

* 1979: Most urban families ordered to limit family size to one child to stem population growth. Diplomatic relations with the United States normalized.

* 1980: Southern city Shenzhen is made the first “special economic zone” to experiment with more flexible market policies and in a matter of years it is transformed from a fishing village into a manufacturing and shipping powerhouse.

* 1986: Student-led protests against corruption and political control spread in Beijing and other cities. The unrest leads to the dismissal in 1987 of Hu Yaobang, the reformist Communist Party chief seen as too liberal by Deng and Party elders.

* 1988: Economic turbulence stirs public discontent. Bank runs and panic buying are triggered by rising inflation that peaks at over 30 percent in cities.

* 1989: Anti-government protests spread as other Communist states topple. The Communist Party sends troops to crush mass student-led protests on the nights of June 3-4, killing hundreds around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Sweeping campaign against dissent launched.

* 1990: The Shanghai Stock Exchange, the first ever stock market in Communist China, opens.

* 1992: Deng tours southern China to press for faster economic reforms and quell the influence of Party conservatives opposed to market liberalization. This sparks a fresh wave of market growth and some political relaxation.

* 1996: China allows the yuan to be convertible on the current account, enabling the free flow of money for imports and exports.

* 1997: Deng dies in February. His successor is Jiang Zemin. Former British colony Hong Kong returns to Chinese rule in July.

* 1998: China kicks off a $500 billion bailout of its banking sector, rescuing them from a legacy of bad, often politically directed, loans made in the early years of reform.

* 1999: In May, Chinese protesters surround and stone the U.S. embassy in Beijing and attack U.S. consulate offices elsewhere in the country after NATO forces bombed China’s embassy in Belgrade during the war against Serbia.

* 2001: China joins the World Trade Organization in November.

* 2002: The Communist Party of China permits entrepreneurs to become members.

* 2003: National People’s Congress endorses Hu Jintao to succeed Jiang as president. SARS breaks out around the country in spring and summer. China’s first manned space flight blasts off from Gobi desert in October.

* 2005: China sweeps past Britain, France and Italy to become the world’s fourth-largest economy. China frees the yuan from a dollar peg, letting it float within a tightly managed band.

* 2006: Two great but controversial projects, the Three Gorges Dam and a railway to Tibet, are completed. China’s foreign currency reserves, already the world’s biggest, top $1 trillion.

* 2008: Beijing hosts hugely successful Summer Olympic Games, illustrating China’s arrival on world stage.

Source: Reuters

Reporting by Yu Le and Simon Rabinovitch; Editing by Nick Macfie