Guangzhou became a part of China in the 3d cent. B.C. Hindu and Arab merchants reached Guangzhou in the 10th cent., and the city became the first Chinese port regularly visited by European traders. In 1511, Portugal secured a trade monopoly, but it was broken by the British in the late 17th cent.; in the 18th cent. the French and Dutch were also admitted. Trading, however, was restricted until the Treaty of Nanjing (1842) following the Opium War, which opened the city to foreign trade. Following a disturbance, French and British forces occupied Guangzhou in 1856. Later the island of Shameen (Shamian) was ceded to them for business and residential purposes, and this reclaimed sandbank with its broad avenues, gardens, and fine buildings was known for its beauty; it was restored to China in 1946.
Guangzhou was the seat of the revolutionary movement under Sun Yat-sen in 1911; the Republic of China was proclaimed there. From Guangzhou the Nationalist armies of Chiang Kai-shek marched northward in the 1920s to establish a government in Nanjing. In 1927, Guangzhou was briefly the seat of one of the earliest Communist communes in China. The fall of Guangzhou to the Communist armies in late Oct., 1949, signaled the Communist takeover of all China. Under the Communist government, Guangzhou was developed as an industrial center and a modern port, with a great trade to and from Hong Kong.