This course is an introduction to the modern political history and contemporary
political system of China. The emphasis is on China's political development; i.
e. the changing structure, use, and distribution of power in China from the
middle of the 19th century to the present. Topics include the fall of imperial
China, the origins, development, and victory of the Chinese Communist
revolution; the rule and legacy of Chairman Mao Zedong, particularly the Great
Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution; economic reform, cultural opening,
and political repression (especially the Tiananmen crisis) in the era of Deng
Xiaoping; and the evolution of Chinese politics in post-Deng China. Politics in
Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan will also be considered as time
allows. Although the focus of the course is on China's domestic politics, close
attention will be paid to the influence of international factors on China's
development and part the last sessions of the course will look at China's role in
Please note: Since much time in this course is spent on imperial China, the
Chinese civil war and the Maoist period, if you have already studied a lot of
modern Chinese history, you may want to think about whether this course is
redundant for you.
The written assignments for the course, tentative due dates, and weights in the
final grade are as follows:
Two take-home essay exams (6-8 pages), due approximately October
12th and November 19th. (25% each)
A self-scheduled, closed-book final exam (40%)
Attendence, attentiveness, and participation. There will be specific
assignments related to this requirement, such as reporting on current
events in China, that will be will specified early in the semester and
depend on the size of the class. (10%)
NOTE: For the two in-term assignments, you may have a total of five days of
"extensions" from the due date to use throughout the term as best fits your
schedule. These extensions allow you to hand in a paper late without a grade
penalty, but after your five days have been used up the assignment will be
marked down 1/3 grade per day (or fraction of a day) late (e. g. from B+ to B)
Please see the list of Responsibilities and Expectations attached to this
The following books (all paperback) are available for purchase in the bookstore
(or elsewhere) and on reserve in Clapp/Knapp:
Jung Chang, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China.
Timothy Cheek, Mao Zedong and China's Revolutions.
June Grasso, et. al., Modernization and Revolution in China: From the
Opium War to the Olympics, 4th edition.
Video assignments are a very important part of this course, so you should take
them just as seriously as the reading. The assigned videos are available through
E-Reserves or online.
Students are also expected to keep up with current events in China. One
source of quick access to news about China is my China Headline News RSS-feed,
which is accessible via the course conference on FirstClass and China Politics
Links. Each student will be asked to submit an interesting and substantive
article (or link) with commentary to the course conference at least once during
the semester. The first 10 minutes or so of class each Friday will be spent
discussing current events. The events/issues discussed during this time may be
part of the final exam.
COURSE SCHEDULE AND READING ASSIGNMENTS: Assignments
marked (ER) are available via Electronic Reserve in the FirstClass Conference
for this course. Assignments marked (OL) are "online" and can be accessed via
the online version of the course syllabus or through the Online Readings folder
in the course FirstClass Conference. Those marked (eBrary) are available
through the online library catalog. As we go along through the semester, I will
do my best to let you know well in advance which readings should be done by
which class meeting. The readings are generally listed in the order in which it is
recommended that they be done.
Part I: Starting Points
Sept. 7 Introduction to the Course
Sept. 10 Language, Geography, & 2,231 Years of Chinese History
June Grasso, et. al., Modernization and Revolution in China, Preface;
Pronunation Guide, ch. 1.
Read the following parts of the entry on China's geography and
demography in Encyclopedia Britannica Online: NOTE: BE
CAREFUL NOT TO PRINT THE WHOLE 300 PAGE ARTICLE
o China (introductory page)
o The Land-Relief
o Ethnic and Linguistic Groups
o Population Distribution
Edwin O. Reischauer, "The Dynastic Cycle." (ER)
Part II: From Empire to People's Republic
NOTE: Required video for Part II of the course: "China in Revolution" (2
hours) This film can be viewedvia the Video E-Reserves link in the E-Reserves
folder of our course conference.
Sept. 14 - Oct. 1 Imperial China
Why did the China's imperial system last so long? The Glue is the Clue
Grasso, et. al, ch. 2.
Albert Feuerwerker, "Ideology as a Unifying Element" and "Emperor
and Bureaucracy: The Political Order," in State and Society in
Eighteenth Century China. (ER)
Emperor Qianlong's Letter to King George III (1793). (OL)
Lloyd E. Eastman, "Agriculture: An Overview," in Family, Fields, and
Ancestors: Constancy and Change in China's Social and Economic
History, 1550-1949. (ER)
Suisheng Zhao, "The Decline of the Chinese World Order," in Power
Competition in East Asia, pp. 15-25. (ER)
Things (Begin to) Fall Apart
Grasso, et. al, ch. 3, pp. 32-41.
Suisheng Zhao, "The Decline of the Chinese World Order," pp. 26-31.
Lin Zexu’s “Moral Advice to Queen Victoria” (1839).
Read Overview and Full Text.
Required video: "The Two Coasts of China" (1 hour). (ER)
The Five Rs: Rebellion, Restoration, Reform, Reaction, & Revolution
Grasso, et. al, ch. 3, pp. 41-64.
Jung Chang, Wild Swans, ch. 1-2.
John E. Wills, Jr., "Hong Xiuquan, The Heavenly King," and "Liang
Qichao," in Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History. eBrary
Lucien Bianco, "Social Causes of the Revolution," in The Origins of the
Chinese Revolution, pp. 83-107. (ER)
Oct. 8, 15, 19 Civil War, World War, and more Civil War
Why the Communists won- - and why the Nationalists lost.
Grasso, et. al, ch. 4-6.
Wellesley College Person of the Week: "Madame Chiang Kai-shek"
Jung Chang, Wild Swans, chs 3-7.
Timothy Cheek, Mao Zedong and China's Revolutions, pp.1-13, 183-
Mao Zedong (Mao Tsetung)
o "Report on the Peasant Movement in Hunan" (1927) in Cheek, pp.
41-75 (Pay closest attention to Parts I and II, but do a careful skim
of the rest)
o Be Concerned with the Well-being of the Masses" (1934) (OL)
o "What is Guerrilla Warfare?" (1937) (OL)
o "On Contradiction"(1937) (Selections) (OL)
o "Talk at the Yanan Conference on Art and Literature" (1942) in
Cheek , pp. 112-116.
o "On Methods of Leadership," (1943) in Cheek, pp. 117-127.
o "Serve the People" (1944) (OL)
o "The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains" (1945)
o "Snow," (1945) in Cheek, pp. 123-123
PART III: Mao in Power (1949-1976)
NOTE: Required video for Part III of the course: "The Mao Years" (2 hours).
This film can be viewed via the Video E-Reserves link in the E-Reserves folder
of our course conference.
Oct. 22 Creating the "New China" (1949-55): Golden Years or Ominous
Grasso, et. al, ch. 7, pp. 130-152.
Chang, chs. 8-9.
Cheek, pp. 18-21.
o "The Chinese People Have Stood Up!" in Cheek, pp. 125-127.
o Preserve the Style of Plain Living and Hard Struggle" (OL)
o "On the People's Democratic Dictatorship" (OL)
Oct. 26 Fragrant Flowers and Poisonous Weeds (1956-57): A Critical
Grasso, et. al, ch. 7, pp. 152-162.
Chang, chs. 10-11.
Cheek, pp. 21-24.
o "On the Question of Agricultural Cooperation" (OL)
o "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions...," Parts I, II, VIII,
IX, X, in Cheek, pp. 127ff.
Oct. 29, Nov. 5 The Great Leap Forward...Backward...and Rightward
No Class Nov. 2
Grasso, et. al, ch. 8.
Chang, chs. 12-14.
Cheek, pp. 24-26, 204-209.
Mao Zedong, "Talk at the Beidaihe Conference," in Cheek, pp. 160-166.
Jasper Becker, "Anhui: Let's Talk About Fengyang," in Hungry Ghosts:
Mao's Secret Famine. (ER)
Nov. 9, 12 Mao's Last Stand: The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
Grasso, et. al, ch. 9.
Chang, chs. 15-27.
Cheek, 26-36, 167-179, 210-215.
Mao Zedong, "Talks with Mao Yuan-hsin [Yuanxin]" (OL)
Serve the People! Daily Life in China during Cultural Revolution
[Browse this website]
PART IV: The Deng Era and Beyond (1977-present)
Nov. 16, 19: Deng Xiaoping in Power: The Little Big Man Strikes Back
Grasso, et. al, ch. 10.
Chang, ch. 28 and Epilogue.
o "Build Socialism with Chinese Characteristics" (OL)
o "Uphold the Four Cardinal Principles" (excerpts)(OL)
Required Video: "The Tank Man," Available on-line at
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tankman/. Read the
background and the other information about the "Tiananmen Massacre"
available at this site.
Nov. 23 - Dec 10 : China After Deng: Change, Continuity, Challenge and
Grasso, et. al. 11-13.
William A. Joseph, "China," sections 2-5, from Introduction to
Comparative Politics, 5th ed., M. Kesselman, J.
Krieger, W. Joseph, ed. (OR)
Required Video: "China Blue: An undercover look at
the brutal conditions in a Chinese blue jeans factory,"
PBS, Global Voices, 2010.
Other assignments to be announced.