At the turn of the 20th century, China was one of the poorest nations in the world. Its 2,000 year old system of government was crumbling, large segments of its population were impoverished or starving, and the country seemed powerless to defend itself against repeated foreign intrusion. Once known as the “sick man of Asia,” China today is a global power with world-wide strategic, economic and political influence.
This course is about the people, personalities, and events that have given this remarkable transformation its dramatic and sometimes tragic tone. It is also about the social, political, and cultural currents that lay beneath these more visible manifestations of change and the profound effect these forces have had on the Chinese people. Following a brief consideration of the political and social institutions of the last imperial dynasty (the Qing, 1644-1911), we will examine the interaction of foreign aggression and domestic social crises that led first to the fall of the imperial order and the establishment of a Republic in 1911 and then to the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. From here we move on to the post-'49 period under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a period that has been described as the greatest attempt at revolutionary social transformation in world history. In the final weeks of the course, we will look at the post-Mao reform era and the issues facing China today after nearly a century of revolution.
Reading assignments, drawn from a survey textbook (R. Keith Schoppa, Revolution and its Past) as well as other secondary and translated primary sources, will average about 125 pages per week. Grades for the course will be based on a mid-term exam (25%), a final exam (30%), an eight-page essay (30%) and attendance and participation in discussion sections (15%).