History of Modern China

Discipline: History of East Asia
Instructor: Guy
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 0925
End: 1040
Field Work: Day 6 - Hong Kong - 11 February | China
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

The history of modern China is the story of how one of the proudest empires in the world, became one of the most humiliated nations, then regenerated itself by means of one of the most misunderstood revolutions in the world.  This course will address the pride, the humiliation and the revolution.  The course will be divided into five segments, corresponding to five portions of the voyage.  The first section will consider the nineteenth century conflict between China and the West and the Qing dynasty’s effort to adapt to a new world.  Events in nineteenth century Chinese history, the Taiping Rebellion and the Opium War will be examined through the window of Shanghai in preparation for our arrival there.  How Shanghai emerged as treaty port, destination of refugees from the inland Rebellion and site of colonial modernity will be a first theme. The second part of the course will explore the twentieth century Chinese search for a cultural and political identity; including the Revolution of 1911 and the May Fourth Movement of 1919.  This part of the course will correspond to the port calls in Hong Kong, Vietnam and Singapore, where students will have a chance to observe overseas Chinese lives and the enactment of a Chinese identity outside China.

In the third section of the course, enroute to India, the course will consider twentieth century histories of the Nationalist (KMT) and Chinese Communist (CCP) Parties.  We will examine the KMT’s effort, sometimes termed ‘abortive’, to establish a modern government in China, and the Communist Party’s rise to power, the Long March and the development of party thought about the role of peasants in politics.  Although CCP strategy was unmistakably Chinese, the issues involved are of universal interest in developing world countries such as India and Africa. Enroute Cape Town, the course will examine the victory of the CCP in the Civil War, and the extraordinary social experimentation that took place in the 1950s and 1960s in China.  Here the effort will be to identify some of the motives behind this experimentation, as well as to reflect on its dangers.  In the last days of the voyage, we will focus on post Tian An Men reform in China, and the commitments of twenty first century China to globalization.

The course objectives will be (1.) To grasp the how’s and why’s of China’s precipitous modern trajectory; (2.) To understand how these developments have shaped and interacted with the Chinese people’s quest for identity, and (3.) To provide a framework for students’ personal understandings of China and reflections on China’s role in the twentieth century.

Field Work

Country: China
Day: 6 - Hong Kong - 11 February

Thoroughly cosmopolitan and thoroughly Chinese, Hong Kong is a fascinating exhibit in Modern Chinese History. We will begin our field lab where Hong Kong began, on the rocky, waterless island ceded to the British in the Treaty of Nanking. We will have lunch at Hong Kong City Hall, formerly the site of the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank and the Bank of China. In the afternoon, we will visit the Chinese University of Hong Kong, one of the major teaching and research Universities of modern easy Asia, with a cosmopolitan student body dawn from Hong Kong, the PRC, and Taiwan. We will meet with some young American teachers and see how they see the major problems and concerns of their students and how they experience the cosmopolitanism of Hong Kong. Academic Objectives:

  1. To get a sense of how modern Chinese history influences Chinese views of the world.
  2. To assess modern Chinese cosmopolitanism, as manifested in Hong Kong.
  3. To place Hong Kong in modern Chinese history.