History of Modern China

Discipline: History of East Asia
Instructor: Israel
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 0925
End: 1040
Field Work: Day 6 | China Download Syllabus

China’s rise as a world power is surely one of the defining events of the 21st century. Yet dramatic and earth-shaking as this process has been, it was by no means pre-ordained. Less than a century ago, China was dismissed as “the sick man of Asia”. Western nations spoke of “the carving of the Chinese melon” and the Chinese compared their own country to “meat on a platter”, to be sliced up and devoured by voracious white men and Japanese. The death and rebirth of a land that had seen itself both as imperial universe and cultural cosmos is the leitmotif of this course. Starting with a look at the Qing (Manchu) dynasty in its heyday, we will follow the dynasty’s decline following the Opium War and eventual oblivion at the hands of republican revolutionaries. After examination of Chiang Kai-shek’s abortive moves toward national reunification and Mao Zedong’s tragic experiments in revolutionary radicalism, we will follow the ongoing process of national reconstruction and redefinition under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping and his successors.

Field Work

Country: China
Day: 6

As Keith Schoppa reminds us, the issue of identity – both individual and collective – permeates the history of modern China.  Nowhere is the identity question defined more acutely and more poignantly than in Hong Kong, a British Colony from 1842 to 1997 that is now a “special economic region” of the People’s Republic of China.  To help us explore Hong Kong’s identity issue, we turn to Elizabeth Sinn. Professor Sinn has devoted her professional life to the study of her native city, its relationship to China, and its place in the world.   Before she retired in 2004, she was Deputy Director of the Centre of Asian Studies at Hong Kong University and a member of the Humanities Panel of the Hong Kong Research Grants Council. Currently, she is the lead scholar in the Hong Kong Memory Project which aims to build a website for archiving and showcasing records related to Hong Kong’s history, culture and heritage. To set the stage, Professor Sinn has arranged for a guided tour through the Hong Kong Museum of History.  Then we will gather for lunch at one of her favorite local restaurants, where she will prepare us for our exploration of Hong Kong.  Following lunch, we will embark on an afternoon’s walking tour through the heart of her city, continuing our dialogue with Professor Sinn as we go. Wear comfortable clothes and, above all, a good pair of walking shoes.  We will be walking from shipside to museum, museum to lunch, and, of course, along the route of the three-to-four-hour walking tour.  Before or after lunch, we will enjoy a view of Hong Kong harbor as we travel from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island on the famous Star Ferry.  At the conclusion of the day’s program, a chartered bus will return us to the ship.

 Academic Objectives:
  1. Understanding the role of Hong Kong in modern Chinese history
  2. Understanding the relationship between the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong
  3. Understanding the role of regionalism and localism in Chinese people’s identity
  4. More broadly, to enable students to see Hong Kong as a living society rather than as a geo-political abstraction.