HST484/584  Modern Chinese History



Fall 2002                                                                                            Class Room: AD334

                                                                                                            Time: MWF 9:30-10:20


Instructor: Dr. Pingchao Zhu

Office: 315 AD (Administration Building)

Office Phone: 885-7166

Office Hour: MWF 1:00-2:00pm, or by appointment

E-mail: pzhu@uidaho.edu

Website: www.uidaho.edu/~pzhu



The major themes of Modern Chinese History are CHANGE and TRANSFORMATION.  In this course we are going to travel through three-hundred-year time period from China’s last imperial dynasty (17th to 19th century) to the present days.  Many dramatic events, historical figures, important movements, ideology, conflicts and clash that went along with China's path to modernization will be analyzed and discussed.  Issues addressed in this course include political institutions, social structure, cultural traditions, major historical development in economy, education, urbanization, and reforms, Western impact, and China’s role in international affairs.  Modern Chinese history is about how a nation struggles persistently in her search for modernity.



  1. Ranbir Vohra, China's Path to Modernization: A Historical Review from 1800 to the      Present, 3nd ed., New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1999.


  1. Bette Bao Lord, Spring Moon, A Novel of China, New York: HarperPaperbacks, 1981.



1. Two mid-term exams                                                           100 points each

2. Two essays                                                                          100 each

3. Response journals (5 in total)                                                 10 each

4. Attendance & participation                                                   50


Examinations consist of short essays and identifications.  They are not cumulative.



1) Essay One is on the novel by Bette Bao Lord, Spring Moon: A Novel of China.  Students are required to include the following aspects in the report:

--A general review of the story;

            --In what way does the novel reflect Chinese reality in tradition and cultural developments?

            --What in the novel attracts you the most?  Give a few examples.


2) Essay Two is a book review.  The book must be non-fictional, scholarly, and on modern China.  Focus of the book, however, can be varied to include student’s individual interest in China.  This essay should include:

            --Author’s thesis, major argument, and author’s view of the subject under discussion;

            --Your critique and analysis of the author’s argument. 

            --Scholarly contribution, if any, of the book to the Chinese studies in general.


Both essays should be typed, double-spaced, 5-6 pages in length, and in 12 font.


Response Journals will be due on Friday on the weeks that are marked with ** signs.   The journals are designed to give students opportunities to express your opinions over certain issues regarding China.  Throughout the semester, students should be aware of the important and interesting developments/events relating to China (now and then) from the media or other sources.  Students should attach the sources to your journals and write your responses to these events.  If you turn in the journal without attending the class, you can only claim half of the total points for the assignment. 


The journal must be typed, at least two pages in length, and will be graded according to the writing quality. 



A=500-450      B=449-400      C=399-350      D=349-300      F=299 and below



Part I:            Late Imperial China, Tradition and Transformation (1600-1911)


Week 1:           Aug. 26-30


                        a. A conceptual framework of modern Chinese history

                        b. The splendor of the Qing Dynasty

                        Reading: Vohra, chpt. 1           


**Week 2:       Sept. 2-6         

                        Society and Culture during the Qing Dynasty

                        a. Economic institution

                        b. Philosophies and religions

                        Reading:  Vohra, chpt. 1

                        1st journal due


Week 3:           Sept. 11-13

                        No Class on Monday, Labor Day

                        The Opium War

                        a. Tribute system and Canton trade

                        b. Conflicts with the West

                        Reading: Vohra, chpt. 2           


**Week 4:       Sept. 16-20

                        China's Response to the West, I

                        a. Second treaty settlement

                        b. The Self-strengthening Movement, 1860-1895

                        c. The 1st Sino-Japanese War

                        Reading: Vohra, chpt. 3

                        2nd journal due


Week 5:           Sept. 23-27

                        China's Response to the West, II

                        a. Empress Dowager Ci Xi

                        b. Imperial Reforms, 1898-1908

                        c. The Boxers Uprising, 1900

                        Reading: Vohra, chpt. 4

                        Start Reading “Spring Moon”


**Week 6:       Sept. 30- Oct. 4

                        The End of the Imperial Era, 1900-1911

                        a. Life & society

                        b. Dr. Sun Yat-sen & 1911 Revolution

                        c. The Good Earth, movie clips

                        Reading: Vohra, chpt. 4

                        3rd journal due


Part II: The Republic of China, 1911-1949


Week 7:           Oct. 7-11

                        Building a Republic, 1911-20

                        a. Intellectual awakening

                        b. Lu Xun & new culture movement

                        Reading: Vohra, chpt. 5

                        The First Exam on Monday


Week 8:           Oct. 14-18

                        Nationalists  vs. Communists, 1921-1931

                        a. Warlordism, 1916-27

                        b. The rise of the Guomindang (The Nationalist Party)

                        c. Mao and the birth of CCP (The Chinese Communist Party)                          

                        Reading: Vohra, chpts. 5 & 6


**Week 9:       Oct. 21-25

                        China at War, 1930s

                        a. Manchuria Incident, 1931 

                        b. China Incident, 1937

                        c. Society & economy in the Republic

                        Reading: Vohra, chpt. 7

                        4th journal due


Week 10:         Oct. 28-Nov. 1

                        WWII in China, 1937-45

                        a. Chongqing vs. Yan'an

                        b. U.S.-China relations

                        c. The Civil War, 1946-49

                        Reading: Vohra, chpt. 7

                        Review essay on “Spring Moon”due on Friday      


Part III: The People's Republic of China, 1949-present


Week 11:         Nov. 4-8

                        Building a New State, 1950s

                        a. Communist government

                        b. The Korean War

                        c. Sino-Soviet alliance

                        Reading: Vohra, chpt. 8


**Week 12:     Nov. 11-15

                        Challenge to the New Society, 1949-1959

                        a. The Great Leap Forward

                        b. The Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976

                        c. To Live, movie clips

                        Reading: Vohra, chpts. 8-10

                        5th journal due


Week 13:         Nov. 18-22

                        Life under the Communist rule

                        Second Exam on Wednesday


Week 14:         Nov. 23-29

                        SPRING RECESS, NO CLASS


Week 15          Dec. 2-6

                        China and the World

                        a. China’s foreign policy, 1972-79

                        b. Post-Mao reforms

                        Reading: Vohra, chpt. 11


Week 16:         Dec. 9-13

                        Reforms under Deng Xiao-ping, 1978-97

                        a. The four modernizations

                        b. Changes and problems

                        Reading: Vohra, chpts. 11 & 12

                        Second Essay due on the last day of class


The instructor reserves the rights to change this schedule when necessary.