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HISTORY 2MC3 ModernChina

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Jaeyoon Song

Email: songjae@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 611

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24146


Office Hours: Tues. 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. or by appointment

Course Objectives:

This course surveys the making of “modern China” during the period from the 17th to the late 20th centuries. During this period, China underwent dramatic changes: the formation of the great Qing (1644-1912) empire (the territory doubled; the population tripled), the collapse of the traditional imperial system, foreign invasions, internal rebellions, the Republican Revolution (1911), the advent of the warlord regimes (1916-1928), the civil war, the Communist Revolution, the making of the modern socialist state, the Great Famine (1958-1962), the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the Reform and Opening-up (since 1978- ). In addition to chronological survey, we will highlight dramatic events of historical significance such as empire-building, reform, revolution, war, modernization, industrialization, state-making, political campaign, and capitalist reform and “opening-up”, popular movement, etc. Each week we will focus on the central issue of a particular moment, and attempt to explain why things unfolded the way they did in retrospect. Constant attendance in lectures and participation in discussion sections are necessary!

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Books to be Purchased

Spence, Jonathan D. 2001. Search for Modern China. WW Norton. 

Spence, Jonathan, et al., ed. Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection.

Method of Assessment:


Final grades for 2MC3 will be computed in the following manner:


                                    Short essay:                 15% (Due Jan 23: to be submitted online)

                                    Long essay:                 25% (Due Apr 3: to be submitted online)

                                    Mid-Term Exam:           20% (to be arranged)    

                                    Final exam:                  25% (to be arranged)

                                     Participation:              15% (tutorials & in-class Quizzes)



   *Essay Topics will be announced on the Avenue to Learn.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Policy on Late Assignments:

Students should be aware that many course components are time-sensitive. Permission to submit a late assignment is entirely at the discretion of the instructor and, except in exceptional instances, a penalty will be imposed (3% per day). With a documented excuse the late penalty may be reduced or waived. However there will be NO reduction of penalty for any of the following: the pressure of other course demands, paid employment, volunteer work, vacation, athletics, theatre arts, etc. Prompt notification in writing is essential if exceptional circumstances prevent attendance or timely completion of course requirements. Students that need academic accommodations should make prior arrangement with the Centre for Student Development and the course instructor.

Writing Standards:

All assignments must be written in clear, coherent English and follow formal academic (Chicago Style) conventions and use end notes or footnotes (I prefer footnotes). Do not use internal citations. I recommend using Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Assignments are due on the dates specified in the syllabus and a penalty of 3% a day (including weekends) will be imposed on late papers. Only hardcopies will be accepted. Please do not email, fax, etc, written assignments as they will not be accepted.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Week I: The Emergence of Modern China

Jan 5: Introduction: Why Modern Chinese History?

Readings: “The Constitution of the PRC” (Adopted 1982):


Document Analysis: Template will be posted on the AVENUE       

   Tutorial Discussions for Week II:

  1. How does the PRC constitution interpret the history of China?
  2. What type of social order do you think it envisions?
  3. How does it relate to the social and economic realities of China today?


Week II: The Consolidation of the Empire

Jan 9: The Splendor of the Chinese Empires, 200 BC-1700 AD

Jan 12: The Legacy of the Qing Empire (1644-1912)

Readings: The Search for Modern China (hereafter SMC), Chapters 1-5.

Document Analysis: Template will be posted on the AVENUE       

       Tutorial Questions for Week III:

  1. What were the key sources of Chinese imperial longevity?
  2. What were the challenges of an alien regime? What do you think were the secrets of the Qing emperors’ remarkable success?
  3. What are the legacies of the Qing Empire in the further course of modern Chinese history?


Week III: “The Western Impact” and the Symptoms of Collapse

Jan 16: The Opium War: “China and the Eighteenth Century World (6)”

Jan 19: From the Tribute to the Treaty System: “The First Clash with the West (7)

Readings: SMC, Chapters 6& 7;

Document Analysis: Template will be posted on the AVENUE       

   Tutorial Questions Week IV:

  1. What were the main causes of China’s dynastic decline?
  2. How did the British reverse their unfavorable trade balance with China at the end of the 18th century?
  3. How did the traditional world-view of Chinese imperial bureaucrats influence their response to the West?

Week IV: Internal Explosion and Imperial Reforms

   Jan 23: The Taiping Rebellion: “The Crisis within” (8)

Jan 26: Confucian Activism: “Restoration through Reform” (9)

  Readings: SMC, Chapters 8 & 9;

 Document Analysis: Template will be posted on the AVENUE       

    Tutorial Questions for Week V:

  1. What were the causes of the 19th century popular uprisings?
  2. How did China’s early modernizers understand the sources of Western military power?
  3. What were the modernizers’ prescriptions for overcoming Western technological superiority?

Week V: The End of the Chinese Imperial System

Jan 30: The Self-Strengthening Movement: “New Tensions in the Late Qing” and “The End of the Dynasty” (10 & 11)

Feb 2: The Boxer Rebellion

Readings: SMC, Chapters 10 & 11;

Document Analysis: Template will be posted on the AVENUE       


Tutorial Questions for Week VI:

  1. Why did Chinese reformers become radicalized toward the end of the 19th century?
  2. In what sense did the Boxer uprising represent the last instance of pre-modern rebellion in China?

Week VI: Seeking a New China

Feb 6: The Republican Revolution: “The New Republic” (12)

Feb 9: The May Fourth and the New Culture Movement: “A Road is Made” (13)

    Readings: SMC, Chapters 12 &13;

Document Analysis: Template will be posted on the AVENUE       

   Tutorial Questions for Week VII:

  1. How did the Republican government cope with the legacy of the Qing Empire?
  2. Why did the revolution of 1911 fail to lead to a viable republican government?
  3. How did the May 4th movement affect the course of modern Chinese history?

  Week VII: Conflicting Forces of the Revolutionary Movement

Feb 13: From the Military Dictator to the Warlords: “The Clash” (14)

Feb 16: The Nationalist Party vs. the Communist Party: “Experiments in Government” (15)

Readings: SMC, Chapter 14 & 15;

  Document Analysis: Template will be posted on the AVENUE       

Tutorial Questions for Week VIII:

  1. What was the appeal of Marxism-Leninism to Chinese intellectuals of the May 4th era?
  2. Which side do you think proposed a more persuasive plan for the modernization of China?
  3. How was Soviet influence manifested in China since the 1920s?


Week VIII: Feb 20-Feb 26, Reading Week Recess


Week IX: Civil War and International Politics

Feb 27: Chiang Kai-shek v. Mao Zedong: “Drift to War” (16)

Mar 2: The War of Resistance, 1937-45: “World War II” (17)

Readings: Chapter 16 & 17;

Document Analysis: Template will be posted on the AVENUE       

Tutorial Questions Week IX:

  1. Why did the 1923–1927 united front between the GMD and the CCP eventually end in bloodshed?
  2. Why did Chiang Kaishek’s Nationalist government fail to govern effectively from 1927 to 1937?
  3. What unintended role did Japan play in shaping the outcome of the Chinese Revolution?

Week X: The Triumph of the Chinese Communist Party

Mar 6: Civil War 1945-49: “The Fall of the GMD State” (18)

Mar 9: The Birth of the PRC (19)

Readings: SMC, Chapters 18;

  Document Analysis: Template will be posted on the AVENUE       

Tutorial Questions for Week X:

  1. What were the key determinants of the final outcome of the Chinese civil war?
  2. How did the behavior of GMD reoccupation forces influence the popularity of the Nationalists after the Japanese surrender?


Week X: Communism, Maoism, and Mao’s Last Revolution

Mar 13: The Utopian Social Engineering: “Planning the New Society” (20)

Mar 16: The Great Leap Forward: (21)

Readings: SMC, Chapters 19 & 20;

  Document Analysis: Template will be posted on the AVENUE       

Tutorial Questions for Week XI:

  1. How did the CCP consolidate power in the early 1950s?
  2. What role did coercion play relative to populist mass mobilization in that period?
  3. How did the Korean War influence Sino-Soviet relations?


Week XI: China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Mar 20: The Cultural Revolution I: (22)

Mar 23: The Cultural Revolution II: (22)

  Readings: SMC, Chapters 21 &22;

  Document Analysis: Template will be posted on the AVENUE       


Tutorial Questions for Week XII:   

  1. Why did Ma Zedong launch the Great Leap Forward? What were the driving forces of the Great Leap Forward? What were the consequences of the Great Leap Forward?
  2. What were the causes of the Cultural Revolution? Why did Mao Zedong decide to overthrow the party he created? Who were the revolutionaries of the Cultural Revolution? What were its consequences?

Week XII: From Mao to Deng 

  Mar 27: “Reopening the Doors” (23)

Mar 30: “Redefining Revolution” (24);

Readings: SMC, Chapters 23 & 24;

Document Analysis: Template will be posted on the AVENUE

Tutorial Questions for Week XIII:


  1. In what ways and to what extent did Deng Xiaoping’s ascent represent a repudiation of Maoist policies?
  2. Why did Jimmy Carter and Deng Xiaoping push so hard for the full normalization of U.S.-China relations in 1978?
  3. What were the major obstacles to normalization, and how were they overcome?
  4. How did spiritual pollution and bourgeois liberalization manifest themselves in China in the 1980s?


Week XIII: The Transformation of the PRC since the 1980s

Apr 3: Reform and Opening-up: China’s Second Revolution

Apr 6: The Democratic Movement

Readings: SMC, Chapters 25 & 26;

Document Analysis: Template will be posted on the AVENUE

  1. How did the Reform and Opening-up change modern Chinese history?
  2. Why did Deng turn against the Democracy Wall movement so soon after endorsing it?
  3. What were the main causes of the 1989 student protest movement?
  4. How did Deng Xiaoping attempt to balance soft- and hard-line demands within the CCP during the run-up to the 1989 student protests?

Other Course Information:


The first tutorial will begin during Week II (Jan 9-13): Each week you should visit the AVENUE for Tutorial Module (with additional readings and specific questions and worksheets). You should participate in all tutorials and submit all the worksheets and assignments to the TAs.  


-The mid-term exam will 50 minutes long and held during our normal class hour (late Feb or early Mar).  

-The final exam will be two hours long and scheduled by the registrar at the end of term. No notes are allowed. At least seven in-class quizzes (a mix of “pop” and “announced,” each no more than five minutes long) on glossary and historical facts will be given in class throughout the course.  

Emergency Planning:

The instructor and university reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term. The university may change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances. If either type of modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. It is the responsibility of the student to check their McMaster email and course websites weekly during the term and to note any changes.



This course has an AVENUE TO LEARN page assigned to it. Assignments and other information will be posted on this site. Access to it is through your McMaster email account. Students should be aware that when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure.

*Readings: Apart from the assigned readings below, a package of reading sources for document analysis will be posted on the AVENUE each week for discussion in tutorials.