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HISTORY 4H03 TheMakingOfModernChina

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: Tuesday 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Course Objectives:

This course is an inquiry into the transformation of the People’s Republic of China during the period from the 1950s to the 1990s. During the first phase of this period (1949-1976), the war-torn country of China, reunited under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976), went through the convoluted roads of a utopian socialist state-making marked by collectivization, mass mobilization, dystopian social engineering, totalitarian control, bureaucratic corruption. Since 1978, the PRC has continuously undergone a “second revolution” to become what it is today: the second largest economy in the world after the U.S.  In order to account for the dramatic transformation of the PRC from the 1950s to the 1990s, this seminar will address three distinctive topics: 1) the socialist state-making of the 1950s; 2) the extremities of the Communist Revolution (1958-1976); 3) the politics of the Reform and Opening-Up (the Deng Xiaoping era). The students will learn to carry out a research on a particular topic, develop a thesis based on scholarship review, and write a research paper.  

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

*Readings: A package of readings will be provided online on the AVENUE each week.

Method of Assessment:


Final grades will be computed in the following manner:

20% Participation (in-class contributions and tutorials)

10% Three précis (one-page summary of the articles assigned)

20% One short historiographical essay (3-5 pages; due by Feb 21)

40% Historiographical essay (approximately 15 pages; due by April 11)

10% Presentation (15-20 minutes at the end of the semester)



-The mid-term exam will be 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. 

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.

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 1 (Jan 10): A General Overview

  1. The Socialist State-Making of the 1950s PRC

Week 2 (Jan 17): The founding of the PRC

     -Cambridge History of China, Vol. 14.1, pp.51-91

     -Excerpts from Part II of Frank DikÓ§tter, The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957

  Recommended: Chapters 19 “The Birth of the People’s Republic” from Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China

Documentary Film: “China: A Century of Revolution I”

Week 3 (Jan 24): Early Steps to Socialism

     -Cambridge History of China, Vol. 14.1, pp.144-184

     -Excerpts from Part III and Part IV of Frank DikÓ§tter, The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957


Recommended:  Chapter 20 “Planning the New Society” from Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China

Documentary Film: “China: A Century of Revolution II”



  1. The Extremities of the Communist Revolution (1958-1976)


Week 4 (Jan 31): The Great Leap Forward


Chapters 4 and 11 from Yang Jisheng, Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine 1958-1962

Parts 5 and 6 from Frank DikÓ§tter, Mao’s Great Famine


Week 5 (Feb 7): The Cultural Revolution (I)


Fairbank and Goldman, Chapter 20 from China: A New History (Avenue)

Kenneth Lieberthal, Governing China, pp. 39-56, pp. 108-21 (Avenue)

Joseph Esherick, et al. The Chinese Cultural Revolution as History, Ch.1 (Avenue)

Documentary Film: “China: A Century of Revolution II”


Week 6 (Feb 14): The Cultural Revolution (II)


-Chapter 1 “Mao Tse-tung’s thought from 1949-1976”, especially pp. 81-106, from the Cambridge History of China Vol 15-2 (Avenue)

-Stuart R. Schram, “Mao Zedong a Hundred Years on: The Legacy of a Ruler,” China Quarterly, No. 137 (March, 1994)

Documentary Film: “China: A Century of Revolution III”



Week 7: Feb 21: No Class


  1. The Politics of the Reform and Opening-up


Week 8 (Feb 28): Deng Xiaoping’s Era


         Chapters 7-12 from Ezra Vogel, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China


    Documentary Film: “China: A Century of Revolution III”



Week 9 (Mar 7): Challenges to the Deng Era, 1989-1992


         Chapters 13-19 from Ezra Vogel, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China


    Documentary Film: “China: A Century of Revolution III”


  1. Tutorials


During the tutorial period, you should set up an appointment to meet with the instructor and discuss your research agenda.


Week 10 (Mar 14): Topic and Thesis Development

Week 11 (Mar 21): Research Agenda

Week 12 (Mar 28): Write-up


  1. Presentation


Week 13 (Apr 4)

    You should make a 10-minute presentation in class on your project!   

Other Course Information:

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.


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.

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.