The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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HIST4180RH Topic Studies in Modern Chinese History:History of Modern China

Semester 2 (2020-2021)

Lecture TimeWednesday
Lecture: 3:30PM - 5:15PM
Tutorial: 5:30pm – 6:15pm

VenueY.C. Liang Hall Room 103 (LHC 103)
This course would be conducted in mixed mode. We meet face-to-face if the pandemic situation allows, but if the pandemic gets worse, we will switch to online zoom teaching


Lecturer Professor HE Xiaoqing Rowena ((852) 3943 7128 /

Teaching Assistant YU Wing Yun Verna (

Note: Students who would like to sit in during the add/drop period can contact course TA for updated info.

Students who have registered for the course can find course materials on Blackboard.

(Images of the Soong sisters in their youth and in the movie The Three Soong Sisters)

Course Description



This course is an introductory survey of Modern Chinese history from the early nineteenth to the late-twentieth centuries, spanning a period of enormous change from late imperial China to the post-Mao People’s Republic of China. It explores the developmental trajectory of Chinese society, politics, and culture in the rapidly changing domestic and international contexts over two centuries. Employing both chronological and thematic approaches, we will review historical narratives as well as examine different historical interpretations of the forces that have shaped modern China. Using primary and secondary sources, including materials of state-sponsored version of history presented by the Chinese Communist Party as well as that of independent historians, students will learn how to evaluate, to scrutinize, to compare and contrast historical evidence, and to develop skills to think, write, and speak critically and analytically about the past. We will also have the opportunity to engage in scholarly dialogues with authors of some of the books that we read for the course—to learn from their experience to present history within historical contexts, and to identify continuities and changes, and understand how to evaluate critically versions of modern Chinese history that may be distorted and manipulated for political purposes. In other words an important feature of this course will be the critical examination of the contemporary relevance of China’s past, the challenges of the ongoing contest between state-imposed interpretations of history and the independent pursuit of historical knowledge, and its implications on China’s future and its relationship with rest of the world.

Assessment & Assignments


  • Class Participation (30%)
  • Presentation (10%)
  • Final Project (60%)





Each week’s reading will focus on one theme/topic that will generally follow the chronological sequence. In addition to reading required texts, we will watch films and documentaries relevant to the period we cover. These visual materials aim to facilitate students’ understanding of history through human experience, and to eventually cultivate students’ personal moral engagement as well as historical consciousness and intellectual understanding of the world. The history that we are exploring is not just about dates, names, and numbers, but timeless questions such as values and choices, conflict and power, love and betrayal.


Books for the course will be placed on reserve in the library. Reading materials and links to the films and documentaries will be available on course Blackboard. Daily news articles will be forwarded through a class mailing list that we will create during the first week.



Recommended Readings:


  • Yu, Ying-Shih (2016). Chinese History and Culture (Volume 2): Seventeenth Century through Twentieth Century.Columbia University Press.


  • Paul Evans (1988). John Fairbank and The American Understanding of Modern China.


  • Holcombe, C. (2017). A History of East Asia: From the Origins of Civilization to the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge University Press.


  • Jonathan Spence (1991). The Search for Modern China. Norton.


  • Fairbank and Goldman (2006). China: A New History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.


  • Paul Cohen (1997). History in Three Keys. Columbia University Press.


  • A.G. Robers (2006). A History of China. Palgrave Macmillan.


  • Grasso, Corrin, & Kort (2004). Modernization and Revolution in China. E. Sharpe.


Alexander V. Pantsov with Steven I. Levine (2012). Mao: The Real Story. Simon & Schuster


Andrew G. Walder, China under Mao: A Revolution Derailed (Harvard University Press, 2017)

Yang Jisheng, Tombstone The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012)

Pepper, Suzanne (1999). Civil War in China: The Political Struggle, 1945-1949. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Merle Goldman (1967). Literary Dissent in Communist China. Harvard University Press.

Strauss, Julia, ed. The History of the PRC (1949-1976). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Goldman, M (1981). China’s Intellectuals: Advice and Dissent, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

MacFarquhar, R (1974). The Hundred Flowers Campaign and the Chinese Intellectuals, London: Octagon Press.

MacFarquhar, R (1983). The Origins of the Cultural Revolution: The Great Leap Forward, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Baum, Richard and Frederick C. Teiwes, Ssu-Ch’ing (1968). The Socialist Education Movement of 1962-1966 (Berkeley: University of California Center for Chinese Studies.

Leese, Daniel (2011) Mao Cult: Rhetoric and Ritual in China’s Cultural Revolution, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 Esherick, Joseph W. Paul G. Pickowicz, and Andrew G. Walder, eds (2006), The Chinese Cultural Revolution as History. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

White, Lynn T (1989). Policies of Chaos: The Organizational Causes of Violence in China’s Cultural Revolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Brown, Jeremy (2012). City Versus Countryside in Mao’s China: Negotiating the Divide. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Goldstein, Melvyn C (1997). The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Mullaney, Thomas S (2011).  Coming to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern China. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Luthi, Lorenz M (2008). The Sino-Soviet Split: Cold War in the Communist World.  Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Millward, James. (2009) Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang (Columbia University Press)

Rowe, William T. (20012) China’s Last Empire: The Great Qing (Harvard University Press)

Pantsov, Alexander V. with Steven I. Levine (2015) Deng Xiaoping: A Revolutionary Life (Oxford University Press)

Bianco, Lucien. (2018) Stalin and Mao: A Comparison of the Russian and Chinese Revolutions (The Chinese University Press)

Bergere, Marie-Claire. (2000) Sun Yat-sen (Stanford University Press)

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at

With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of these policies, regulations, guidelines and procedures.

  • In the case of group projects, all members of the group should be asked to sign the declaration, each of whom is responsible and liable to disciplinary actions, irrespective of whether he/she has signed the declaration and whether he/she has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the problematic contents.
  • For assignments in the form of a computer-generated document that is principally text-based and submitted via VeriGuide, the statement, in the form of a receipt, will be issued by the system upon students’ uploading of the soft copy of the assignment.

Assignments without the properly signed declaration will not be graded by teachers.

Only the final version of the assignment should be submitted via VeriGuide.

The submission of a piece of work, or a part of a piece of work, for more than one purpose (e.g. to satisfy the requirements in two different courses) without declaration to this effect shall be regarded as having committed undeclared multiple submissions. It is common and acceptable to reuse a turn of phrase or a sentence or two from one’s own work; but wholesale reuse is problematic. In any case, agreement from the course teacher(s) concerned should be obtained prior to the submission of the piece of work.

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