Curriculum Guideline

Modern China: An Introduction

Effective Date:
Course Code
HIST 2250
Modern China: An Introduction
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 2 hrs. per week / semester Seminar: 2 hrs. per week / semester
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

Class sections will be divided between lectures and seminar discussions. The seminar discussion sessions will serve as a forum for the analysis and discussion of scholarly literature and as a testing ground for student hypotheses. The instructor will encourage students to elaborate, refine and revise ideas. Discussion sessions will also include tutorials in conducting historical research, the exploration of primary source documents, and practice in oral presentations. Participation in both lectures and seminar discussions is required for the successful completion of the course.

Course Description
This course examines the development of modern China from the Qing dynasty to the People's Republic of China. The major themes are economic and political crisis under imperial, republican, communist regimes, modernization of Chinese society, and Chinese-western relations. Topics include Qing rule, opium wars, Taiping rebellion, self-strengthening and revolution in 1911, the Guomindang (Nationalist) ascendancy, the anti-Japanese and civil wars, emigration, Taiwan, and the Mao and Deng eras in the People's Republic (from the Great Leap Forward to the Cultural Revolution to Market Socialism).
Course Content

A sample course outline would include the following topics.

Note: Content may vary according to the instructor’s selection of topics.



  1. Review of Historical Terms and Methods
  2. Research Strategies for a Major Paper
  3. Historiography

    Chinese Civilization: An Overview

  4. Language, Writing, and Examination System
  5. Traditions: Confucianism, Legalism, Daoism, Buddhism
  6. “Swaying the Wide World”: China as the Great Power in the eighteenth century

    Modernization under Western Pressure

  7. Western Intrusion - Opium Wars
  8. Taiping Rebellion
  9. Subjection of Women before 1949
  10. Collapse and Interregnum: Self Strengthening, Hundred Days, Boxers
  11. Guomindang (Nationalist) Ascendancy
  12. New Culture and Literature
  13. Mid-term Examination

    Modernization under Mao

  14. Mao Zedong and Maoism
  15. Communist Victory in the Japanese and Civil Wars
  16. Government, Land Reform, and Terror
  17. Second Liberation: Roles(s) of Women
  18. Art and Literature before and after the Revolution
  19. Great Leap Forward
  20. Cultural Revolution
  21. Sino-Soviet Split

    Modernization under Deng

  22. Succession and the Return of Deng Xiaoping
  23. Red or Expert: Education Dilemma
  24. The Four Modernizations + 1
  25. Rapproachement with the West
  26. “To Get Rich is Glorious”: China in the 1980s
  27. Toward Tiananmen Square
  28. Review and Revision
  29. Final Examination
Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:

  1. Examine historical sources critically and analytically (reading history). These sources include not only survey texts and scholarly articles, but also short monographs and extended primary sources.
  2. Create and communicate personal interpretations of historical problems (writing history). Forms for communication of personal interpretations include medium-length essays (from 1500-3000 words), comparative book reviews, short interpretive essays, primary source studies, and final examinations.
  3. Independently analyze the ideas of other students and the instructor in class in both tutorials and seminars (discussing history).
Means of Assessment

Assessment will be in accord with the Douglas College student evaluation policy. Specific components of evaluation will include some of the following: mid-term and final exams consisting of short answer questions and essay questions; in-class written work, quizzes, research paper; seminar presentations; short debate/position papers; participation in class discussions.


Specific evaluation criteria will be provided by the instructor at the beginning of the semester and will vary according to the instructor’s assessment of appropriate evaluation methods.


An example of one evaluation scheme: 

Any combination of the following totalling 100%:


Book review essay  15%
Research proposal  10%
Research essay  25%
Class/seminar participation         15%
Midterm exam  15%
Final exam  20%
Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students:


Texts will be chosen from the following list, to be updated periodically:


Atwill, D. and Atwill, Y. Sources in Chinese History. New Jersey: Pearson, 2010.


Chan, Anita. Chen Village. 3rd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.


Ebrey, P., ed. Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook. 2nd ed. New York: Free Press, 1993.


Ellman, B. and Paine, S.C.M. Modern China. New Jersey: Pearson, 2010.


Fairbank, J.K. and Goldman, M. China: A New History. 2nd enlarged ed. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 2006.


Spence, J. The Search for Modern China. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 1999.