History of Modern China

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Last year, China passed Japan to become the world's second-biggest economy. Most analysts anticipate that it will surpass the United States as well, perhaps as soon as 2020. Why has China become such a force? And what does this mean for the United States? This course examines China from multiple angles, including the tension between communism and capitalism, democracy and authoritarianism, and traditional culture and globalization, while also exploring critical issues like human rights and environmental degradation. In addition, we will look to the past to better understand China's current trajectory, including European imperialism and the rise and rule of Mao Zedong.

Curriculum Map

Unit Essential Questions Habits Of Mind Content Skills and Processes Assessment Resources Multicultural Dimension Integrated Learning
Tradition & Modernism
  • How much, how quickly, and in what ways, can a country change to become and remain competitive and stable? 
  • Is there a point at which changes are too great, and the national identity is lost, compromising the efforts? 
  • Which of China’s traditions had to change? 
  • China’s “century of humiliation” and the rise of nationalism
  • Chinese writing and language, and calls for reform
  • Changing role of women
  • Education, from the examination system to western influence
  • Urban transformation and preservation
  • Distinguishing between legitimate problems and temporary concerns
  • Balancing Western and Chinese perspectives
  • Identifying problems and limitations in authors’ arguments
  • Assessing relative merits of works of history and reportage
  • China: A New History by John King Fairbank
  • China Road by Rob Gifford
  • Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler
  • Understanding China by John Bryan Starr
  • Wild Grass by Ian Johnson

 

Freedom & Control
  • What kinds of freedom does the Chinese state deem necessary for economic growth and what kinds does it perceive to be threatening to national stability? 
  • Would too much freedom actually be damaging to China or the Chinese people? 
  • What is the role for democracy in Modern China?
  • The party-state
  • The emergence of democracy
  • The rule of law
  • Censorship and the flow of information
  • The suppression of Falun Gong
  • Forms of popular dissent
  • Understanding political systems in theory and practice
  • Diagnosing the political needs of modern China and identifying viable strategies of governance
  • Approaching a polarizing issue in a balanced, even-handed manner
  • China: A New History by John King Fairbank
  • China Road by Rob Gifford
  • Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler
  • Understanding China by John Bryan Starr
  • Wild Grass by Ian Johnson
Development & Sustainability
  • How can China win the present, by continuing its rampant economic advancement, without sacrificing the future? 
  • Is China destined to become a power-house, or is it an economic house of cards? 
  • Balancing elements of communism and capitalism
  • Urban and rural divide
  • A boom city: Shenzhen
  • Environmental degradation
  • China’s pollution and the US
  • One-child law
  • Assessing no-win problems
  • Understanding the economics of China
  • Formal quantitative data analysis
  • China: A New History by John King Fairbank
  • China Road by Rob Gifford
  • Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler
  • Understanding China by John Bryan Starr
Within & Without
  • How can the US and the west establish and maintain positive, stable relations with China?
  • How can China preserve national unity?
  • What rights should ethnic minorities have within China?
  • Ethnic diversity in China
  • Effects of globalization
  • Beijing Olympics
  • Taiwan
  • Tibet
  • Xinjiang
  • Identify and understand conflicting foreign policies
  • Formal debates
  • Balancing starkly conflicting and biased evidence
  • China: A New History by John King Fairbank
  • China Road by Rob Gifford
  • Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler
  • Understanding China by John Bryan Starr
News Analysis
  • How do the US and Chinese news media cover similar events?
  • Which kinds of events are featured and which are omitted?
  • Current events in China, as covered in the US and Chinese media
  • Analyzing news reporting for bias
  • Collecting and processing qualitative data
  • Formulating an original theory from data
  • Preparing a major, formal piece of analysis
  • Utilizing online tools like Google Reader to track the news
  • New York Times
  • China Daily
  • Google News

 

Future Forecast
  • What does the future hold for China?
  • Integrates course content from throughout the semester and student interviews
  • Preparing, running, and transcribing interviews
  • Balancing differing, often conflicting perspectives and evidence
  • Using historical and contemporary evidence to make defensible predictions about the future
  • Formal writing
  • Student-conducted interviews