The Rise of China - PO658

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
5 15 (7.5) DR A Heritage




Not available to students who have taken PO318 The Rise of China.



This module aims to provide students with a critical review of China’s hegemonic role in pre-modern East Asia and its political development since the 1840s when it was forced to open up to the outside world and to lay a solid foundation for even more detailed study of present-day China.

It deals with a recurrent theme in the study of Chinese politics, that is, how successive Chinese leaderships since the 1840s have reconciled Chinese indigenous political culture with models of modernisations that originated in the West. Focus is on how indigenous and foreign models for state-building and political development have guided Chinese thinking about national rejuvenation and modernisation.

This module assumes no prior knowledge of Chinese history or politics, and introduces students to the defining features of the Chinese traditional political system, including: Confucianism and Legalism, the causes of the demise of imperial China in 1911, the abortive attempts of republicanism and constitutionalism between 1912 and 1949, the rise of communism, and major political events since 1949 as well as its recent ascendancy.

Questions to be explored in this module include: Why did the Chinese imperial system fail to meet the challenges and encroachment from the West and Japan? How did Chinese leaders understand ‘modernisation’? Why did Chinese political elites embrace communism? What have been the impacts of revolutions on China’s external behaviour and relations, post-1949? How has China’s worldview been ‘socially constructed’ in its interactions with Western powers? What is China’s grand strategy for development in the early 21st century?


This module appears in:

Contact hours

11 lectures, 11 seminars

Method of assessment

100% coursework (essay 1 of 2,000 words (40%) and essay 2 of 3,000 words (60%)).

Indicative reading

June Grasso, Jay Corrin and Michael Kort, Modernization and Revolution in China: From the Opium War to the Olympics, 4th ed. (Armonk, NY: M E Sharpe, 2009)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:
- Understand the differing nature of Chinese and Western conceptions and practices of world order in the 19th century.
- Understand the influence of imperialism, revolution, nationalism and modernisation on the evolution of China's political system.
- Understand Chinese historical political traditions that continue to mould present-day China.
- Analyse the key political issues that have challenged the country in its path to development in the 20th and early 21st centuries.
- Provide the foundations to inform comparative political studies of East Asia.

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