G387 Contemporary China (hybrid class)
Diana Lin
Spring 2012

Office: Hawthorn Hall 206A
(O)980 6981
Email: dchenlin@iun.edu
Website: www.iun.edu/~hisdcl
Office hours: Mondays 9-10am, 11:30am-1:00pm or by appointment


This course covers China from 1949 to the present, including its cultural, social, political, economic, developments.  It focuses on China's transition from a revolutionary, Communist regime that was preoccupied with political movements to gradual transition to a market economy, with consequent social, cultural, economic, and political changes.  It will also pay special attention to the issues facilitating and hampering recent Chinese economic and political reforms, and offer some tentative Forums of the future.

Required Readings:

The following required readings are available from the IUN campus Barnes & Noble Bookstore; you may also purchase them through online venues such as amazon.com.

Chang, Leslie. Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China. Spiegel & Grau, Reprint edition, 2009.

Hessler, Peter. Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory. Harper, 2010.

Yang, Rae. Spider Eaters: A Memoir. U of California Press, 1998.

Some other required readings are online, and available off campus with your IUN email account.

Learning Materials Available via Oncourse:


I. Weekly writing assignments: There are usually two batches of reading assignments a week, and there is usually one essay question with each batch of reading assignment. Forum questions are under the weekly reading assignments on the syllabus, and answers to these questions are to be posted on Oncourse Forums. They are due on the Sunday of each week, for instance, the question for week 1 is due by midnight Sunday, Jan.15. Forum questions are submitted via Forums on Oncourse.

How to answer forum questions: you can choose to either post an answer to a forum question or respond to someone else's answer. You are not expected to do both. When there is only one forum question for the week, it means one posting, and when there are two questions for the week, then you are expected to do two postings. In the latter case, you are expected to post one essay to the forum question, and one response to someone else's posting.

II. Two take-home papers, each 8-10 pages, typed, double spaced. The papers need citations.

You will use the built-in paper topic in the syllabus for the first paper, under the schedule for the 8th week. You are required to use both in-class readings and one or two outside sources for your first paper. You need to come up with a paper topic on your own for the second paper. And discuss with me what you plan to write, including a written paper proposal that counts 2% in the final grade. The papers are to be submitted via Oncourse Assignments 2. The due dates are as indicated on the syllabus.

III.Class attendance and participation

All homework and correspondence with the instructor are to be conducted via Oncourse. However, if you have questions about Oncourse, you can email me at my regular email address at dchenlin@iun.edu until the problems are resolved. Correspondence through Oncourse guarantees your homework will be securely transmitted and preserved. Consequently, I expect you to check your Oncourse email also for any course announcements and correspondence from me and possibly other classmates.

Method of grading: all grades are assigned in percentages, which will be tabulated at the end of the semester and converted to letter grades. The averages of your take-home papers and of your weekly writing assignments will be taken to represent the grades for your take-home paper and weekly writing assignment. The conversion is as follows: 93-100: A; 90-93: A-; 85-89.9: B+; 80-84.9: B; 75-79.9: B-; 70-74.9: C+; 65-69.9: C; 60-64.9: C-; 55-59.9: D+; 50-54.9: D; 45-49.9: D-; 44 and below: F.

Grade distribution is as follows:

Forum Homework: 32 per cent
Take-home papers: 25 per cent each
Class attendance and participation: 15 per cent
Second take-home paper proposal and outline: 3 per cent

Web Resources:

Maps of ancient China

Map of contemporary China

Asia for educators (Columbia University's award winning website for primary and secondary school teachers)


Class Schedule:

Week 1 (Jan.9-15)

Jan.9 .Introduction.

Required readings for week 1:

  1. Brief overview of Chinese history. Online text: Modern Chinese history.
  2. Creating " Socialist consciousness:" through mass campaigns. Yang, chaps.1- 6.
  3. Online reading: Early Campaigns in the 1950s.

Notes. Lecture outline.

Forum question 1: What were the campaigns for and what kind of changes do you think the Communist regime wanted to produce in China?

Week 2 (Jan.16-22)

Jan.16 Martin Luther King's Day. Virtue online class on Oncourse (10-11:15am) (need to have internet access, microphone and webcam if possible; earphones for participation): Lecture and discussion of week 1 reading and forum question.

Required readings for week 2, associated with forum question 2:

  1. Mobilizing the masses to catch up with the West. Yang, chaps.7,8, 11.
  2. Online reading: the Great Leap Forward. Notes Outline.

Forum question 2: Discuss the contradictions in China's modernizational program.

Required readings for week 2, associated with forum question 3: Educating the socialist youth. Moral education.Notes
Forum question 3: What general characteristics did the heroes have and what qualities did the Communist Party expect the Chinese youth to inculcate in themselves?

Week 3 (Jan.23-29)

Jan.23 Lecture and discussion of week 2 readings and forum questions.

Required readings for week 3, associated with forum question 4:

  1. The new socialist woman. Yang, chaps.9, 10.
  2. Online reading: Women in China.

Notes. Outline

Forum question 4: How would you rate gender equality in socialist China. Was it the same as equal rights demanded by women in the U.S.?

Required readings for week 3, associated with forum question 5:

  1. The Cultural Revolution: the Red Guards. Yang, chaps.13- 15.
  2. Online reading: The Cultural Revolution.


Forum question 5: How do you understand the Cultural Revolution from the Red Guards' point of view?

Week 4 (Jan.30-Feb.5)

Jan.30 Lecture and discussion of week 3 readings and forum questions.

Required readings for week 4, associated with forum question 6:

  1. Integrating the rural and urban social classes. Yang, chaps.16-19.
  2. Online reading: Reeducating the youth in the countryside.

Forum question 6: Contrast the Communist goal of integrating the rural and urban areas and how political practices like the cadre's school succeeded in achieving that.

Required readings for week 4, associated with forum question 7: China's decision to reform.  Online reading.

Forum question 7: Comment on Communist China's decision to switch from a regulated to a partially market economy.

Week 5 (Feb.6-12)

Feb.6 Lecture and discussion of week 4 readings and forum questions.

Required reading for week 5, associated with forum question 8: Economic reform and ramifications in society: The work unit. Dutton, pp.42-61. (under Oncourse Week 5 Module)Notes.

Forum question 8: Compare the work unit with the American corporations.

Required reading for week 5, associated with forum question 9: The household registration system. Dutton, 77-111. (under Oncourse Week 5 Module) Notes.

Forum question 9: How did the registration system work with the Communist regulated economy?

Week 6 (Feb.13-19)

Feb.13 Lecture and discussion of week 5 readings and forum questions.

Required reading for week 6, associated with forum question 10: The connection between the work unit and tradition, and changes in the work unit. Dutton, 203-227 (under Week 6 Module). For a view of the traditional Chinese siheyuan, and traditional housing layout as well as the interior of the courtyard, refer to this part of the University of Washington website on Traditional Chinese Homes   Notes
Forum question 10: How did the market economy change the traditional Chinese social structure?

Required reading for week 6, associated with forum question 11: Market economy, corruption, and social protest.Images of the Tiananmen Incident. Tiananmen Square. The Gate and the Square (video clips and images) Notes 
Forum question 11: Did market economy lead to greater corruption or was corruption inherent in the socialist regulated economic system?

Week 7 (Feb.20-26)

Feb.20 Lecture and discussion of week 6 readings and forum questions.

Required reading for week 7, associated with forum question 12: The new age of labor: rural migration and the transformation of Chinese cities. Chang, chaps.1-5.

Forum question 12: How did rural migration to the cities change things such as the work unit and the household registration system?

Required reading for week 7, associated with forum question 13: Education, old and new. Chang, chaps.6,7,9.

Forum question 13: Compare education described by Chang with the moral education during the Cultural Revolution.

Week 8 (Feb.27-March 4) First take-home examination due on Mar.4 via Oncourse Assignment 2. Paper topic: Discuss the goals of the Communist government in the first 25 years of rule and evaluate how they were implemented. Your paper needs to be double spaced, with in text citation, e.g. (Chang, 25) and a bibliography for the required outside source from a scholarly venue such as JSTOR. It should be submitted under Assignments 2 as an attachment. Since I can only open WORD and WP documents, if your document is written in a different application, you need to submit your paper by directly pasting it to the textbox for paper 1 under Assignment 2.

Feb.27 Lecture and discussion of week 7 readings and forum questions, and the mid-term paper topic.

Required reading for week 8, associated with forum question 14: Struggles and changes in life and work for the migrant worker. Chang, chaps.8,10, 12, 13, 15.

Forum question 14: How successful are the migrants in integrating themselves in the cities?

Week 9 (Mar.5-11)

Mar.5 Lecture and discussion of week 8 readings and forum questions.

Required reading for week 9, associated with forum question 15: THow migrants are changing Chinese society. Chang, chaps.11, 14.

Forum question 15: Describe the changes in social values and practices as a result of rural migration.

Required reading for week 9, associated with forum question 16: Reform and the opening up of China to the outside. Hessler, Book I.

Forum question 16: Compared with before the CR, how much has China opened up based on this reading?

Week 10 (Mar.12-18) Spring recess. No assignments.

Week 11 (Mar.19-25)

Mar.19 Lecture and discussion of week 9 readings and forum questions.

Required reading for week 11, associated with forum question 17: Migration and the transformation of the Chinese countryside. Hessler, Book II.

Forum question 17: Did reform change the Chinese countryside that Mao failed to?

Week 12 (Mar.26-Apr.1)

Mar.26 Lecture and discussion of week 11 reading and forum questions.

Required reading for week 12, associated with forum question 18 & 19: Chinese entrepreneurship. Hessler, Book III.

Forum question 18: Comment on the freedom of entrepreneurship in China?

Forum question 19: To what extent does law abidence matter among the entrepreneurs?

Week 13 (Apr.2-8)

Apr.2 Lecture and discussion of week 12 readings and forum questions.

Required reading for week 13, associated with forum question 20: Worker activism in China. Required readings (all under Oncourse Week 13 Module): 1. Amid Honda and Foxconn tragedies in China, a new era of worker activism; 2. Why have suicides spiked at Apple iPad supplier Foxconn in China? 3. iPad, iPhone Maker Foxconn to Hire 400,000 Workers.Optional readings (also under Module 13): In China, human costs are built into an ipad. How the U.S. lost out on iphone work

Forum question 20: Do the Foxconn and Honda incidents indicate the migrant workers are aiming higher than before?

Required reading for week 13, associated with forum question 21: Entrepreneurship, freedom of speech, and the legal system, the case of Google in China. Required readings (first three under Oncourse Week 13 Module, and latter two also under week 13 module but available online): 1.Internet Ideology War; 2. Google, China in internet scuffle; 3.Google Stays in China. And Baidu Keeps on Winning; 4. Google and goojje; 5. More on goojje. 6. A revolution's namesake is contraband in China. Optional reading: Ai Weiwei: the dissident.

Forum question 21: Do the entrepreneurship of goojje and Baidu speak well of Chinese businesses, or the opposite?

Week 14 (Apr.9-15)

Apr.9 Lecture and discussion of week 13 readings and forum questions.

Required reading for week 14, associated with forum question 22: Taiwan and China: the emergence of "Chaiwan." Required readings (both are under week 14 module but can be accessed online): Chaiwan and Asia's Tech Landscape. Tu Weiming, Cultural Identity and the Politics of Recognition in Contemporary Taiwan. Optional reading: Taiwan's 2012 election and what it meant for the relationship between Taiwan and China.

Forum question 22: Describe the political and economic implications of a more integrated China and Taiwan.

Required reading for week 14, associated with forum question 23: U.S. China economic relations. Required reading (both under Oncourse week 14 module): 1. The Financial Crisis and America's Capital Dependence on Japan and China. 2. The G-2 Mirage.

Forum question 23: What are the prospects of U.S.-China relations?

Week 15 (Apr.16-22)

Apr.16 Lecture and discussion of week 14 readings and forum questions.

Required reading for week 15, associated with forum question 24: China's relationship to Japan and South Korea. Required reading (under Oncourse Week 15 module): Does Economic Integration Augur Peace in East Asia? Optional reading: North Korea, how will it end?

Forum question 24: Do you foresee closer East Asian cooperation in the future and how would that affect the world?

Required reading for week 15, associated with forum question 25: China's environment. Elizabeth Economy, (both under Oncourse week 15 module) 1. The Great Leap Backward. 2. China's Next Revolution.

Forum question 25: Could China find a solution to high economic development and environmental improvement?

Week 16 (Apr.23-29)

Apr.23 Lecture and discussion of week 15 readings and forum questions, and the final paper. Conclusion: the future of China.

Required reading for week 16, associated with forum question 26: China and international security on terrorism.(Oncourse Week 16 module) CHINA, XINJIANG, AND THE TRANSNATIONAL SECURITY OF CENTRAL ASIA.

Forum question 26: What role does China play in the fight against international terrorism?

Week 17 (Apr.30-May 6)

Second take home paper due on May 2 via Oncourse Assignments 2. You need to have come up with a research paper topic by the 14th week, replete with a written proposal, and use primarily outside sources in scholarly sources such as JSTOR.