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Conflict, Coercion, and Mass Mobilisation in Republican China, 1911-1945 - 30 credits (HS1838)

Module Tutor: Dr Federica Ferlanti

Course Description

This module investigates the formation of modern political parties in China and their respective approach to state building and mass politics. Modern Chinese politics have been dominated by the fierce political competition between the Nationalist Party and the Communist Party. The module examines China’s efforts towards state building by exploring the Nationalist and the Communist Parties’ approaches and their respective understanding of what constituted a modern nation. Central to the module will be discussion of mass mobilisation as a tool utilised by each party for securing political legitimisation and the promotion of state building. These topics are closely interconnected and central to the understanding of China’s modern political evolution. Key questions include: Why has the issue of mobilising people and communities towards defined objectives been so central in Chinese politics? To what extent did mass mobilisation allow political participation? And to what extent have political struggles and mobilisation campaigns nurtured a culture of coercion and violence?

Credits: 30

Prerequisites: None

Necessary for: N/A

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the module a student will be able to:

• demonstrate a critical and systematic knowledge of the formation of political parties, political conflicts and mass mobilisation in Republican China.
• discuss in a critical and informed manner the history of modern politics in China between 1911-1945.
• understand how ideas and ideology in China have been instrumental to the use of mass mobilisation.
• analyse and assess primary source materials.
• identify problems, assess evidence, and reach conclusions consistent with them on the issues of the history of modern politics in China between 1911-1945.
• devise and sustain arguments about political conflict, state building and mass mobilisation in China through an appropriate application of sources and terminology.
• summarise and critically evaluate the relative merits and demerits of alternative views and interpretations about the formation and evolution of political parties in Republican China and evaluate their significance.

How the module will be delivered

A range of teaching methods will be used in each of the sessions of the course, comprising a combination of lectures, seminar discussion of major issues and workshops for the study of primary source material. The syllabus is divided into a series of major course themes, then sub-divided into principal topics for the study of each theme.

The aim of the lectures is to provide a brief introduction to a particular topic, establishing the salient features of major course themes, identifying key issues and providing historiographical guidance. The lectures aim to provide a basic framework for understanding and should be thought of as useful starting points for further discussion and individual study. Where appropriate, handouts and other materials may be distributed to reinforce the material discussed.

Seminar and Source Workshops:
The primary aim of the sessions will be to generate debate and discussion amongst course participants, focused in particular on primary source material. Seminars and source workshops for each of the course topics will provide an opportunity for students:
(a) to discuss topics or issues introduced by the lectures,
or (b) to discuss related themes, perhaps not directly addressed by the lectures, but drawing on ideas culled from those lectures.
and (c) to analyse different types of primary sources available, discussing the principal ways in which they can be used by historians.

Seminars and source workshops will provide the student with guidance on how to critically approach the various types of primary source material. Preparation for seminars and workshops will focus on specific items from the sources and related background reading, with students preparing answers to questions provided for each session. Both seminars and source workshops will provide an opportunity to discuss and debate the issues with fellow students. Classes will be divided into smaller groups for discussion purposes, with the results presented as part of an overall class debate at the end of the session.

Skills that will be practised and developed

• communicate ideas and arguments effectively, whether in class discussion or in written form, in an accurate, succinct and lucid manner.
• formulate and justify arguments and conclusions about a range of issues, and present appropriate supporting evidence
• an ability to modify as well as to defend their own position.
• an  ability to think critically and challenge assumptions on Chinese History.
• an ability to use a range of information technology resources to assist with information retrieval and assignment presentation.
• time management skills and an ability to independently organise their own study methods and workload.
• work effectively with others as part of a team or group in seminar or tutorial discussions.


Students will be assessed by means of a combination of one essay relating to primary sources [20%], an assessed essay [30%] and an examination paper [50%].

Course assignments:

The Assessed Essay relating to primary sources will contribute 20% of the final mark for the module and must be no longer than 1,000 words.

The Assessed Essay will contribute 30% of the final mark for the module. It is designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to review evidence, draw appropriate conclusions from it and employ the formal conventions of scholarly presentation. It must be no longer than 2,000 words.

The Examination will take place during the second assessment period [May/June] and will consist of an unseen two hour paper that will contribute the remaining 50% of the final mark for this module. Students must write 2 answers in total.

Syllabus content

The course will cover a wide range of topics relating to the history of China between 1911 and 1945. Topics include:

• Sun Yat-sen: The Father of the Country
• Cultural Imperialism?
• The Making of the Republican Citizen
• The Nationalist Party and the National Revolution
• The Chinese Communist Party: The First Soviet Republic of China (1931-1934)
• The Nanjing Government: Fascism in China?
• Student Protests during May Fourth 1919
• Mobilisation of Workers, Peasants and Youth
• Women in China: Political and Social Mobilisation
• The New Life Movement
• Wartime Mobilisation
• Mobilisation Campaigns in  Yan’an:

Indicative Reading and Resource List:

Key Text:

Peter Zarrow, China in War and Revolution 1895-1949. Routledge, 2005 (Key text)

Useful Overviews:
Peter Zarrow, China in War and Revolution 1895-1949, (Routledge, 2005)
Henrietta Harrison, The Making of a Republican Citizen (Oxford, 2000)
John Fitzgerald, Awakening China (Stanford, 1996)
Rana Mitter, A Bitter Revolution (Oxford, 2004)
Gregor Benton, Mountain Fires (Berkeley, 1992)
Hans J. van de Ven, War and Nationalism in China 1925-1945 (London, 2003)
Arif Dirlik, The Origins of Chinese Communism (Oxford, 1989)
Mark Selden, The Yan’an Way in Revolutionary China (Cambridge, Mass., 1971)