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Author: Zheng Yangwen

Ten Lessons tells the story of modern China from the eve of the First Opium War to the Xi Jinping era. This was a most turbulent period of time as the Middle Kingdom was torn apart by opium, Christianity, modernisation, imperialists, nationalists, warlords and the Japanese, and as China reinvented and reasserted itself on the world stage in the post-Mao era. Unlike the handful of existing textbooks, which narrate without primary sources and without engaging with academic debate, Ten Lessons is devoted to students, from university to high school, as it uses extensive primary sources to tell the story of modern China and introduces them to scholarship and debates in the field of Chinese history and beyond. This will help students understand the real issues involved, navigate their way through the maze of existing literature and undertake independent research for essays and dissertations. The book also points out gaps and inadequacies in the existing scholarship, to encourage postgraduate studies. It is ‘mental furniture’ for the increasing army of journalists, NGO workers, diplomats, government officials, businesspeople and travellers of all kinds, who often need a good source of background information before they head to China.

Zheng Yangwen

disturbed by the commotion that she stopped using the engine altogether and had workers pull the train instead. Though the journey took longer, it maintained peace and tranquillity. Who had sent this most impressive gift to her, and why? The gift-giver was none other than Li Hongzhang, Zeng Guofan’s protégé and leader of the late Qing reform, and he had plenty of reasons to do so. China’s first railway, the Songhu line, was built by Jardine Matheson in Shanghai in 1876. Many newspapers reported on the crowds that had gathered to watch the opening and even

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
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Zheng Yangwen

the late Qing court and its scholar-officials see the need for change – the focus of Lesson 3 . Late Qing reform under the names of the Tongzhi Restoration and the Self-Strengthening Movement was part and parcel of late Qing politics. But reform was reactionary, ad hoc, limited; and it was subjected to Empress Dowager Cixi’s political needs and ends as she used it to orchestrate her rise to and stay in power. While reform enriched Japan, it brought more defeat and humiliation for China. Lesson 4 looks at the ‘scramble for China’, when more Western powers and

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
Zheng Yangwen

could make a respectable living. New-style schools incorporated sports in their curricula; they were instrumental in introducing Western sports. Missionary schools were even keener. They promoted sport vigorously, holding tournaments and giving out prizes, which they used to support their efforts at conversion. A healthy body was considered the foundation of a healthy family and, more importantly, a strong nation. Many late Qing reformers had seen this. The architect of the Hundred Days Reform, Liang Qichao, saw the importance of injecting new blood into the

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
Zheng Yangwen

and even developed countries. What a Long March we have seen: from the dismantling of the Songhu railway in 1877 and Li Hongzhang’s gift to the Empress Dowager in 1888, to the Railway Protection Movement in 1911 and building railways under the Five-Year Plans! The railway embodies China’s long and hard journey; it witnessed the difficulty of late Qing reform; it also saw the emergence of a Republic and now symbolises China’s rise in the twenty-first century. This is also reflected in the aviation industry. From near non-existence, the government built

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
Zheng Yangwen

and women’s liberation; Tang Qunying (b. 1871), who refused to bind her feet and was the first female member of the United League; and Qiu Jin (b. 1875), who was beheaded for being a United League revolutionary working to overthrow the Qing regime in 1907. They were called the ‘three heroines of Hunan’ and were all related to Zeng Guofan, the architect of late Qing reform. 11 This is why I highlighted the importance of Zeng’s legacy in Lesson 3 . His protégés, colleagues and descendants put Hunan on the map of reform and revolution as the province saw the rise of

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
Zheng Yangwen

. Late Qing reform did not strengthen China and it continued to suffer defeat and even more humiliation. Many, especially those studying abroad, were seriously concerned about what was happening. Chen Tianhua was one such person: Suddenly storms gathered, and there came England, France, Russia, Germany and they came to do business. But, in less than 50 years, they have exhausted the country and made our people poor. How could this be? Besides that, they use force to coerce us all the time. Each time they triumph, we languish. The Japanese took Taiwan, the

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
Zheng Yangwen

livelihoods, the consequences of which would soon become manifest. Figure 7.1 ‘Steam Whistles Echo in 10,000 Layers of Mountains’ The takeover of foreign and private enterprises and businesses was vital and the regime encouraged, or even forced, owners to hand over their assets and operations. This was done through the Joint State–Private Ownership scheme. A good example is the Tangshan Coalmine, a joint British and Chinese enterprise established in the late 1870s as part of the late Qing reforms (mentioned in Lesson 3 ). It changed hands with

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
Zheng Yangwen

war and tried to assess its toll. 7 It would seem that Jiang Jieshi had finally managed to bring all the warlords under the banner of his GMD regime. But neither ideology nor personal loyalty was binding; these warlords would never be comfortable under Jiang and this explains the GMD’s ultimate failure in 1949. The career of Yan Xishan illustrates the turbulent life of warlords. Born in Shanxi, Yan was admitted to the Shanxi Military Academy, one of the institutions created by the late-Qing reform, in 1902 and he was sent to study in Japan. Like many

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
Zheng Yangwen

calendar of the late Qing. It is the link between two initiatives: the Self-Strengthening Movement and ‘New Politics’ launched after the Boxer Rebellion. Many historians have included it in their discussion of the failure of the late Qing reform, but it has not received as much attention as it deserves, despite its drama and tragic ending. Luke Kwong remains the only scholar who has carefully studied the event and the reformer Tan Sitong. 31 Joshua Fogel has examined the role of Liang Qichao and recent years have seen some interest in Kang Youwei. 32 Rebecca Karl and

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History