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.
forward-looking disposition can be seen in the Mao era and post-Maoera. But would it extend to embracing politics?
‘The Unfinished Liberation’ 15
The Nationalist Revolution and the New Culture Movement brought hope to many, as the ROC regime and the intellectual elite set out to modernise China. Change did begin but it was piecemeal and slow, despite the fact girls could go to school, and even university, and hold a job. It seems that women’s emancipation was limited to those who could afford it, some would say to those who had no real need for it
On 28 September 2004, a Confucius worship ceremony was conducted in Qufu, the birthplace of the ancient philosopher. 1 Exactly 90 years previously, a similar ceremony, conducted by Yuan Shikai, had enraged radical intellectuals, who subsequently launched the New Culture Movement, which belittled the wisdom and authority of Confucius. What May Fourth rebels had once challenged and disowned now thrives over a century later as Confucius seems to live in harmony with science and modernity in the post-Maoera. On this evidence, it was not Confucianism and
the family; it is best captured in the cases of women, sport and the performing arts – they teach us thought-provoking lessons. Women seem to have finally liberated themselves after the platform of women’s liberation faded away in the post-Maoera. Sport defined the search for modern China as it symbolised national prestige and vigour, but this also meant it became a political platform. The performing arts can be an indicator of political change, as the Yan’an doctrine continues to loom large. China’s journey is not unique; it has much in common with countries like
era from the political, economic, cultural and diplomatic perspectives. Its paramount leader subjected the Chinese people, intellectuals in particular, to waves of political cleansing. The Communist Party failed its people and the economy, but it did not fail its Third World friends. Mao did not successfully make the transition from rebel leader to executive of a modern nation, but Deng Xiaoping did. Lesson 8 surveys the post-Maoera from the perspectives of politics, economics and international relations. The Deng regime launched economic reform and pulled many
renewed confidence. China under Mao was strategic as it sought out and made allies in the Third World and used ‘ping-pong diplomacy’ to break the ice of Sino-American relations. In the post-Maoera, the regime reached out to the world in new ways. It has hosted prestigious international events, such as economic forums and sporting tournaments. It has meted out economic aid, established financial institutions and provided free education in the Chinese language and culture. Some have termed this approach to diplomacy ‘soft power’, as China finds ways to claim its place on
political campaigns to purify the party and the country; its economic policies, which wreaked havoc; the revolution in culture; and Maoist diplomacy. Understanding the Mao era is vital as it can help us understand not just the post-Maoera but also, more importantly, the century of upheaval that came before it.
‘All Under the Party’ 3
Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Tiananmen Square on 1 October 1949, but managing what he called New China proved to be an altogether different affair to battling the Japanese
socialist men and women has been abandoned; and, the Chinese
people now have much greater social and economic freedom in their
daily lives than during the Mao and immediate post-Maoera. The
traditional communist model of a centrally planned economy has also
been radically reformed, arguably completely abandoned.
In terms of politics and the political system, however, change has
been both less radical and more difficult to interpret. Three broad
alternative interpretations may be advanced. One interpretation is that,
at least politically, China remains in essence a
to probing Mao’s legacy, shifting attention to art
concepts and the artists who actively participated in making political propaganda during Mao’s time. This shift is not intended to suggest that Maoist
imagery is insignificant in mapping Mao’s legacy.8 Rather, it is intended to
shed new light on some important issues lying behind those widely circulated
political images and artefacts, recognising the intellectual sophistication of
the transition from Mao’s time to a post-Maoera. Because it would be impossible to present a comprehensive picture of this transition
historical connotations of centralised rule based on the collective will of the masses, who act as a scrutinising force – a rule for the people and not of the people. In the post-Maoera, its specific meaning was far from clear, muddied by its employment in Communist political rhetoric. 2
The use of the label ‘Democracy Movement’ also suggests that those involved in it were united behind an ultimate goal and the means by which it was to be achieved. In reality, those who took part in the restiveness of this era were diverse in their views