This chapter traces the origins of the two Opium Wars; it charts the development of both of these Anglo-Chinese conflicts and discusses their consequences. It introduces students to the illustrious historiography and current debate and points out gaps in existing scholarship.
May-Fourth intellectuals/revolutionaries blamed Confucianism for China’s problems but the ancient philosophy now lives in harmony with modernity. This chapter takes a look at China’s transformation from the unique perspective of sports, the arts and the family. A century of revolution and reform has seen the modernisation of these aspects of life in China; they teach us great lessons about change and continuity.
This chapter explores Chinese efforts at indigenising Christianity and this could not have been more obvious than with the Taiping Rebellion. It explains why both the Qing’s intellectual elite and foreign missionaries shunned the Taiping Rebellion. It also probes the strange alliance to suppress the Taiping between the Westerners who waged the Second Opium War on China and the Qing regime.
This chapter examines the origins of the late Qing reform and exposes the difficulties as the conservative and reformist factions battled each other both at court and around the country. Although many historians have argued that the reform was a failure, this chapter singles out a few cases to highlight the foundation it laid for later reforms and the overseas connection which would open a new door for China.
This chapter illustrates the Age of Empire in Asia as Britain, France, Russia, Germany and Japan took turns to batter the declining Qing. They carved out their spheres of interest and set up colonies; their encroachment roused resentment, which culminated in the Boxer Rebellion and added fuel to Chinese nationalism. Anti-imperialism would be a major political platform for revolutions to come.
The first decade of the twentieth century saw anti-Qing insurrection culminate in the 1911 Nationalist Revolution. But the new Nationalist government of the Republic of China had neither the power nor the means to manage the country. Revolutions of different kinds, from ideological to literary, from feminist to cultural, were also taking place and it was these that were really changing the country.
Nationalism did not save China, as the country disintegrated after the 1911 revolution. Warlords were able to control different parts of the country and they battled each other for power. This was further compounded by Russian–Japanese rivalry and the Japanese invasion. War seemed endless as the Chinese people were subjected to the civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists after the end of the Second World War.
This chapter examines the Mao era (1949–1976), when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched many initiatives, the Great Leap Forward being one, to advance the country economically. But differences within the CCP led to a fierce power struggle that resulted in the Cultural Revolution. This brought the country to the brink of collapse and unprecedented suffering to the Chinese people and economy.
The death of Mao ended the Cultural Revolution and opened the way for Deng Xiaoping to undertake much-needed reform. Post-Mao economic reform has pulled millions out of poverty and enabled China to catch up with Western countries/economies. But this has been accomplished without political reform, which has led to a series problems that will continue to plague the CCP.
Women provide a great window for us to gauge the transformation of modern China. This chapter examines the lives and works of Chinese women from the late Qing to the post-Mao era. Although many historians believe that they were oppressed, this chapter will challenge this verdict on women’s liberation and it will also introduce students to the growing body of complex scholarship.