Course Code


Course Name

China and World History in the Twentieth Century


Tuesday 06:30PM - 09:15PM




Dr. SO Wai Ling

Teaching Assistant

Mavis Siu

Course Description

The early twentieth century witnessed a world of change manifested in two economic doctrines in the global contest to achieve world hegemony. The two doctrines are represented by the laissez faire system connected through the free trade world and state interventionism in the protectionist world respectively. Being part of this global process, China adapted whilst resisting according to internal political needs, and this affected how it fitted into overall East Asian and global trade patterns. It also played an important role in affecting how the Chinese local economies became integrated into the world during this period.

This course examines themes that are of importance for our understanding of major developments in late Qing and Republican China. It covers topics including state-merchant relations, economic nationalism and colonialism, reforms and revolution, Chinese modernity, nationalism and other intellectual and ideological trends. The aim of the course is to provide a sound basis, both in terms of factual knowledge and methodological approaches, for further in‐depth study of the history of China in the context of its relation and position in the world.

Course Outline

Week 1. Introduction to China in world history. The Long Nineteenth Century (Tuesday, 9th January 2024)

What is modern China? How can we situate China amid global contestation of economic change in the mid-nineteenth century? How did China resist and adapt to these changes?

Suggested readings:
Rowe, William T., China’s Last Empire: The Great Qing (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009), pp. 231-252.
Gernet, Jacques, A History of Chinese Civilization (2nd ed., Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 566- 589.

Week 2. Nineteenth Century Disasters. Famines, the Taipings and the emergence of treaty port trade (Tuesday, 16th January 2024)

What did the nineteenth‐century disasters mean for China’s modern history? In the context of tribute grain system, discuss how treaty port trade reoriented inter-regional trade and thus the economic centres from the Grand Canal region toward the coast?

Suggested readings:

Buck, David D., Urban Change in China – Politics and Development in Tsinan, Shantung, 1890-1949 (London: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978), pp. 16-39.

Gernet, Jacques, A History of Chinese Civilization (2nd ed., Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 608-622.

Week 3. Chinese Diplomatic Service Aboard and Homeward (Tuesday, 23rd January 2024)
Discuss the relationship between the Chinese government and overseas Chinese subjects and how such relation shaped the emergence of early Chinese diplomatic service abroad. Citing the example of the German colony in Qingdao, discuss how its operation change according to geopolitical needs in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Suggested readings:
So Wai Ling Fion, “The Rise of Chinese Consular Service Abroad in the Nineteenth Century,” in Jörg Ulbert & Lukian Prijac (eds.), Die Welt der Konsulate im 19. Jahrhundert (Hamburg: DOBU, Dokumentation & Buch, 2010), pp. 465-475.

Week 4. China’s Relations with the West. From Cooperation to Confrontation (Tuesday, 30th January 2024)
Outline China’s diplomatic relations with the West from the 1860s to the early twentieth century. How did foreign government exert indirect influence in the treaty ports and how were the early interactions between treaty port traders, foreign merchants and missionaries? To what extent was the Boxer Uprising and the Eight Powers Expedition a turning point of China’s encounter with the West.

Suggested readings:

Crossley, Pamela Kyle, ‘Qing and the World,’ and ‘Visionaries,’ in The Wobbling Pivot: China Since 1800 (Malden, MA and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), pp. 70‐97, 100‐125.

Reinhardt, Anne, ‘Treaty Ports as Shipping Infrastructure’ in Treaty Ports in Modern China: Law, Land and Power (London: Routledge, 2016), pp. 101-120.

Week 5. Zheng Guanyin 鄭觀應’s shangzhan (‘商戰’) and rural commercialism (Tuesday, 6th February 2024)

What did it mean to ‘save the nation’ for late nineteenth‐century reformers like Kang Youwei and Liang qichao? Why did Zheng Guanyin’s concept of commercial warfare become more prominent and had an impact on rural commercialization?

Suggested readings:

Grove, Linda, ‘Communal Resources’, in A Chinese Economic Revolution: Rural Entrepreneurship in the Twentieth Century (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006), pp. 121-146.

Wu Guo, ‘Zheng Guanying and the Seeds of Chinese Nationalism’, Zheng Guanying: Merchant Reformer of Late Qing China and His Influence on Economics, Politics and Society (Amherst: Cambria Press, 2010), pp. 143-174.

Week 6. State-Merchants Relations in China (Tuesday, 20th February 2024)
Citing the traditional tribute grain system, discuss the role of Chinese merchants in the balance of power between the central and provincial governments. How did state-merchants relationship change as the result of the xinzheng reform after 1901?

Suggested readings:
Li, Lilian M., Fighting Famine in North China: State, Market, and Environmental Decline, 1690s-1990s (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2007), ch.2, pp.38-73.

Yeh, Wen-Hsin, ‘The Material Turn’, Shanghai Splendor: Economic Sentiments and the Making of Modern China, 1843-1949 (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2008), pp. 9-29.

Week 7. German Presence in China – the Model Colony of Qingdao (Tuesday, 27th February 2024)
How important were economic factors in shaping early Sino-German diplomatic relations in the Nineteenth Century? What were Germany’s military, naval and economic interests in China, and how such interests shape the development of a model colony in Qingdao

Suggested readings:

Steinmetz, George. The Devil’s Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German Colonial State in Qingdao, Samoa, and Southwest Africa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), pp. 446-457, 470-489.

So Fion Wai Ling, Germany’s Colony in China: Colonialism, Protection and Economic Development in Qingdao and Shandong, 1898-1914 (London and New York: Routledge, 2019), pp. 51-79.

Week 8. The Zhoufu’s Family and the Emergence of Yuan Shikai (Tuesday, 12th March 2024)
What was the relationship between Li Hongzhang and Zhoufu? What was Zhoufu’s role in the Sino-German encounter in Shandong and the emergence of Yuan Shikai into power?

Suggested readings:

Ren Baozhen 任寶禎, “Yangwupai xunfu Zhoufu yu Jinan kaibu 洋務派巡撫周馥與濟南開埠,” Shilin tanyou史林探幽, 2009-4, p. 40;

Ye Zhiru 葉志如, “Qingmo Jinan, Weixian ji Zhoucun kaipi shangbu shiliao 清末濟南濰縣及周村開辟商埠史料,” Lishi dangan 歷史檔案, 1988:3, pp. 27- 8.

Week 9. Economic Nationalism and the Provincial Seat at Jinan (Tuesday, 19th March 2024)
What was the role of subsequent provincial governors at Jinan in the Sino-German encounter at the railway construction zones and in the inland province? Discuss the emergence of economic nationalism in Shandong and the rest of China.

Suggested readings:

Schrecker, John, Imperialism and Chinese Nationalism: Germany in Shantung (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971).

Mühlhahn, Klaus, ‘Negotiating the Nation: German Colonialism and Chinese Nationalism in Qingdao’ in Twentieth-century Colonialism and China: Localities, the Everyday and the World (Milton Park, Abingdon; New York: Routledge, 2012), pp.37-56.

Wang Zejing 王澤京. Yang Shixiang zai Shandong, 1905-1907 楊士驤在山東, 1905-1907 (Yang Shixiang in Shandong, 1905-1907). Master diss.: Yangzhou daxue, 2009

Wang Shouzhong 王守中. “‘Xiangwei xiangzhi’ yu ‘guangmo shouyi’: qingmo Shandong difangguan dui deguoren de jiben zhengce “相維相制”與”觀摩受益”: 清末山東地方官對德國人的基本政策(Competition and Cooperation: the policies of Shandong local officials on the Germans in the province),” Deguo yanjiu 德國研究, 1998:4:13, pp. 22-27.

Week 10. The Final years of the late Qing. From Economic Nationalism to Revolution (Tuesday, 26th March 2024)
To what extent was it the failure of the Qing court to accommodate genuine political reforms and sparked countrywide ethnic nationalism in China?

Suggested readings:

Chen Zhongping, Modern China’s Network Revolution: Chambers of Commerce and Socio-political Change in the Early Twentieth (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2011), ch. 5 & 6, pp. 138-168, 169-198.

Esherick, Joseph W., ‘Making Revolution in Twentieth‐Century China,’ in A Critical Introduction to Mao, ed. Timothy Cheek (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp.31‐60.

Week 11. Intellectual Change and the May Fourth Cultural Movement (Tuesday, 2nd April 2024)
What caused the outbreak of the May Fourth Movement and to what extent did the search of modernity come into conflict with Confucianism as an evolving ideology ruling traditional Chinese society?

Suggested readings:

Hon Tze-ki & Culp, Robert J. (eds.) The Politics of Historical Production in Late Qing and Republican China (Brill: Leiden, 2007).

Fairbank, John K. (ed.) The Cambridge History of China, Volume 12, Republican China 1912-1949 (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2005), ch. 7.

Week 12. Nationalism and Women Emancipation (Tuesday, 9th April 2024)
Did nationalist feminist thinking challenge the existing male dominance or patriarchal social structure during Republican China? Discuss citing the example of elite women.

Suggested readings:

Elisabeth Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2011, first published in 1978)

Kazuko Ono, Chinese Women in a Century of Revolution, 1850-1950 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989)

Bailey, Paul J., ‘Gender Discourses in the Early Republic,’ in particular ‘May Fourth and the Woman Question,’ in his Women and Gender in Twentieth‐century China, 49‐67, esp. 58‐64

(Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)

Optional Readings

Wang Zheng, Women in the Chinese Enlightenment: Oral and Textual Histories (University of California Press: Berkeley, 1999), pp. 35-66.

Chiang Soong Mayling, We Chinese Women: Speeches and Writings During the First United Nations Year; February 12, 1942-November 16, 1942 (Fb&c Limited, 2018)

Guo Vivienne Xiangwei, Women and Politics in Wartime China: Networking across Geopolitical Border (Routledge: Oxon, 2019).

Week 13. Twentieth Century China: Discontinued Continuity? (Tuesday, 16th April 2024)

Concluding remarks: How far was Chinese modernity featured in the writings of history of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries China?

Suggested readings:

Harrison, Henrietta, ‘The Citizens’ Revolution,’ in her The Making of the Republican Citizen: Political Ceremonies and Symbols in China, 1911‐1929 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 173‐206.

Hon Tze-ki & Culp, Robert J. (eds.) The Politics of Historical Production in Late Qing and Republican China (Brill: Leiden, 2007).

Zurndorfer, Harriet T. “China and ‘Modernity’: The Uses of the Study of Chinese History in the Past and the Present.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. 40, no. 4, 1997, pp. 461–85

Assessment & Assignments

Attendance 10%
Tutorial Participation 20%
Mid-term Essay (Not more than 2,000 Words) 30%
Take home exam 40%

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed VeriGuide declaration that they are aware of the policies, regulations and procedures.