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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST2658 Mao Zedong and Modern China, 1949-Present

20 creditsClass Size: 42

Module manager: Dr Adam Cathcart

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The purpose of this module is to gain an understanding of how China evolved after 1949 into the country that we know today. At its centre is the career of Mao Zedong - the rebel, ideologue, and general who brought both strength and suffering to China. Mao and his agenda propelled the country into massive political movements, such as the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, creating devastating human impacts but also forged new political patterns; it was experimentation on a massive scale. Foreign friends of the revolution will be examined, as will the politics of memory surrounding the Mao years. The module examines Mao's competitive relationships with leading politicians of the time, and his handling of major policy problems, including the rapprochement with the United States. A wide range of secondary literature, as well as primary source readings and film samples, support this module.


By the end of this module students should have developed:
- The ability to write clearly about the origin and extension of specific political movements in China, such as the Cultural Revolution;
- A broad knowledge of developments in contemporary China during the Cold War;
- A deeper understanding of the domestic and external context for Mao's rise to power;
- A capacity to engage with the principal historiographical questions and controversies surrounding this topic;
- An ability to identify and synthesise a wide range of secondary source material, and to identify, analyse and evaluate primary source material of relevance to the subject;
- Skills in the effective and appropriate communication of knowledge both orally and in writing.

Learning outcomes
By the end of this module, students should have developed an extensive knowledge of China's evolution from a country wracked by civil war and foreign invasion, to the troubled but rising country the world knows today. Central to this understanding is Mao Zedong, the pivotal personality and historical persona with whom students will engage. Students will acquire a detailed understanding of the environment in which Mao operated, both nationally and internationally, and the significance of how Mao and his comrades manoeuvred through the Civil War, the Cold War, and the various political campaigns they themselves launched but did not always fully control. Chinese foreign policy and Mao's mechanics of decision-making will be a significant feature of the module, as will Mao's methods of ridding the polity of his perceived political enemies, particularly in the late 1960s. Students will be required to oscillate between past and present, understanding how Mao and Maoism has served as a point of fixation and often frustration for the Chinese state and people. Furthermore, students should be able to demonstrate extensive familiarity with the principal biographical and secondary literature in this area, and will have developed enhanced skills in analysis and critical thinking in relation to these sources.


Seminar topics will include:
1. The Yanan Revolutionary Base
2. The Chinese Civil War
3. The Early PRC
4. Anti-Americanism and the Korean War
5. Anti-Intellectualism and the Anti-Rightist Campaign
6. Mao's Global Ambitions: The Great Leap Forward
7. The Cultural Revolution, Part I
8. The Cultural Revolution, Part II
9. Deng Xiaoping
10. Politics of Memory in China
11. Chinese Nationalism Today

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Undertaking set reading; further self-directed reading around the topic; seminar preparation; researching, preparing and writing assessments; exam preparation.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Participation in weekly seminar discussions; informal presentation of readings in class; ongoing progress discussions.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
AssignmentA role-play/verbal presentation scenario with an associated 2000-word essay due on Monday of Week 740.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)40.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)60.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:25:07


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