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The State in Modern Chinese History


Admission requirements

MA students. MA Students from other programmes who are interested in taking this course, but who are not admitted to one of the mentioned master programmes are requested to contact their co-ordinator of studies.


A single thread connects late Qing reformers such as Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, Republican revolutionaries namely Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, and Communist revolutionaries: their desire for a strong, centralized state. Driving this desire was the belief that only a centralized state could successfully thwart foreign imperialist expansion while modernizing Chinese economy and society. Needless to say, the ideal form of the centralized state differed according to each reformer/revolutionary’s ideological influences. In this course, we chart continuities and discontinuities in these attempts at constructing a modern centralized state, with the bulk of our time spent on the Nationalist and the Communist state. To grasp the reach of this modern state, we look beyond traditional areas of study in state-formation (taxation, borders, political participation, policing) to investigate the modern state’s expanding role in ethnic and national identities, religion, family life, and public health. Readings and class discussions will also engage with key historiographical questions—What is “Chinese” about the modern Chinese state? How strong and centralized is this modern state? What is the modern state’s relationship with local elites in rural China?—and theories of the state.

Course objectives

  • Acquire understanding of key themes in the history of modern Chinese state formation;

  • Effectively read various genres of historical documents and scholarly literature;

  • Analyze how historians construct arguments with primary source documents;

  • Learn how to identify research problem, construct a research plan, conduct research, and write a research paper.


Check timetable

Mode of instruction


Course Load

280 hours total

  • Weekly seminars: 2 hours per week; 28 hours total

  • Preparation for class: 8 hours per week; 112 hours total

  • Book reviews: 40 hours

  • Term paper: 100 hours

Assessment method

Class attendance and active participation: 30%
Books reviews: 2 × 10%; 20% total
Term paper: 50%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.

The term paper is written in two stages: a first version, which will be commented on, and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the final version, will get a failing grade.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. A new version of the paper assignment may be written if the overall mark for the course is “5.49” (=5) or lower. If students take this option, they must choose an alternative topic. They will not be permitted to resubmit the same paper. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation.

The course is an integrated whole. All categories must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Yes. Blackboard is used for posting complete reading list, class communications, and essay submission.

Reading list

See Blackboard


Registration through uSis


Limin Teh
+31 71 527 5915
Email: Mw. Dr. L.Teh