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The State in Modern Chinese History


Admission requirements

Students 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, public health, and economic governance. We also explore the relationship between environmental factors and state formation. Readings and class discussions engage with key historiographical questions—How has the environment shaped the formation of the Chinese state? 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  • Effectively read various genres of historical documents and scholarly literature;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;

  • Identify trends, themes, and debates in scholarly literature.


The timetable is available on the Asian Studies website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

280 hours total

  • Seminars: 2 hours per week; 24 hours total

  • Assigned readings for class discussion: 8 hours per week; 96 hours total

  • Assignments: 80 hours

  • Term paper: 80 hours

Assessment method

Assignments and participation: 50%
Term paper: 50%
The final grade consists of the weighted average of all course components. A resit for the essay component is allowed if a student scores a non-passing grade (5,49 or lower) on the first attempt.


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

Reading list

See Blackboard


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website


Mw. Dr. L.Teh