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China. People’s Republic of China. World’s most populous nation (1,273,111,290) World’s second largest economy after the United States (purchasing power parity: $ 4.5 trillion) Oldest continuous (and self-conscious) civilization in the world.

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People’s Republic of China

  • World’s most populous nation (1,273,111,290)

  • World’s second largest economy after the United States (purchasing power parity: $ 4.5 trillion)

  • Oldest continuous (and self-conscious) civilization in the world.

  • Syncretism (Marxism + Confucianism + heritage of Empires)

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Chinese Legacies:

1. More than two millenia of strong rule under a single ruler (First Emperor unified China and *ended feudalism in 221 B.C.E.). Entrenched beliefs on that China can remain united only under a unified, strong, and centralized power. Unitary state.

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Chinese Legacies

2. Inventors of Bureaucracy (China had the most developed pre-modern bureaucratic organization. Recruitment of officials through exams. Well organized but not large ≈ 20,000)

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Chinese Legacies:

3. Confucian tradition of moral governance (development of groups of “gentlemen” who could judge and decide in a wise and moral way). Legitimacy of Confucianism, stable and well governed society

  • Recruitment of public officials through tough examinations on Confucian philosophy and moral principles (three levels) –Tradition of rule by educated elites(wealth + scholarship)

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*no feudalism

  • Peasant (but no feudal) society

  • Strong central authority of a well-organized state (monarchy also based in Confucianism through the “mandate of heaven”)

    ≠ West/Japan

    ≈ (pre-colonial) Mexico

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Chinese (Main)Historical Periods

  • Zhou Dynasty (BCE 1122-255)

  • Qin Dynasty (BCE 255-206)

  • Han Dynasty (BCE 206-221 AD)

    (Period of disunion 221-589)

  • Tang Dynasty (618-907)

  • Song Dynasty (951-1280)

  • Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty (1280-1368)

  • Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

  • Qing (Manchu) Dynasty) 1644-1911

  • Republic of China (1912-1949)

  • People’s Republic of China (1949- )

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Mid-19th century: Crisis of the Empire

  • Demographic crisis (caused by a long period of peace and good crops during the Qing/Manchu dynasty in 1644)

  • Population = 410 millions in 1850.

    • Rebellions

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Taiping Rebellion (largest rebellion in human history):

  • Impoverished peasants join forces (differences between the value of copper and silver… linked to imports of opium from the West). Western influences

    • Leader Hong Xiuquan (learned on Christianity and thought of himself as Jesus’ brother)

    • Claims: communal ownership of land & equalization of wealth

  • Western led and financed “Ever Victorious Army” was organized to defeat the Taiping (1864).

  • (Military and economic) Exhaustion of the Chinese central state in suffocating the Taiping rebellion  Localization and Militarization of the Chinese society

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From the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries

  • China  Battleground for different forces and powers (≠ Japan, in China No new elite emerged)

  • Warlordism (peak in 1910/20s) & Western and Japanese Imperialisms

  • Cosmopolitan/Self-Strengthening/Nativist Mov

  • Self-Strengthening Movement (1860s-1894/5)

    • Desire to integrate Chinese and Western culture (“Chinese learning as the essence, Western learning for practical use.”). Long-lasting influence (Deng Xiaping in 1978), but never worked well (Technology brings cultural values with it). China’s defeat by Japan in 1895 ended the mov.

  • Movement Towards Revolution

    • Sun Yat-sen (1911 Revolution ended the Qing dynasty and the Confucian-based system of government)

      1911-1949 Chinese Civil War

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  • Roots in 1895 by Kang Youwei’s led rebellion of examinees against the Qing’s dynasty (the Qing signed peace with Japan)

  • Rise of mass nationalism(May 4, 1919). Student protests & rejection of the government’s signature of the Versailles Treaty (that turned German concessions in China to Japan).

    • Critique of the Confucian past (for its elitist character)

    • Rapid growth of the movement

  • Strengthened the Chinese Nationalist Party (GMD)

  • Creation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1921

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Nationalist/Communist Front

Kuomintang government (1920-25)

Sponsored by the Communist International

  • Expeditions:

    • 1926 to the North led by Chian Kai-shek (murder of thousands of Communists Radicalization of the Communists)

    • 1927 to South-Central China led by Mao Zedong  the Long March (military disaster but symbolic success of mythological proportions)

      1931 Japanese invasion

  • Communist Victory in 1949 (unifies China with the exception of Taiwan)

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Chinese Communism

  • ≠ Russian Communism, the Chinese Communist regime achieved support and popularity (Pragmatic, peasant grassroots influences, fronts)

    • Land reform, socialization of the economy

  • Stability and unity

  • Rapid economic recovery


    Dramatic Shift

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Totalitarian Shift

  • Once in power, the CCP started a policy of

  • Censorship

  • Persecution of the opposition (landlords, GMD supporters, pro-Japanese criticized, jailed, and even executed)

  • Wide local penetration of society by the state

  • 1950 First Five-Year Plan (industrialization)

    • Fast economic growth, but exhaustion of the countryside. Newly created inefficient bureaucracy

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Mao, complex and contradictory

-Insisted on the value of research but ignored reality

  • A brilliant man, despised intellectuals

  • The leader of a peasant revolution, led millions of peasants to starvation and death (industrialization)


    Good Principles:Bad Principles:


Sinification of Marxism

Mass line

United Front


Mass Mobilization

Will Power

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Hundred Flowers

  • 1957 After Kruschev’s critique of Stalin, Mao (against party advice) called for criticism and debate

  • Overwhelming demands (people’s requirements to open up the political system allowing other parties)

  • Mao’s shift: “anti-rightist” campaign (every organization had to denounce 5% of their members as “rigthists”… 500,000 people ostracized)

  • Radicalization

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Great Leap Forward (1958-1960)

  • Goals: industrialization and decentralization (local self-sufficiency). Extreme and wasteful policies

  • Mao’s Will to power (raw human labor against difficult economic situation).

    • Result: around 20 million people died of starvation.

  • Severe political repression (to hide the results of the Great Leap Forward), and

  • Cultural Revolution (1966-1976): opposing the “four olds” (old customs, old habits, old culture, old thinking), Red Guards would intervene in people’s lives in search for “bourgeois” and “rightist” elements. Affecting all realms of Chinese life (ended with Mao’s death). Thousands died.

  • Red Guards sent to the countryside to “learn” from peasants

  • Ended in 1976 after Mao’s death (a member of the “Gang of Four,” Mao’s wife and 3 other leaders were arrested).

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State structure

Legislative: National People’s Congress (NPC) (supposedly elected every five years, meets once a year and it is the highest authority on paper) (increasingly active role in recent years, it has reduced bureaucratic apparatuses and organized Committees)


  • State Council (Headed by the Premier, who is elected by the NPC after recommendation of the Party). Vice Premiers

  • Ministries

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Party and Government

  • Long-lasting ties between Communism and Nationalist sentiment

  • Overlap between party and state structure (≈ Soviet Union)

    • Party Chairman Secretary General

    • Democratic centralism

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Deng Xiaoping

  • Amazing socioeconomic transformation

  • Free Trade Zones

  • Dramatic process of economic reforms and modernization

    • End of isolationism

    • Emergence of a modern private economy

    • Increasing inequality.

    • Migration

    • Corruption

    • Growth of a lively civil society (and political opposition met with repression)

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Tensions between an emerging society and a still-closed political system

(Protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 left over 700 deaths)

Need to create new consensuses and ideas (revival of nationalism and Confucianism)