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Topics in Modern Chinese History (5 EC)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (60 or 120 EC) or another relevant MA programme.


A single thread connects late Qing reformers such as Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, Republican revolutionaries like Sun Yat-sen, and Communist leaders from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping: the quest to build a strong, modern state and to restore the country to greatness. This course explores key events, ideas, and actors that drove this ongoing national project from the Self-Strengthening Movement of the late Qing reformers through to the present-day Chinese Dream of National Rejuvenation. Organized thematically, students will be challenged to pursue parallels, continuities, and connections across China’s modern and contemporary history, examining how past experiences have informed Chinese politics and identities, and conversely, how present-day goals have shaped Chinese interpretations and images of the past. Key themes in this course on Modern China include nationalism and national identity; territory and nationalities; revolution and war; science and technology; visions of regional and global order, and China-Europe relations. Students will be encouraged to analyze, compare, and connect primary sources to academic scholarship across various disciplines on modern China.

Course objectives

Participants in this course will develop and acquire the following:

  • A critical understanding of key themes and debates in the historiography of modern Chinese history

  • An understanding of Chinese perspectives on China’s modern history and relationships between China’s modern history and contemporary Chinese politics

  • Improved cognitive, communicative, and transferable academic skills, including skills for critically evaluating and contextualizing primary sources and key scholarly readings, assessing and contributing to academic debates, and reflexive learning.


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Mode of instruction


Attendance and participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to attend all sessions. The convenor needs to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason. In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method


  • Attendance/Participation

  • Assignments


  • Attendance/Participation: 50 %

  • Assignments: 50 %

The overall course grade is the weighted average between the two components listed above; however, students must receive a minimum score of 5.50 (=6) for each component to pass the course.

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.


Students must receive a minimum score of 5.50 (=6) for each component in order to pass the course. If the grade for the Assignments component is below 5.49 (=5) or lower, students may submit a paper of approx. 1,500 words. The topic and due date of the paper will be determined in consultation with the instructor. The grade for the paper will replace the grade for the Assignments component. There are no resit opportunities for the Attendance/Participation component.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

A Course Handbook denoting mandatory course readings will be posted on Brightspace before the start of the course. Additional information (powerpoints, useful websites, etc.) will also be found on Brightspace over the course of the semester.


This has to be filled out by the key-user of the department.
Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Contact V.K. Chang


Students with disabilities
The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity
Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations)