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The Past in the Present: Nation-building in Modern China (10 EC)


Admission requirements

Students from the MA Asian Studies (60EC, 120EC, or research) have priority. A limited number of places is available for students of the MA International Relations. Students who are interested in taking this course, but who are not from the mentioned master programmes are requested to contact their education co-ordinator.


“The quest to build a strong, modern state and restore the country to greatness runs like a red thread through China’s modern and contemporary history. This course explores the 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 toidentify and interrogate parallels, continuities, and connections across China’s modern history and contemporary politics, 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; diplomacy and international law; visions of regionalism and global governance, and China-Europe relations. Students will be encouraged to analyze, compare, and connect primary sources to academic scholarship on modern and contemporary China from various disciplines.

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.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

The deadline(s) in MyTimetable is/are set for administrative purposes only. The actual date(s) will be communicated by the lecturer(s) in Brightspace.

Mode of instruction


Attendance and participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to attend all sessions. It is up to the discretion of the convener of the course whether or not any 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

Academic integrity

Students should familiarize themselves with the notion of academic integrity and the ways in which this plays out in their own work. A good place to start is this page. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students may not substantially reuse texts they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.

Students must submit their assignment(s) to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

ChatGPT: What is possible and what is allowed? Dos and Don'ts.

Assessment and weighing

Partial assessment weighing
Attendance/weekly posts/assignments 50%
Term Paper (4,000 words) 50%

The overall course grade is the weighted average of 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 Term Paper component is “5.49” (=5) or lower, a new term paper may be submitted. The topic and due date of the new paper will be determined in consultation with the lecturer. The grade for the new paper will replace the grade for the original paper (50%). There are no resit opportunities for the Attendance/Participation component.

Inspection and feedback

Feedback will be supplied primarily through Brightspace. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the assessment results, a review will 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 shared on Brightspace over the course of the semester.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.