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The State in Modern Chinese History (ResMA)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (research) or another relevant research MA programme. Students from other departments are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.


The State in Modern Chinese History

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  • Effectively read various genres of historical documents and scholarly literature;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

  • Seminar

Attendance and participation are obligatory.

Course Load

280 hours total

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

  • Extra sessions for ResMA students: 6 hours

  • Preparation for class: 6 hours per week; 84 hours total

  • Preparation for extra ResMA sessions: 38

  • Book reviews: 40 hours

  • Term paper: 90 hours

Assessment method

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

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

The end-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. (The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is a fictional date for administration purposes only. The actual date will be communicated by the convenor of the course.)

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

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.

Note: there is no separate Blackboard page available for this ResMa course. Please subscribe to the Blackboard page of the regular MA course.

Reading list

See Blackboard.

Additional reading for the ResMA students will be determined by the convener at a later stage taking into account the students’ field(s) of interest. This extra literature will be discussed during the (extra) tutorial sessions.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. Limin Teh

+31 71 527 5915


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).