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War, Diplomacy, and State-building in 20th-century China


Admission requirements

Successful completion of BA1 Modern Chinese History.


This course explores the causes, character, and consequences of international conflict and cooperation in 20th-century China. Focusing on the Second Sino-Japanese War (and World War II) and the years surrounding it, students will examine the efforts of the Chinese Nationalists and the Chinese Communists to shape, lead, and record China’s international development from a variety of standpoints. Students will use primary sources as well as secondary literature and engage with various conceptual and theoretical approaches to contrast these efforts and trace continuities across the 1949 divide. In addition, students will discuss how the recent history informs present-day politics and how official remembrance on the Chinese mainland and in Taiwan has developed over time to serve evolving policies and priorities.

Students will practice and apply key transferable skills by writing and discussing web posts and giving presentations on a variety of related historical topics, including but not limited to: China and the League of Nations; abolition of the unequal treaties and the extraterritorial system; the Nanjing Massacre; the Chongqing Bombings; wartime society and collaboration; women at war; China and the United Nations, early Cold War diplomacy and recognition, the One-China principle, and Sino-Dutch relations.

Course objectives

This course allows students to develop and demonstrate the necessary knowledge, skills, and tools to critically examine and explain key issues related to the modern history of China’s foreign relations and diplomacy. By the end of the module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a nuanced understanding of the complex, competing efforts in 20th-century China to navigate and shape international conflict and cooperation.

  • Apply conceptual tools to analyse key events, processes, and actors in the recent history and memory of China’s international relations and diplomacy.

  • Effectively read various genres of historical literature and primary source materials, and engage with these primary and secondary sources to construct analytical arguments.

  • Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative, and transferable academic skills, develop the capacity for independent learning, critique academic literature, and participate in academic debates.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Participation element: course participation, (pre-)class assignments, presentations, discussions, etc.

  • Research element: research essay


The final grade consists of the weighted average of the two course components:

  • Participation element: 50%

  • Research element: 50%


A resit for the research element (research essay) is allowed if a student scores a non-passing grade (5,49 or lower) on the first attempt.

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 and recommended 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 (block).


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

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. V.K. Chang, LLM


Not applicable.