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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 China’s War of Resistance against Japan (1931–45) 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 theories of international relations 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 international 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 class debates.


The timetable is available on the Chinastudies website.

Mode of instruction

Seminar (mandatory attendance and participation)

Course Load

Total course load: 140 hours
1. Participation in seminars: 12 × 2 hours (24 hours)
2. Class preparation (complete readings and assignments): 12 × 6 hours (72 hours)
3. Final paper: 44 hours

Assessment method

  • Participation element: class attendance, class participation, (pre-)class assignments, class presentation (total 50%)

  • Research element: essay (50%)

The final grade consists of the weighted average of all course components. A resit for the essay component is allowed if a student scores a non-passing grade (5,49 or lower) on the first attempt.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Posting course information

  • Class communication

  • Submission of class assignments/final paper

A course handbook denoting weekly readings will be posted on Blackboard by mid-January. Additional information (powerpoints, useful websites, etc.) will also be found on Blackboard over the course of the semester (block).

Reading list

A list of course readings will be included in the course handbook. Sources not accessible online via the university library will be made available on the course shelf in the Asian Library or by other means.


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.