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Fall and Rise of China

Fall and Rise of China

Professor Richard Baum Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles

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Fall and Rise of China

Fall and Rise of China

Professor Richard Baum Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles
Course No.  8370
Course No.  8370
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Course Overview

About This Course

48 lectures  |  30 minutes per lecture

China—the world's oldest continuous civilization—has undergone an astonishing transformation in a brief span of recent history. Since the collapse of its once-glorious empire in 1911, China has seen decades of epic turmoil and upheavals, emerging in the new century as both an authoritarian megastate and an economic powerhouse, poised to become an imposing global force.

By current estimates, the People's Republic is set to outpace the United States economically in the coming decades and to rival or surpass it militarily, making China the richest, most powerful nation on earth.

How did this happen? How can we account for China's momentous—and almost wholly unanticipated—global rise? And what does it mean, for us in the West and for humanity's future?

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China—the world's oldest continuous civilization—has undergone an astonishing transformation in a brief span of recent history. Since the collapse of its once-glorious empire in 1911, China has seen decades of epic turmoil and upheavals, emerging in the new century as both an authoritarian megastate and an economic powerhouse, poised to become an imposing global force.

By current estimates, the People's Republic is set to outpace the United States economically in the coming decades and to rival or surpass it militarily, making China the richest, most powerful nation on earth.

How did this happen? How can we account for China's momentous—and almost wholly unanticipated—global rise? And what does it mean, for us in the West and for humanity's future?

Speaking to these vital and fascinating questions, The Fall and Rise of China, taught by China expert and Professor Richard Baum of the University of California, Los Angeles, brings to vivid life the human struggles, the titanic political upheavals, and the spectacular speed of China's modern rebirth. Offering multilevel insight into one of the most astounding real-life dramas of modern history, The Fall and Rise of China weaves together the richly diverse developments and sociopolitical currents that created the China we now see in the headlines.

As we enter what some are already calling the "Chinese century," the role of China is deeply fundamental to our reading of the direction of world civilization and history. In 48 penetrating lectures, The Fall and Rise of China takes you to the heart of the events behind China's new global presence, leaving you with a clear view of both the story itself and its critical implications for our world.

Redefining a Colossus

The timeliness of Professor Baum's revealing commentary would be hard to exaggerate.

China's impact on U.S. domestic issues, such as job outsourcing and energy acquisition, as well as a massive U.S. foreign debt to China and inevitable military power sharing, bind America's future to the People's Republic in ways that are becoming compellingly apparent.

As China's policies increasingly impact the world community in economic, military, and environmental terms, these lectures provide crucial understanding of the most important new force in today's world.

The Fall and Rise of China also sheds a bright light on the history of the Socialist experiment and the present business environment of China, and deepens your understanding of world civilization through an in-depth look at a culture profoundly different from your own.

A Story to Challenge the Imagination

In Professor Baum's words, China's modern history unfolds as a story of awe-inspiring dimensions—a chronicle of the largest revolution in the history of the world, of monumental excesses and abuses of power, of unimaginable hardship for millions, of the effort to reinvent a vast and unwieldy socioeconomic system, and of the often deadly clash between ideology and human realities.

The course gives you a detailed understanding of all the core events in China's century of stunning change, including these major happenings:

  • Collapse of the Qing dynasty: You study the interlacing social, political, and economic factors that led to the fall of China's 2,000-year empire and the implacable call for new political paradigms.
  • The Republican era and civil wars: In the wake of the defunct empire, you witness the drama of the short-lived Chinese Republic, followed by political chaos and the long strategic battle between Republican forces and the seemingly unstoppable Communist Party.
  • The "Great Leap Forward": In a landmark episode of the Mao era, the regime's grand-scale projects to communize agriculture and galvanize industry saw bureaucratic mismanagement leading to tragedy for tens of millions of Chinese.
  • The Cultural Revolution: During this bitter era of the 1960s, festering tensions between the Maoist regime and its critics erupted in a brutal campaign of terror and repression against perceived enemies of Socialism.
  • China's post-Mao economic "miracle": In the later lectures you track the specific reforms and ideological shifts that opened China to global economic engagement and forged its new role as a free-market dynamo.

As your guide to these history-shaping events, Professor Baum takes you far beyond the realm of academic theorizing. Describing his subject as an "adventure story," he reveals a 40-year personal interface with China, more than 30 visits to the People's Republic, and an intimate witnessing of the struggles, crises, and victories of the Chinese people.

A storyteller of extraordinary flair, he takes you onto the Beijing streets, into Shanghai industrial plants, and into the thick of highly charged protests and his own vivid encounters with numerous Chinese, recounting key elements of the story as he saw them unfold.

The Human Face of Change

China's remaking is peopled by some of the 20th century's most colorful and impactful human beings. Your investigation of key figures in the story includes these fascinating personalities:

  • Cixi, the Empress Dowager: A former concubine and an iron-willed manipulator, she rose to command the Manchu Empire in its death throes, speeding its disintegration through her own calculated opposition to reform.
  • Dr. Sun Yat-sen: A uniquely pivotal revolutionary figure, Sun played key roles in the overthrow of the Qing dynasty, the creation of the Chinese Republic, and the founding of the Chinese Nationalist Party, the Guomindang, still a force on Taiwan.
  • Chiang K'ai-shek: Dynamic but ultimately inept military leader of the Republican forces, he waged a long, unsuccessful battle against the Communists, finally leading his defeated forces to found a regime in exile—the Republic of China on Taiwan.
  • Mao Zedong: China's larger-than-life revolutionary icon. Enigmatic, brilliant, and ruthless, he led the Communist forces through the long civil wars and presided as a near dictator over the new Socialist state through a quarter-century of trials and tragedies.
  • Deng Xiaoping: Mao's ultimate successor and a master strategist, he initiated, then fought mightily to preserve the reforms that propelled China to the forefront of global economic power.

Throughout the lectures, Professor Baum reveals highly unusual details that enrich the cinematic sweep of the story. You learn about the Christian warlord who baptized his troops with a fire hose, the strange kidnapping of Chiang K'ai-shek, the politically explosive forgery carried out by Mao's wife, and Professor Baum's own smuggling of top-secret documents out of Taiwan.

The Genesis of Chaos and Revolution

As a core strength of the lectures, Professor Baum makes sense of the dramatic events of the story by getting deeply at what underlay them, culturally, socially, and historically—leaving you with a nuanced knowledge of the forces moving China's modern emergence.

In the spiraling descent of the Qing dynasty you trace the imperial culture of complacent superiority and indifference to global events that undermined the empire's hold on power.

Following the empire's demise, you probe the competing ideologies that fed two revolutionary movements, and you study Mao's tactics of "people's war" and civil-military relations that gained vast support for the Communist cause.

In the course's central focus, you study the making of Communist China under Mao and its dramatic turn toward free-market economics.

You witness the consolidation of power by the Maoist regime in the long campaign to suppress counterrevolutionaries and the programs of "thought reform," in which independent thinkers were compelled to write lengthy public "confessions."

You study the far-reaching challenges of the transition to Socialism, including the "free rider" problem, where lack of work incentives in collective farming stunted economic growth and bred widespread alienation.

You chart Mao's utopian drive to achieve "pure" Communism in the Great Leap Forward, and the ways in which this mandate blinded the regime to the desperate realities faced by China's rural masses.

And you see how obliquely expressed currents of dissent and the regime's perception of "revisionist" thinking led to the disasters of the Cultural Revolution.

You also dig deeply into the history of Mao's strained relations with the Soviets, and the cold war moves and countermoves underlying his historic meeting with Nixon and the "normalizing" of relations with the United States.

A Nation Transfigured

In the course's gripping final section, you observe the profound economic shifts of recent decades that produced China's phenomenal rise.

Here you come to grips with exactly how they did it, including the strategic introduction of new incentive structures in industry and agriculture; multifront economic competition; and "Special Economic Zones," sparking export trade and huge foreign investment.

You explore this era's many critical reversals, such as the cultural "burying" of Chairman Mao, the airing of long-suppressed wounds from the Cultural Revolution, the ideological embrace of free-market economics, and the new culture of individual enrichment.

You also reflect on the contrast between the regime's path-breaking economic changes and its stern political inflexibility, a tension you witness in the tragic events at Tiananmen Square.

Finally, you contemplate China's current trajectory as it follows the journey of the Chinese to a new national identity, seemingly returning their nation to a global supremacy it held for much of the last 2,000 years.

Bringing alive the passionate reinvention of China with deep discernment and humanity, Professor Baum portrays the confounding, majestic, heart-rending, and visionary story of a modern giant.

Take this opportunity, in The Fall and Rise of China, to know and comprehend a world-changing development of our times and to understand our civilization as a new and vibrant force shapes it.

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48 Lectures
  • 1
    The Splendor That Was China, 600–1700
    This lecture sets the stage for the saga of modern China. Uncover the underpinnings of the empire's extraordinary longevity, including its ingenious civil service system, its Confucian moral code, and its sophisticated military base. x
  • 2
    Malthus and Manchu Hubris, 1730–1800
    Complex social and economic forces ended China's millennium of supremacy as an empire. Learn about the empire's era of global exploration, followed by long, complacent isolationism. Then chart the economic strain of the 18th-century population explosion and the effects of European economic expansion and the opium trade. x
  • 3
    Barbarians at the Gate, 1800–1860
    The escalating British trade in opium sparked conflicts that crippled the Manchu dynasty. Track the Court's efforts to suppress widespread addiction, leading to the First Opium War and the humiliating Treaty of Nanking. Also, follow increasing foreign encroachments and violent reprisals, forcing a Second Opium War and the opening of multiple ports to Western commerce. x
  • 4
    Rural Misery and Rebellion, 1842–1860
    Nineteenth-century China also saw a prolonged agrarian crisis that spurred major peasant revolts, weakening the empire from within. Examine the explosive Taiping Rebellion, a decade-long, religiously themed struggle that threatened to unseat the empire. x
  • 5
    The Self-Strengthening Movement, 1860–1890
    Facing external and internal pressures, China's faltering empire attempted fundamental reforms. Investigate the Manchus' multifaceted effort to absorb Western science and technology while preserving Confucian institutions. Learn also about the internal sabotage of reform and the other factors in its ultimate failure, as Japan effectively wins the race to modernize. x
  • 6
    Hundred Days of Reform and the Boxer Uprising
    The 19th century closed with further measures of reform within the empire and violent conflict with foreigners on Chinese soil. Study the progressive thinkers who influenced the young emperor Guangxu in his 100 Days of Reform. Then follow the siege of foreign legations by the fanatical Boxers and its bloody aftermath. x
  • 7
    The End of Empire, 1900–1911
    Witness the death spasms of the Manchu dynasty and the tumultuous events leading to the Chinese Republican Revolution of 1911. Afterward, track the rise of the revolutionary Sun Yat-sen, the military commander Yuan Shikai, and the establishment of the Provisional Republic of China. x
  • 8
    The Failed Republic, 1912–1919
    China's short-lived republic fell to corrupt power plays and maneuvering to restore the dynasty. Trace the country's descent into political chaos and rule by warlords, and ensuing encroachments by Japan. In addition, follow events leading to the birth of modern Chinese Nationalism. x
  • 9
    The Birth of Chinese Communism, 1917–1925
    Probe the emerging ideologies that fueled two revolutionary movements—Nationalism and Communism. Also, consider the importation of Lenin's theory of imperialism into China and the covert efforts of Soviet agents to forge a "united front" between Sun Yat-sen's Nationalists and the newborn Chinese Communist Party. x
  • 10
    Chiang, Mao, and Civil War, 1926–1934
    Explore the state of China after the death of Sun Yat-sen. Follow Chiang K'ai-shek's unified national revolutionary army as it wages a brutal campaign against the Communists. From the ashes of defeat, the Communists are reborn in the countryside under the leadership of Mao Zedong. x
  • 11
    The Republican Experiment, 1927–1937
    Over the following decade, escalating Japanese encroachments on China coincide with mounting violence between China's revolutionary factions. Examine the rise of Japanese militarism and the 1931 invasion of Manchuria. Later, follow Chiang K'ai-shek's attempts to liquidate the Maoist Communists and his dramatic kidnapping. x
  • 12
    "Resist Japan!" 1937–1945
    In the fireball of World War II, witness the brutal Japanese offensives in China and their grim consequences for the Nationalists, while paradoxically sparing the Communists from annihilation. Learn also about growing U.S. ambivalence toward Chiang K'ai-shek and how Japanese brutality actually aided the Communists' seizure of power. x
  • 13
    Chiang's Last Stand, 1945–1949
    Study the final confrontations between Nationalist and Communist forces. Track the Nationalists' effort to dominate urban centers and the Communists' guerrilla methodology, their success in mobilizing the rural Chinese, and their strategic moves to victory. x
  • 14
    "The Chinese People Have Stood Up!"
    Explore features of Mao's new regime and its program to rebuild China's shattered economy. Also, learn about the Communist Party's delineation of "enemies of the people," its policies of ideological "thought reform," and its national campaigns of land reform. x
  • 15
    Korea, Taiwan, and the Cold War, 1950–1954
    Investigate critical strategic and military actions of the Maoist regime in the early 1950s. Uncover the factors behind Mao's alignment with the Soviets and his uneasy relationship with Stalin. Then, probe the events of the Korean War, the repercussions of China's military intervention, and the tactical conflict over Taiwan. x
  • 16
    Socialist Transformation, 1953–1957
    In 1953 the Maoist government undertook the full transition to Socialism. Examine key features of Mao's economic program, focusing on the process of agricultural collectivization—the hurried implementation of which violated core party policies and created widespread resentment in rural China. x
  • 17
    Cracks in the Monolith, 1957–1958
    By 1957, domestic and international conflicts disrupted Mao's Socialist vision. Trace his deepening differences with Moscow as Khrushchev rejects Stalinism. Examine Mao's proposed liberalization toward intellectuals, followed by a harsh crackdown on dissenters and party members, as Mao steers a leftist course, finally rejecting the Soviet model of Socialism. x
  • 18
    The Great Leap Forward, 1958–1960
    Mao's "Great Leap Forward" aimed to galvanize China's economic development. Review the major components of this initiative, including mass mobilization of rural workers in water works projects, backyard steel production, impersonal people's communes, and their final catastrophic failure through faulty engineering and massive bureaucratic errors. x
  • 19
    Demise of the Great Leap Forward, 1959–1962
    Systemic mismanagement of the Great Leap created horrific consequences. Uncover the circumstances of a deepening agricultural crisis and Mao's confrontations with the dissenting defense minister, Peng Dehuai, as the party's denial of reality leads to starvation for tens of millions. x
  • 20
    Never Forget Class Struggle! 1962–1965
    Core Great Leap policies were reversed under Mao's lieutenants Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Follow growing hostility between Mao and Khrushchev, and bitter conflict between Liu and Deng's anticorruption campaign and Mao's offensive against class struggle and capitalist thinking, embodied in a new program of mass ideological indoctrination. x
  • 21
    "Long Live Chairman Mao!" 1964–1965
    Conflicting ideological currents set the stage for Mao's infamous Cultural Revolution. Examine efforts to enforce Mao's "cult of personality" through his "Little Red Book" of sayings and Maoist attacks on literary trends and the educational system. x
  • 22
    Mao's Last Revolution Begins, 1965–1966
    Chart Mao's unleashing of the Cultural Revolution. First, trace his orchestration of the downfall of Beijing's mayor and party propaganda chief in a strike against "counterrevolutionary revisionists." In the second stage, Mao foments radicalization and agitation among students, enlisting youth in retaliation against "bourgeois power holders." x
  • 23
    The Children's Crusade, 1966–1967
    As the Cultural Revolution escalates, witness Mao's shakeup of high-level politicians and the formation of student "Red Guard" units, which subject educators and party leaders across China to humiliation and extreme brutality. As Maoist "revolutionary rebels" attack commercial and industrial interests, China veers toward anarchy. x
  • 24
    The Storm Subsides, 1968–1969
    In the final stages of the Cultural Revolution, spiraling chaos leads to ritualized violence and deadly wars between rival rebel factions. Study Mao's measures to restore order, including the relocation of millions of youths to rural areas and the rebuilding of the party. x
  • 25
    The Sino-Soviet War of Nerves, 1964–1969
    Smoldering hostility between Beijing and Moscow foreshadowed a critical turning point in the cold war. Investigate Sino-Soviet competition for dominance within the Communist bloc, highlighting conflicts over Czechoslovakia and Vietnam, the resulting tense military standoff, and the emerging strategic role of the United States. x
  • 26
    Nixon, Kissinger, and China, 1969–1972
    Professor Baum portrays the momentous shift in Sino-American relations under the Nixon presidency. Track the factors influencing the mutual moves toward détente, the internal resistance on both sides, and the complex maneuvering that led to Nixon's historic visit to China. x
  • 27
    Mao's Deterioration and Death, 1971–1976
    In the 1970s, the Maoist era came to a close with the declining health of the Chairman. Focus on the dramatic surrounding events, including the demise of Lin Baio, Mao's designated successor; Mao's political "rehabilitation" of Deng Xiaoping; and the power mongering of radical leftists led by Jiang Qing, who wage political war against Deng and Premier Zhou Enlai. x
  • 28
    The Legacy of Mao Zedong—An Appraisal
    Professor Baum pauses to assess the complex and contradictory figure of Mao. First, he reflects on key events in Mao's early life and factors in his psychological makeup and youthful sensitivity. Then, he traces Mao's revolutionary embrace of violence and his legendary ruthlessness as they inform the strategic brilliance that drove his actions. x
  • 29
    The Post-Mao Interregnum, 1976–1977
    Following Mao's passing, a high drama of succession ensued. The lecture details the rise of Hua Guofeng, Mao's successor, and his clashes with Jiang Qing and the supporters of Deng. Professor Baum reflects on his own meeting with Hua and his experience as a "China watcher" in this tumultuous era. x
  • 30
    Hua Guofeng and the Four Modernizations
    Hua Goufeng's guiding mandate was the remaking of China's economy. Probe Hua's educational and cultural reforms, followed by massive industrial projects ending in grand-scale failure through flaws in design and planning. x
  • 31
    Deng Takes Command, 1978–1979
    Simmering political conflicts mandated a showdown between Hua and Deng. Follow Deng's strategic power moves and economic initiatives and their effects in marginalizing Hua. Then witness a historic shift as Deng's faction assails the Cultural Revolution and Mao's iconic status begins to crumble. x
  • 32
    The Historic Third Plenum, 1978
    Deng's assumption of power brought major new policies and unprecedented openness to debate. Study the poignant events of the Democracy Wall Movement, as Beijingers write wall posters voicing passionate political commentary. Tensions rise as posters indicting the system lead to activism for democratic reforms and human rights. x
  • 33
    The "Normalization" of U.S.-China Relations
    The 1970s saw dramatic progress in diplomatic engagement between Beijing and Washington. Analyze the converging factors that led to Deng's triumphal visit to the United States in 1979, including China's need to speed modernization and the U.S. choice to "play the China card" against the Soviet Union. x
  • 34
    Deng Consolidates His Power, 1979–1980
    Political setbacks and economic breakthroughs marked Deng's early regime. Investigate China's ill-fated military action against the Vietnamese Communists and groundbreaking domestic policy shifts, including the decollectivization of farming and the creation of Special Economic Zones for export trade. x
  • 35
    Socialist Democracy and the Rule of Law
    Trace a storm of conflicts concerning Cultural Revolution grievances and Deng's proposed legal and political reforms. Assess the regime's new criminal codes and responses to social discontent, as a period of liberalization and increasing popular activism ends in a crackdown on challenges to party authority. x
  • 36
    Burying Mao, 1981–1983
    Ideological rifts within Deng's ruling coalition flared in the early '80s over the official assessment of Mao's legacy. Learn about the expression of suffering under Mao in a new literary outpouring, and conservative opposition to liberalization in art and the "spiritual pollution" of consumerism and foreign influences in Chinese culture. x
  • 37
    "To Get Rich Is Glorious," 1982–1986
    Far-reaching market reforms gathered momentum in the early '80s. Chart China's changing economic landscape as self-employment and new management policies challenge the ingrained patterns of Socialist "command" economics. Also, see how the growth of foreign investment, imports, and tourism mark China's opening to the outside world. x
  • 38
    The Fault Lines of Reform, 1984–1987
    New societal stresses appeared in the wake of economic competition. Consider the effects of globalization, individual enrichment, and the widening income gap across China. Then observe the conservative backlash against reform and widespread student unrest. x
  • 39
    The Road to Tiananmen, 1987–1989
    Escalating social and political tensions led toward tragedy. Trace the split between moderates and hard-liners within the Communist Party and the political marginalization of progressive party Secretary-General Zhao Ziyang. Then see how enterprise failures, corruption, inflation, and unemployment fueled renewed student protests, ending in a defiant hunger strike in Tiananmen Square. x
  • 40
    The Empire Strikes Back, 1989
    Study the converging events of the deadly clash at Tiananmen Square as the regime imposes martial law, igniting massive demonstrations ending in the massacre of hundreds of civilian protesters. In the aftermath, witness the trauma to the Chinese national psyche, as reprisals against protesters and repressive surveillance deal a death blow to political idealism. x
  • 41
    After the Deluge, 1989–1992
    Following the events of Tiananmen Square, Deng's economic reforms came under concerted attack by party hard-liners. As you study Communist regimes toppling across Europe and party conservatives imposing an economic "austerity program," you trace Deng's strategic campaign to quell an ideological firestorm and save his hard-won "pro-market" policies for China. x
  • 42
    The "Roaring Nineties," 1992–1999
    In the 1990s, China's economic transformation surged forward. Explore the surrounding factors, including new enterprise autonomy, thriving stock markets and foreign investment, and concurrent corruption. Also note Premier Zhu Rongji's important achievements in restructuring state enterprises and leading China into the World Trade Organization. x
  • 43
    The Rise of Chinese Nationalism, 1993–2001
    China's burgeoning power reawakened both Chinese national pride and its converse: long-standing resentment of foreigners. Uncover these currents in the 1990s, fueled by American diplomatic errors, Sino-American conflict over Taiwan, and Western unease at China's global presence. x
  • 44
    China's Lost Territories—Taiwan, Hong Kong
    Examine the reunification of Hong Kong with China in 1997 and the new system granting domestic autonomy to Hong Kong under Chinese sovereignty. Then track Taiwan's transition to democracy, the turbulent movements for and against independence from China, and Beijing's ongoing strategic efforts to reclaim the island. x
  • 45
    China in the New Millennium, 2000–2008
    Analyze key elements in China's economic ascent, from sharp market growth and a new urban middle class to rampant official corruption and a vast "floating population" of migrant workers. Observe moves by the party to court the new business elite and focus resources on "have-nots," while retaining iron-handed political control. x
  • 46
    China's Information Revolution
    Assess the explosion of print media, the Internet, and cell phone use as they affect the regime's efforts to control the spread of information. Also, consider the role of nongovernmental organizations, "cybercops," and burgeoning grassroots "mass disturbances" in an escalating war between the forces of free communication and media censorship. x
  • 47
    "One World, One Dream"—The 2008 Olympics
    This lecture investigates international movements to boycott the Beijing games and the ways in which the games saw tightening governmental censorship and repression. Explore the mixture of stunning spectacle and behind-the-scenes maneuvering as the regime manages its image and tightens its political grip during China's national celebration. x
  • 48
    China's Rise—The Sleeping Giant Stirs
    Contemplate China's current and future presence in the global arena. Probe sensitive questions, including the future of Taiwan, trade controversies, and China's growing military power. Evaluate China's claim of a "peaceful rise" and possible indicators of future Sino-American cooperation and conflict. x

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Richard Baum
Richard Baum, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Richard Baum was Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he specialized in the study of modern Chinese politics and foreign relations. He earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Baum lived and lectured extensively throughout China and Asia. He served as Visiting Professor or Visiting Scholar at institutions including Peking University, Meiji Gakuin University (Japan), The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Princeton University, and Arizona State University, where he was honored as Distinguished Visiting Scholar for 2008. He was the author/editor of nine books, including Prelude to Revolution: Mao, the Party, and the Peasant Question, 1962ñ1966; and a personal memoir, China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom. Professor Baum served on the boards of the National Committee on United States-China Relations and the Joint Committee on Contemporary China of the Social Science Research Council. He was a consultant to numerous public and private agencies, including the White House, the United Nations, and the RAND Corporation. He was also a frequent commentator on Chinese and East Asian affairs for the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio. Professor Baum passed away in December 2012.
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Rated 4.8 out of 5 by 86 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Vivid and Personal. Oustandingly good!!! There are two other TTC courses focusing closely on the narrative of Chinese history: "Foundations of Eastern Civilization" (FEC) by Professor Benjamin, and "From Yao to Mao …" (YTM) by Professor Hammond. I have heard them both. Although I enjoyed them and highly recommend them, they are broad survey courses covering about five thousand years of history. Naturally, they do not cover modern Chinese history at the same level of depth as this course, which focuses exclusively on this topic. After having heard this course (FRC) I have come to realize that the treatment of YTM and FEC is much more flat with regards to twentieth century China. Each of these three courses has its own angle, and I found it very worthwhile to hear all three. I guess it depends what capacity and interest one has for the topic. This course focuses on the political history of modern China. It starts out by giving the background of the late Qing dynasty (which turns out to be the last Chinese dynasty), with particular attention given to the China's foreign relations with the West in the 18th and 19th centuries. Professor Baum explains how during these two centuries China underwent a huge transformation: from being the "middle land" (land between heaven and Earth), the world's richest and most developed trading nation to a country forced by alien Western cultures who had only recently crawled out of the middle ages, to sign humiliating, unequal and unfair trade treaties with many Western countries. These would put them at a disadvantage and enable China's exploitation by the West until the beginning of the Twentieth century. This is the historical backdrop to the heart of the course -Twentieth century China (and early twenty first Century). The content was simply breathtakingly interesting, and I can honestly say that I did not know almost any of it. Professor Baum is by training not a historian, but a political scientist. It is of little wonder therefore that his focus is on the dramatic political and economic transformations, with relatively little time devoted to describing Chinese culture, religion and everyday life. His description of the foundation of the National and Communist Chinese parties, and their almost immediate tendency towards revolution coupled with civil war, and at the same time war against the external Japanese invaders during WWII was absolutely captivating. However, once he gets to the 1950sand onwards, he is in his element and is no longer a Professor lecturing about some far away topic, fascinating as it may be for him. HE IS ENGAGED. In his words, he has been a "China watcher" for the past four decades and one can tell immediately that he is emotionally deeply involved. Indeed he says so himself on countless occasions. For this reason, his narrative description of the upheavals that were to shake China during Mao's "Great leap forward" in the late fifties; in which millions of Chinese died of starvation due to Communist collective policies was so vivid. The way it is explained, one can understand how this huge tragedy occurred without anyone intending to cause it. Everyone was simply trying to prove that Mao was right, even if the facts on the ground supported the exact opposite. This is a perspective that I did not get from FEC and YTM. The same is true of Mao's Cultural Revolution. Professor Baum explains how it came about that the Cultural Revolution of the late sixties, which from the outside and five decades later seems so barbaric and pointless, actually made some sense from Mao's political perspective. It is this highly personal, engaged tone that makes the course so enjoyable and fascinating right until the last lectures covering China's economical transformations in the late Twentieth and early Twenty first centuries. I found the presentation itself to be very dynamic and exciting. Particularly, I found his personal stories, his visits to China and his insider's political stories to contribute to the course. Indeed his coverage seemed almost "journalistic" rather than academic at times. Overall I deeply enjoyed this course and I highly recommend hearing it. May 8, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by Excellent coverage of recent Chinese hisotry A fabulous presentation of the last 200 years of Chinese history. Prof Baum weaves the lessons like an awesome storyteller, and kept me fully engaged. I listened to this while driving an hour to work. Often I would remain parked in the car listening to the last few minutes of a lecture. A very useful course for those who want to understand China and how its effect on current geopolitics. August 24, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by Excellent and Interesting Course Professor Baum's lectures are both entertaining and engaging. He conveys a deep understanding of the subject. It is always difficult to explain 1400+ years of history, however he has succeded in breaking down the most important and salient points for this subject. It is particulary interesting to hear his perspective as a witness to many of the events of the 20th and 21st century. His insight far exceeds the conclusions of third party interpreters. I did not feel like he was a lecturer, but a studious and intrinsically ingrained observer. I have thouroughly enjoyed this course. To date, this has been the best series of the many (15+) I have listened to. August 5, 2015
Rated 1 out of 5 by Cliches and annecdotes This first half of this course is an OK descriptive history of 20th Century China, but the second half of this course degenerates into a series of personal annecdotes by Baum many of which are barely relevant to the course. As a professional political scientist, I can state unequivocally that this is not a college level course. This is at the level of a travellog. The course does not deal with major political theories, it does not introduce and then apply important concepts. It tells stories and works very hard to get in every cliche in the English language. I quit viewing this course at lecture 40. This course was a major disappointment. July 31, 2015
  • 2015-09-01T14:19:11.802-05:00
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