Further information on Winter 2020 courses


Robert Entenmann: One Hundred Years of Chinese Communism


Expanded description:

China is one of only five Communist-led countries in the twenty-first century, and by far the most powerful. This course examines how Chinese Communism evolved over the last hundred years. In the early twentieth century, China was an empire in decline. The Qing dynasty fell in 1911, but hopes for fundamental change remained unfulfilled. The Chinese Nationalist Party (Guomindang) sought to create a united and modern Chinese republic. But to many, this was not enough. Communism promised liberation from class exploitation and imperialist aggression. In 1921, Mao Zedong and other young revolutionaries, inspired by the Russian Revolution, founded the Chinese Communist Party. After a lengthy and bitter struggle, the Communists, under Mao’s leadership, defeated the Nationalists in 1949 and established the People’s Republic of China. Nine years later, Mao’s utopian vision inspired the Great Leap Forward, an experiment that failed disastrously. In 1966 Mao and his supporters launched the Cultural Revolution, which led to horrendous consequences. After Mao’s death in 1976, the Communist Party abandoned his program, and China has since evolved into a society with a dynamic private sector. The Chinese Communist Party, however, remains in power, autocratic and still ostensibly committed to Communist goals.

Chinese names and Romanization

Chinese names and terms can be a challenge for those unfamiliar with them, but they are obviously unavoidable when you study China. Please note that family names come before personal names: Xi Jinping, for example, is Mr. Xi, not Mr. Jinping.  Generally family names consist of one syllable, and personal names are usually two syllables.  There are exceptions to this rule.

To confuse matters, many Chinese are known by more than one name.  The writers Lu Xun and Ba Jin are known by their pen names (their original names were Zhou Shuren and Li Feigan, respectively).  Sun Yat-sen is known in English by the Cantonese pronunciation of his name (Sun Yixian), but in China he is almost always referred to by an alternate name, Sun Zhongshan. Jiang Jieshi is often referred to in English as Chiang Kai-shek, which reflects Zhejiang dialect pronunciation.

Chinese names and terms are spelled in the Roman alphabet (“romanized”) according to various systems.  We will use the pinyin system, which is now standard.  In this class, don’t worry about pronouncing Chinese and terms exactly.  This is not a language class, so just a recognizable approximation of correct pronunciation is fine.  There are a few letters used in pinyin in ways that are not obvious.  Q is pronounced like ch – so Qing is pronounced Ching.  X is pronounced like sh, so Xi is pronounced like the English pronoun she.  Vowels are not as problematical, except for i after ch, r, shi, and zhi – shi, for example, is pronounced like the English word sure.  The e is pronounced like an English short u – Deng Xiaoping’s family name is pronounced like dung. 

Chinese is a tonal language, but we will not pay attention to tones in this class.

Course text

For some context I recommend the short book by Rana Mitter, Modern China: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2016), available new, used, and as a Kindle book through amazon.comIf you have library privileges at either Carleton or St. Olaf, an e-book version is available to you free online.  (Unfortunately, the online and paper copies are paginated differently.)  Many of the other readings are also online. I will provide copies of other readings. If you read Chinese, I can provide links to the original Chinese versions of some of these readings.


Schedule of classes (subject to modification)

Week One

Introduction to the course, self-introductions; The Milieu in Which the CCP was Founded

Social structure of early 20th-century China.  The fall of the Qing dynasty and the 1911 Revolution.  The failure of the republic and warlordism.  World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, and how they affected China.  The New Culture Movement and the May Fourth Incident.  The introduction of Marxism into China.


Rana Mitter, Modern China, chapter 1 and chapter 2 through “Crisis of the Republic”

Mao Zedong, “Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society” https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-1/mswv1_1.htm

Lu Xun, “Storm in a Teacup” https://www.marxists.org/archive/lu-xun/1920/10/x01.htm

Lu Xun, “Diary of a Madman” https://www.marxists.org/archive/lu-xun/1918/04/x01.htm

Li Dazhao, “The Victory of Bolshevism” (xerox)

Week Two

The Early Years of the Chinese Communist Party

The founding of the CCP.  Sun Yat-sen, the Guomindang and the First United Front.  Beginnings of the Peasant Movement.  The Northern Expedition and the coup of April 1927.


Mitter, Modern China, the rest of chapter 2 and chapter 3 through “The Northern Expedition”

Sun Yat-sen, address to the Whampoa Military Academy, 1924 (xerox)

Mao, “Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan”


(skim through the last part, “The Fourteen Great Achievements”)

Official Statement by the Guomindang, April, 1927 (xerox)

Week Three

In the Wilderness: The Jiangxi Soviet and the Long March

Establishment of the Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek.  The White Terror and near annihilation of the CCP.  Establishment of the Chinese Soviet Republic.  Nationalist military campaigns against the Communists.  The Long March and establishment of a new Communist base in Yan’an.  Japanese encroachment in North China.


Mitter, Modern China, chapter 3 section “The Nationalists in Power”

Emergency Law for the Suppression of Crimes Against the Safety of the Republic, 1931 (xerox)

Alexander von Falkenhausen’s advice to Chiang Kai-shek, 1936 (xerox)

The Jiangxi Soviet Land Law (xerox)

Chiang Kai-shek, “Essentials of the New Life Movement” http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/ps/cup/chiang_kaishek_new_life.pdf

Week Four: Yan’an, Chongqing, and the War with Japan

The Xian Incident and the Second United Front.  The outbreak of war with Japan.  Yan’an Communism and the Mass Line.  Peasant Nationalism.  Wartime relations with the Soviet Union and the United States.  Victory over Japan and the collapse of the Second United Front

Evening film showing: “Song of Youth” (1959) time and place TBA


Liu Shaoqi, “How to be a Good Communist” (1939) https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/liu-shaoqi/1939/how-to-be/index.htm

Ding Ling, “Thoughts on March 8” (xerox)
Mao Zedong, “On New Democracy” (1940) https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_26.htm

Statement by General George Marshall, 1947 (xerox)

 Week Five: Civil War, “Liberation,” and the Founding of the People’s Republic

China at the end of the war against Japan.  Civil war: why the Nationalists lost and the Communists won.  “Liberation” and the People’s Democratic Dictatorship.  The founding and early years of the People’s Republic.  China and the USSR.  China and the US at war in Korea.


Mitter, Modern China, chapter 3 section “Mao in Power”

Mao Zedong, “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship”


Marriage Law of 1950 (xerox)

Hu Shitu, “My Father is an Enemy of the People” (xerox)

Week Six: Maoism in Theory and Practice: the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution

Tensions between China, the US, and the USSR.  The Hundred Flowers and the Anti-Rightist Campaign.  The Maoist model of development.  The Great Leap Forward – its goals and consequences.  The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Evening film showing: “To Live” (1994) time and place TBA


Mao Zedong, “The Chinese People Cannot be Cowed by the Atomic Bomb”


“Professors Speak Out” (xerox)

“Hold High the Red Flag of People’s Communes and March On” (xerox)

“The Life and Death of Lei Feng, an Admirable ‘Fool'” (xerox)

Excerpts from the Sixteen Point Decision” (xerox)

Ba Jin, “Remembering Xiao Shan” (xerox)

Week Seven: Abandoning Maoism – Economic Reform and Opening to the World

Pingpong diplomacy.  Mao’s death, the fall of the “Gang of Four,” and the rise of Deng Xiaoping.  Economic reform and the revival of the private sector.  The limits of dissent and the “Fifth Modernization.”  The Democracy Movement and its suppression.


Mitter, Modern China, chapter 3 sections “Gaige Kaifang: Reform and Opening Up” and

       “China Since 1989”

The Shanghai Communiqué https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v17/d203

Deng Xiaoping, speech of June 30, 1984 http://en.people.cn/dengxp/vol3/text/c1220.html

China News Agency report on student demonstrations (xerox)

Students’ declaration of a hunger strike, May 13, 1989 (xerox)

 Week Eight:  Tensions Between the CCP and Society; Conclusion

This week we will look at issues now facing China and the CCP, including “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” and China’s economic miracle, prosperity for many, but growing income disparities, ethnic conflict, civil society and its limits, environmental challenges, and the future of Chinese Communism.


Many of these issues are discussed in chapters 4-7 of Mitter, Modern China, which are thematic, not chronological.