Essay Questions – Set a (Second Half of Course)



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Essay Questions – Set A (Second Half of Course)

1. Mao Zedong was the dominant leader of the PRC for more than a quarter century. What is his legacy? How enduring has it been, in either positive or negative terms? In your answer, address domestic and foreign affairs – including the economic and cultural realms – for both the Maoist and post-Mao eras. How, do you imagine, might different groups of Chinese today (e.g. intellectuals, workers, businesspeople, peasants, cadres) judge Mao? What would he think of them?

2. “In order to achieve modernization, the PRC government during the post-Mao era has abandoned both the Soviet and Maoist models, and has instead tried to learn from the successful developmental experiences of Asia’s ‘Four Small Dragons,’ one of which is Taiwan.”
Discuss. Based on your knowledge of Taiwan after 1949 and the reforms on the Chinese mainland after Mao’s death, has China followed a ‘Taiwan model’? Include in your answer discussions of economic, political, and cultural developments on both sides of the Strait.

3. The February 28 Incident of 1947 and the Tiananmen Incident of 1989 have been portrayed as watershed events in the history of Taiwan and the People’s Republic, respectively. Compare the history, short-term, and longer-term impact of the two events. What were the social, economic, and political issues that led to these tragedies?  What do they tell us about continuity and change in Chinese politics? How are they remembered today on either side of the Taiwan Strait? What challenges do future governments face in addressing ‘2-28’ and ‘Tiananmen’?

4. Mao Zedong claimed that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” In what ways have political developments in the People’s Republic and Taiwan from 1945 to the present confirmed or disproved the Chairman’s claim?

Essay Questions – Set B (Whole Course)

1. The Qing Empire was held together by the symbolic and temporal power of the emperor, the rational administration of a bureaucracy recruited through national exams, and the ideology of imperial Confucianism. On what foundations have successive Chinese governments sought to govern? What has been new, and what has drawn on tradition?

In addition to the Qing itself, please consider at least three of the following periods: the Republic of China while it governed the mainland, the ROC after its retreat to Taiwan, the PRC in the Maoist era, and the PRC in the post-Mao era. In your conclusion, assess the effectiveness of the successor regimes compared with that of the Qing, and speculate on the prospective strength and flexibility of these institutions to deal with contemporary social and economic change.

2. “The Nationalist and Communist parties, despite their long history of conflict, are actually far more similar than dissimilar in terms of structure, policies, and ideology. Indeed, each has learned much from the other’s experience.”


Discuss (and feel free to agree or disagree). In answering, be sure to compare the parties in these categories in the decades both before and after 1949.

3. “Modern Chinese history, from the late 19th century to the present, was defined and shaped – and must ultimately be interpreted – by the nature of its foreign relations.”


In your comment on this statement, discuss the role that international relations – political, military, cultural, and economic – have had on the shaping of both the Republic of China (on the mainland and on Taiwan) and on the People’s Republic of China. Do you agree with the premise of this question, or do you see a greater role for indigenous forces in shaping the development of China and Taiwan?

4. “Although in the first half of the twentieth century Chinese intellectuals had

ceased to comprise a homogenous group with a shared body of training, they still

maintained the traditional elite’s concern for national affairs and a belief that, as



scholars, writers, and artists, they had the responsibility to help formulate and criticize national policy. This belief was not, however, necessarily shared by the militarist, Nationalist, or Communist leaders they sought to influence.”
In commenting on the above, discuss the relationship between educated elites and the state in at least three of the following (and feel free to add other categories): the May Fourth Movement; the Hundred Flowers; the Cultural Revolution; and the periods under and after Marshal Law on Taiwan. Please use readings in our Sourcebook, including short stories, in making your points.


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