CCCH9009 China: Culture, State and Society
Protests, Rebellions and Revolutions in Modern China: From 1840 until Today


Course Description

How has China’s grand transformation to a modern nation-state shaped the country’s state-society relationship today? By focusing on the tensions and conflicts between the Chinese state and the country’s evolving civil society, this course surveys the major protests, rebellions and revolutions in China in the past 150 years. From a comparative perspective, the course particularly examines the economic, social, political and organizational resources that have facilitated various Chinese resistance movements during the country’s long and tedious journey to modernity. It also explores how China’s revolutionary past has significantly influenced the social movements of mainland China and Hong Kong in the 21st century. Weekly topics include but are not limited to: the Chinese revolutionary tradition; the concept of “the mandate of heaven”; Chinese secret societies and the Triad; underground religions and cults past and present; the Chinese communist movement; the legacies of the Cultural Revolution; social movements in the 1980s; the rising nationalism in Mainland China since the 1990s; and various new forms of social resistance under the ongoing market transition.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Use basic theoretical tools to critically analyze the causes, processes and outcomes of social resistances and social movements.
  2. Describe and critically explain the links between various social movements and China’s quest for modernity.
  3. Describe and critically explain the changing patterns of state-society relationship during China’s modernization process, from 1840 until today.
  4. Critically analyze and comment on contemporary political events in Hong Kong and Mainland China from both a comparative and a historical perspective.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 22
Tutorials 10
Reading / Self-study 42
Film session 3
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 15
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 15
Assessment: Examination (incl preparation) 15
Total: 122

Assessment: 50% coursework; 50% examination

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Short paper 30
Tutorial participation 20
Examination 50

Required Reading

  • Bianco, L. (1971). Origins of the Chinese revolution, 1915-1949. Stanford: Stanford University Press. [Selected chapters]
  • Blecher, M. (2010). China against the tides: Restructuring through revolution, radicalism, and reform. New York: The Continuum International Publishing. [Selected chapters]
  • Fairbank, J. K. (1986). The great Chinese revolution, 1800-1985 (1st ed.). New York: Harper & Row. [Selected chapters]
  • Perry, E. J. (2002). Challenging the mandate of Heaven: Social protest and state power in China. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe. [Selected chapters]
  • Perry, E. J., & Selden, M. (2000). Chinese society: Change, conflict, and resistance. London; New York: Routledge. [Selected chapters]
  • Schoppa, R. K. (2006). Revolution and its past: Identities and change in modern Chinese history. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. [Selected chapters]
  • Shirk, S. (2007). China: Fragile superpower. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Selected chapters]
  • Spence, J. D. (1999). The search for modern China (2nd ed.). New York: Norton.
  • Tarrow, S. G. (1998). Power in movement: Social movements and contentious politics (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Selected chapters]
  • Wakeman, F. (1975). The fall of imperial China. New York: The Free Press. [Selected chapters]

Recommended Reading

  • Chang, J. (2003). Wild swans: Three daughters of China. New York: Touch Stone.
  • Hessler, P. (2002). River town: Two years on the Yangtze. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Hinton, W. H. (1966). Fanshen: A documentary of revolution in a Chinese village. New York: Monthly Review Press.
  • Johnson, I. (2004). Wild grass: Three stories of change in modern China. London: Penguin.
  • Platt, S. R. (2012). Autumn in the heavenly kingdom: China, the West, and the epic story of the Taiping Civil War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Snow, E. (1969). Red star over China. London: Gollancz.
  • Zhang, L., Nathan, A., Link, P., & Schell, O. (2001). The Tiananmen Papers. New York: Public Affairs.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr X.J. Yan
Department of Politics and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 4880
Email: xyan@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr X.J. Yan
Department of Politics and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 4880
Email: xyan@hku.hk