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Modern Chinese History: Essential Questions

This resource guide was developed by the Interdisciplinary Curriculum Development Team in coordination with the East Asian Studies Center at The Ohio State University to support teaching about modern Chinese history in the classroom. Sources for material are focused on the Key Issues for Asian Studies series by the Association for Asian Studies by David Kenley, Modern Chinese History.  Materials are designed for teachers to use in the classroom with minimal modification in the Take & Go Series: Modern Chinese History

  • Why were the early emperors (Kangxi & Qianlong) able to succeed in developing a stable economy and international relations? 
  • How did misunderstanding by the Western cultures possibly lead to conflict in the later Qing dynasty?
  • What advantages and disadvantages materialized from the formation of Macau (and later Hong Kong) through the free trade agreements organized by Qing Emperors? 
  • How did the Guangzhou System attempt to regulate foreign trade in China?
  • What were some of the effects of the importation of opium into China during the 1800s?
  • What were the effects of the Treaty of Nanjing?
  • How did “gunboat diplomacy” and various “unequal treaties” that imposed an informal imperialism on China impact the country’s development?
  • How did the complex social structure of Qing dynasty shape the experiences and roles of different social classes?
  • How did events like the Taiping Rebellion challenge and impact this established societal framework?
  • What was the Taiping Rebellion and how did it impact various segments of Chinese society?
  • What were the primary objectives of the Self-Strengthening Movement, and what challenges did it face during its implementation?
  • How did the Sino-Japanese War impact China's reform efforts, and what privileges did Japan gain from the resulting treaty in 1895?
  • What factors led to the downfall of the Qing dynasty, including the involvement of rebels and revolutionaries?
  • What challenges did the new government face with the establishment of the Republic of China, and what did the government do in an attempt to address those challenges?
  • What role did intellectuals and warlords play during the early republic?
  • What were some of the shared goals of the Nationalists and Communists?  In what ways did their views differ?
  • How was Chinese society impacted by military conflicts between 1931-1949? 
  • What were the differences between the Communists and the Nationalists?
  • What were some of the immediate effects of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949?
  • Why is total war a fitting description for the conflict(s) in China between 1931-1949?
  • What were some of the problems facing China at the time of its founding in 1949?  What solutions did the government provide for some of these problems?
  • In what ways did the Korean War help to demonstrate China’s resilience?
  • What was the Great Leap Forward and what were some of its effects?  
  • Who was the Red Guard and what role did they play in the Cultural Revolution?
  • What purpose did the Four Modernizations serve in the development of modern China?
  •  What is the “China Model” and in what ways can it be viewed as a success?
  • What are the goals of China’s Belt and Road Initiative?
  • What are the benefits and the challenges of the One Country/Two Systems system?

This project was funded in part by the Freeman Foundation through the University of Pittsburgh national coordinating site for the National Consortium for Teaching About Asia (NCTA) Asian Studies Center, University Center for International Studies, and the U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center grant to the East Asian Studies Center at The Ohio State University. The content of this resource guide does not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

This guide is available online for classroom use worldwide and can be accessed at EASC's Resource page

Source: Kenley, D. L. (2020). Modern Chinese History (2nd ed., Ser. Key Issues in Asian Studies). Association for Asian Studies.