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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