2023-2024 / ASIE0017-1

Political and social history of modern China : opium wars following the fall of the Qing dynasty (1840-1911)


30h Th

Number of credits

 Master in ancient languages and literatures : classics (120 ECTS)5 crédits 
 Master in multilingual communication (120 ECTS)5 crédits 
 Master in ancient languages and literatures : Oriental studies (120 ECTS)5 crédits 
 Master in ancient languages and literatures : classics (60 ECTS)5 crédits 
 Master in ancient languages and literatures : Oriental studies (60 ECTS)5 crédits 


Eric Florence


Stijn Deklerck

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the second semester


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

Hours: Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Downtown, A2, 4/17.

First class session: 9 February 2024.

Information: Eric.Florence@uliege.be

 This course consists in an introduction to key moments and events in the political and social history of modern China ranging from the first Opium Wars (1839) to the fall of the Qing Dynasty (1911), the establishment of the Republic of China and the early years of the Chinese Communist Party. Emphasis is placed on the political and social dimensions of the period under study as well as on the major political and intellectual debates. In addition to a chronological presentation, several sessions will be devoted to major questions and events of this period:

- The Great Divergence. the issue of the economic development of Qing China from a comparative perspective;

- the placing under tutelage of imperial power by the Western powers and Japan in the second half of the 19th century;

- the era of uprisings;

- The Coolie System;

- attempts at reform by the imperial state at the end of the 19th century.

It mainly involves studying this period by trying to reflect on how some of the issues, both internal and external, of the period in question - in particular the quest for "wealth and power" (fuqiang) and relations with Western powers - shed light on more recent historical developments, both in terms of society and of state formation.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

At the end of this course the student will be able to:
- Locate major events and facts in the political and social history of modern China;
- Understand the major scientific debates in relation to issues such as the relations between imperial power and the Western powers, the emergence of capitalism in China, the continuities and ruptures of the formation of the modern imperial state;
- Develop her/his capacity of synthesis.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

Passive knowledge of English

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

In order to achieve the above-stated goals, the following activities will be organized:
- Presentation by the teacher and by guest professors (to be confirmed) of chronological markers and major facts concerning the period concerned;
- Preparation of readings for each session by the students (questions relating to these readings will be available on ECampus; in some cases the students will prepare questions themselves in relation to these readings or will synthesize the key elements of the readings in question). Exchanges between the students and the teacher will take place both online and face-to-face in order to refine the writing of these summary works which will then be shared on the ECampus platform. The teacher will provide advice on how to write this assignment. The first lesson will be devoted in particular to the constitution of student groups and the allocation of works to be synthesized;
- Face-to-face discussions around the themes and readings covered within the course;
- Oral presentation and writing by the students (groups of 2 to 3 students) of the commented synthesis of a book (a list of books will be proposed by the teacher);

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Face-to-face teaching and usage of the ECampus platform.

Recommended or required readings

Compulsory readings will be made available to students.
Parts of the assigned readings will be drawn from:
ROWE, William T., China's Last Empire. The Great Qing, Cambridge (USA) and London, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012.
SPENCE, Jonathan D., The Search for Modern China, London, New York: Norton, 2013 (SPENCE)
CHEN, Janet, CHENG, Pei-Kai, LESTZ, Michael, with SPENCE, Jonathan D. (eds.), The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection, London, New York: Norton, 2014 (CHEN ET AL)

Written work / report

Additional information:

The assessment consists of:

  • Student participation to face-to-face sessions;
  • Oral presentation and writing of a scientific literature review on a specific topic (possibly in groups of 2 people (the oral presentation will last between 20 and 30 minutes and will be followed by questions and a discussion). These presentations and written assignments can be done in French or in English. 

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course




Association of one or more MOOCs