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Pre-course readings

Dear China Educators,

In this post, you will find the China Educator program’s pre-course readings as well as recommended optional readings. We know that all of you are very busy and most likely just coming out of a very grueling school year. For this reason, we have decided to make the required pre-course reading list short, but provide plenty of recommendations for non-required readings based on your interests. These articles will serve as the foundation for the prompts (of which there is one more) that we will post on this discussion board to get us all thinking about modern Chinese politics and society. Here is a link to the pdf files of the required readings…please let us know if you have any trouble accessing these files!

Here is a quick introduction to the required readings:

China is Not a Garden-Variety Dictatorship: Gives an important overview to Minxin Pei’s controversial (yet now mostly proven accurate) argument that economic growth and prosperity will not lead to the liberalization of China’s government.

Can China Address Air Pollution and Climate Change?: These two connected articles give a great introduction to China’s role in global environmental efforts and combatting climate change. No one article can do justice to this very nuanced and complex issue, but this is a good start to the conversation!

Human Rights Record of the United States in 2017: Throughout the program, we will provide contemporary news articles written from the perspective of the communist party, of which this is one. It is not necessary to read this report in great detail, but a quick skim through its main points can give important insights about China’s critique of the “Western world order” and how it frames these critiques in mainstream media.

The West and the Rest—Questions the idea of “Chineseness” having some enduring essence, and instead argues for understanding China as a place of living, hybrid cultural traditions in a state of constant flux and dialogue.

Tibet Through Chinese Eyes—This article gives a very thoughtful, nuanced introduction to the Tibet issue by offering both the official stance of the CCP as well as the views of the “Free Tibet” movement side by side. The article’s main argument can be summarized in its introductory line: “Many Chinese working in Tibet regard themselves as idealistic missionaries of progress, rejecting the Western idea of them as agents of cultural imperialism. In truth, they are inescapably both.”

What I Wish My College Students Knew About Chinese History—This article provides a very broad overview to 20th century China with key historical terms written in bold. If there are any terms in this article that you have never heard of, please take the time to look them up, since many of these ideas will serve as the foundation for our discussions on course.


We also have a few book recommendations, in order of importance and relevance to the course. If there is a topic you would like to explore more deeply that we have not covered in the suggested reading list, please let us know and we can make more additions:

  1. Age of Ambition, Evan Osnos (best recent introduction to the most important questions about China)
  2. The China Questions, Jennifer Rudolph (answers to most commonly asked questions about China)
  3. Shark Fin and Sichuan Peppercorn, Fuchsia Dunlop (book about food and development in Sichuan province, especially Chengdu)
  4. Country Driving, Peter Hessler (tells the story of China’s national road system and developing driving and consumer culture)
  5. Factory Girls, Leslie Chang (does a beautiful job of telling the human side of China’s economic boom)


History Overview–China, A Century of Revolution: Although a little dated, this is still the best overview of 20th century Chinese history. You can find it all on youtube at this link:



  1. To Live (1994)- Great introduction to 20th Century Chinese History
  2. 24 City, Jia Zhangke (2008)- important introduction to themes of development and displacement that we will be exploring in Chengdu. Really, any of his films (Still Life, Platform, or Xiao Wu) give a great glimpse into modern China.
  3. Wolf Warrior 2 (2017)- A blockbuster action hit that became the top-grossing Chinese film of all time. Gives a really fascinating look into current Chinese nationalism and identity. Read about it here:



Joseph and Lauren