From Mandarins to Commissars:China in the 20th Century

Ref: C2224447

China, one of the oldest continuous civilisations, is currently undergoing dramatic change. The course looks at China’s turbulent history in the 19th–20th centuries. The rise of Republicanism and overthrow of the Qing Empire did not lead to stability but to years of warlord strife, Japanese invasion and civil war between Nationalists and Communists. Communist victory in 1949 led to more upheaval during Mao’s Great Leap Forward and devastating Cultural Revolution. Astonishingly, despite this violent legacy in the last 30 years China has regained its position as a major world power and is the largest economy after the USA. Decline and fall of Chinese empire; the rise of Republicanism►Republicans and Warlords; Nationalists and Communists 1920s–1930s►Japanese invasion; the struggle for power during WW2►Civil War; Communist victory 1949►The Great Leap Forward 1958–1960►The Cultural Revolution 1966–1976►“Socialism with Chinese characteristics”: Communist China and a market economy

Course aim

The course looks at China’s turbulent 20th century history following the overthrow of the Qing Empire, the upheaval of the Mao years, and how China has regained its position as a major world power.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • The course is for anyone who is interested in China. Some background knowledge of earlier Chinese history would be an advantage but is not essential. Whilst the course will involve some detailed study, no special study skills are required.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Indicate significant political, social and economic changes in China in the 20th century.
  • Select and analyse the significant environmental challenges in today’s China.
  • Assess China’s place in the world today.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning
  • Individual reading and research are encouraged.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions
  • You will be encouraged to contribute to discussion and the tutor will provide opportunities for you to judge your own understanding and progress.

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing other than an interest in China and Chinese matters, and pen and paper for taking notes.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required
  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • Individual reading is encouraged and a range of books will be made available for you to borrow. There is insufficient room on this form to include a recommended reading list but a list is available from your branch.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here
  • China language courses. Further research and reading. Visits to The British Museum Chinese Gallery and Percival David Chinese ceramics; Victoria and Albert Museum; Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich.

Download full Course information sheet

From Mandarins to Commissars:China in the 20th Century


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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