Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: China's long World War, 1931-1953 (HIST10445)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryDuring the Second World War, the Republic of China was one of the major belligerents, and a key ally of the Western power and the USSR. And yet, the Chinese part in WW2 has not been reflected in the historiography and memory of this conflict outside China; this is a result of Cold War politics, and of the Chinese socialist revolution of 1949. This course uses newly translated primary sources and a recent body of scholarship to explore the role of the "forgotten ally" (Rana Mitter) during the war, and the importance of the war for reshaping modern East Asia.
Course description This course considers the political, military, and diplomatic dimensions of China's participation in international conflict in East Asia from the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 until the end of the Korean War in 1953. At the beginning of this period, China was governed by the recently established Nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek. By 1953, the recently established Communist government of Mao Zedong had firmly committed itself to the Soviet camp through its participation in the Korean War. China, in the space of just over twenty years, had come all the way from being a Nationalist regime struggling against the vestiges of imperialism to becoming a core ally of the USSR during the early Cold War.

Clearly, participation in this series of conflicts was transformative for the successive regimes in control of the Chinese mainland. And yet, China's experience of the Second World War was underexplored until recently. The Communist regime on the mainland preferred to ignore the Nationalist wartime effort in fighting the Japanese, as did the Nationalists' former allies once they had switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC. In recent years, both academic engagement with and public memories of the wartime period have become more diverse, which has resulted in a flourishing of scholarship both within and outwith the PRC. This therefore seems like a good time in history to explore the wartime experience of the Second World War's fifth major allied power, and the effects of that experience on the development of post-war East Asia, which are relevant until the present day.

Content note: The study of History inevitably involves the study of difficult topics that we encourage students to approach in a respectful, scholarly, and sensitive manner. Nevertheless, we remain conscious that some students may wish to prepare themselves for the discussion of difficult topics. In particular, the course organiser has outlined that the following topics may be discussed in this course, whether in class or through required or recommended primary and secondary sources: violence in the context of war, including sexual violence, violence against civilians, and battlefield violence. While this list indicates sensitive topics students are likely to encounter, it is not exhaustive because course organisers cannot entirely predict the directions discussions may take in tutorials or seminars, or through the wider reading that students may conduct for the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass in 40 credits of third level historical courses or equivalent. Before enrolling students on this course, Personal Tutors are asked to contact the History Honours Admission Administrator to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 504030).
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 400 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 44, Summative Assessment Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 8, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 345 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Two essays of 4,000 words each, 50%
One three-hour exam, 50%
Feedback Students are expected to discuss their coursework with the Course Organiser at least once prior to submission, and are encouraged to do so more often. Meetings can take place with the Course Organiser during their published office hours or by appointment. Students will also receive feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)3:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, an ability to analyse and evaluate conflicting historical interpretations on a given topic;
  2. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, the acquisition of basic knowledge in some of the most important fields of research on the history of the Second World War in China, of a better understanding of the global nature of this conflict and its importance for modern Chinese history, and of some of the most important concepts and methodological approaches to study it;
  3. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, an understanding of the political importance of interpretations of China's wartime past;
  4. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, an understanding of the importance of historiographical concepts such as global and transnational history, entangled history, and histoire croisée;
  5. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, an ability to synthesize secondary literature.
Reading List
J. Chen, China's Road to the Korean War (1996).

A. Coox, Nomonhan: Japan against Russia, 1939 (1985).

J. Fogel, ed., The Nanjing massacre in history and historiography (2000).

S. Ienaga, The Pacific War: A Critical Perspective on Japan's role in World War II (1978).

A. Iriye, The Origins of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific (1987).

R. Mitter, China's War with Japan, 1937-1945: the struggle for survival (2013).

D. Reynolds, V. Pechatnov, eds., The Kremlin Letters: Stalin's wartime Correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt (2018).

H. van de Ven, China at War: Triumph and Tragedy in the Emergence of the new China (2018).

O.A. Westad, Cold War and Revolution: Soviet-American Rivalry and the Origins of the Chinese Civil War, 1944-1946 (1993).

E. Wickert (ed.), The Good German of Nanjing: the Diaries of John Rabe (1998).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Felix Boecking
Course secretaryMiss Claire Brown
Tel: (0131 6)50 3582
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information