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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : Asian Studies

Undergraduate Course: Media, Propaganda and the State in Modern China (ASST10160)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryWhat is the nature of the Chinese "public sphere", how can we understand its transformations from its past, including Imperial, Republican, Revolutionary and Post-socialist periods? Propaganda, 'Mao-speak' or later (post)-socialist speak are all concepts employed to study or interpret the Chinese media landscape and to illustrate or define the nature of its public sphere. Within this discourse, China's media have predominantly been perceived and presented as being controlled and dominated by a repressive authoritarian state (either imperial or revolutionary). At the same time, China's modern history from the early 20th century to Tiananmen 1989 has seen a number of large-scale student movements, challenging the state and the later the CCP in the public domain. These movements were mostly seen as part of politically orchestrated campaigns, not acknowledging student participation in their own right.

The course will take student movements as case studies to analyse their representation in national and international media to critically reflect on their interactions within the public sphere. We will be looking at radical student movements in China from the Republican Period (1918) to Tiananmen (1989).

The course aims to disentangle various levels of individual agencies in a historical perspective, by looking at primary sources about these movements and incidents and analysing the strategic rhetoric and narratives that infuse them with concrete meaning.
Course description The course aims to foster substantial knowledge about transformations of political movements and their media representations in the social, political and cultural contexts of Modern China. It will focus on radical shifts in student activism in Modern China from 1918 to 1989, in terms of participants, practices and political aims, but it will also illuminate how past movements have posed a challenge to the state to deal with the current situation. It will thus historicize ideas about propaganda, political discourse and activism (Marxist, Maoist or dissident).

This course is designed to acquaint students with historical knowledge about a set of distinct historical incidents and movements for understanding the political context and framing of these in the media. There was also always an international dimension, with foreign media, actors or governments as participants in the discourse-- which is where colonialism, globalization and media convergence comes into play.

The intricacies of this complex nature of political movements and their media representations will be analyzed by close readings of a defined set of related primary materials. These will include political documents, editorials of the People's Daily, student pamphlets or news articles and personal memoirs related to the respective event etc.

Week one will give an introduction of concepts and terminologies central to the course content.
Weeks two to nine will follow a historical narrative looking at:
- The May Fourth Movement (1919)
- The Anti-Rightist Movement (1957)
- The Cultural Revolution (1966)
- The Wall of Democracy (1978)
- Tiananmen (1989)
Week eleven will conclude with a wrap up session and discussion.

The course will be taught through interactive seminars, combining a mixture of short introductory lectures followed up by seminar style discussion of the set academic readings in the first part and textual study in the second part of the sessions. Students are required to read assigned secondary texts as well to prepare the translation of a primary source every two weeks. Textual study will be conducted in group work, rather than one-by-one in classroom translation (which could be a challenge for some students). Students will instead be requested to join a group for one of the topics at the start of the course (to be the lead group for this topic). In each reading session students will discuss their textual study and translations in groups for about 15 min. The lead group for individual topics will present their findings at the start of the reading session which will then be open for discussion and feedback in the classroom to all/the other groups.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  18
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100 % course work

1 x 500 word mid-term assignment: analysis of one primary source (20%)

1 x 3000 word final essay (80%)
Feedback The mid-term assignment will be a short historical and linguistic analysis of a primary text related to one of the course components from week 1-5.

It will enable students to check their ability to respond to the main questions of the course. Feedback will be given in written form within 3 weeks (and with follow up in person meetings as requested). This will help students to prepare for the long essay at the end of the term.

Overall informal (non-assessed) feedback will be given from peers throughout the course for the student group presentations and by the course organiser.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Present a critical understanding of the evolution of the Chinese public sphere and the concepts associated with it.
  2. Identify major events, actors and issues involved in student movements in Modern China and their historical contexts.
  3. Analyse how media perspectives are represented in the media based on the acquisition of theoretical and conceptual tool.
  4. Critically assess basic principles of propaganda, rhetoric, discourse analysis and the concept of the public sphere.
  5. Apply this knowledge in independent research.
Reading List

Schoenhals, Michael. Doing Things with Words in Chinese Politics: Five Studies / Michael Schoenhals. Berkeley: Center for Chinese Studies, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1992. Print.
Wasserstrom, Jeffrey N.Student Protests in Twentieth-Century China: the View from Shanghai / Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1991. Print.


Cherrington, Ruth. China's Students The Struggle for Democracy / Ruth Cherrington. London: Routledge, 1991. Print.
Ford, Derek. Keywords in Radical Philosophy and Education: Common Concepts for Contemporary Movements / Edited by Derek R. Ford. Ed. Derek Ford. Leiden: Brill Sense, 2019. Print.
Goodwin, Jeff, and James M. Jasper. The Social Movements Reader: Cases and Concepts / Edited by Jeff Goodwin and James M. Jasper. Ed. Jeff Goodwin and James M. Jasper. Third edition. Chichester, West Sussex, UK;: Wiley Blackwell, 2015. Print.
Saich, Tony. From Rebel to Ruler: One Hundred Years of the Chinese Communist Party. PiraĆ­: Harvard University Press, 2021. Print.
Wagner, Rudolf. The Early Chinese Press and the Agency of Its Readers: The Dynamics of the Transcultural Spread of the 'Press' as an Institution. Itinerario 44.2 (2020): 412-434. Web.
Wasserstrom, Jeffrey N., and Elizabeth J. Perry. Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China: Learning from 1989 / Edited by Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, Elizabeth J. Perry. Ed. Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom and Elizabeth J. Perry. Second edition. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994. Print.
Xie, Baohui. Media Transparency in China: Rethinking Rhetoric and Reality. Lanham, MD: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2014. Print.

Further reading:

Chan, Anita, Stanley Rosen, and Jonathan Unger. On Socialist Democracy and the Chinese Legal System: the Li Yizhe Debates / Anita Chan, Stanley Rosen, and Jonathan Unger, Editors. Ed. Anita Chan, Stanley Rosen, and Jonathan Unger. New York;: M.E. Sharpe, 1985. Print.
Cunningham, Philip J. Tiananmen Moon: Inside the Chinese Student Uprising of 1989 / Philip J Cunningham. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. Print.
Deng, Fang. Unintended Outcomes of Social Movements: The 1989 Chinese Student Movement. 1st ed. Florence: Routledge, 2011. Web.
Frazier, Mark W. "'Single Sparks' and Legacies: An Eventful Account of the May Fourth Movement." The China Quarterly (London)(2022): 1-18. Web.
Gao, Mobo C. F. "Debating the Cultural Revolution: Do We Only Know What We Believe?" Critical Asian Studies 34.3 (2002): 419-434. Web.
Goodman, Bryna. "Semi-Colonialism, Transnational Networks and News Flows in Early Republican Shanghai." China Review (Hong Kong, China: 1991) 4.1 (2004): 55-88. Print.
GUTHRIE, D.J. "Political Theater and Student Organizations in the 1989 Chinese Movement: A Multivariate Analysis of Tiananmen. Sociological forum (Randolph, N.J.) 10.3 (1995): 419-454. Web.
Hockx. Michel. "Is There a May Fourth Literature? A Reply to Wang Xiaoming." Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 11.2 (1999): 40-52. Print.
Israel, John. "Reflections on the Modern Chinese Student Movement." Daedalus (Cambridge, Mass.) 97.1 (1968): 229-253. Print.
Itoh, Mayumi. "Chinese Students Protest Movement." The Origins of Contemporary Sino-Japanese Relations. New York: Palgrave Macmillan US. 97-114. Web.
Kiang, Wen-han. The Chinese Student Movement. N.p., 1948. Print
Pepper, Suzanne. "The Student Movement and the Chinese Civil War, 1945-49." The China quarterly (London) 48.48 (1971): 698-735. Web.
Ma, Jianbiao. "An Ambiguous Union: Peking University and the 'Research Group' during the May Fourth Movement." Fu dan xue bao. She hui ke xue ban 5 (2018): 61-81. Print.
Rosen, Stanley. The Role of Sent-down Youth in the Chinese Cultural Revolution: the Case of Guangzhou / Stanley Rosen. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, Center for Chinese Studies, 1981. Print.
Rosen, Stanley. Red Guard Factionalism and the Cultural Revolution in Guangzhou (Canton) / Stanley Rosen. Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, 1982. Print.
Schwarcz, Vera. The Chinese Enlightenment: Intellectuals and the Legacy of the May Fourth Movement of 1919 / Vera Schwarcz. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986. Print.
Son, Sungwook. "The Influence of the May Fourth Movement on the March 1st Movement: Focus on News the Korean Media About the May Fourth Movement in the 1920s." Journal of Chinese Studies 92 (2020): 175-190. Web.
Wagner, Rudolf G. Inside a Service Trade: Studies in Contemporary Chinese Prose / Rudolf G. Wagner. Cambridge, Mass: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1992. Print.
Wagner, Rudolf G. "The Role of the Foreign Community in the Chinese Public Sphere." The China Quarterly (London) 142 (1995): 423-443. Web.
Wang, Q. Edward. "The Chinese Historiography of the May Fourth Movement, 1990s to the Present. Twentieth-century China 44.2 (2019): 138-149. Web.
Wasserstrom, Jeffrey N., Lynn Hunt, and Marilyn Blatt. Young. Human Rights and Revolutions / Edited by Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, Lynn Hunt, and Marilyn B. Young. Lanham, Md.;: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000. Print.
Zhang, Lixia. "A Study of Kiang Wenhan and the Chinese Student Christian Movement (1927-1952)." ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2019. Print.
Zheng, Yuan. "The Capital Revolution: A Case Study of Chinese Student Movements in the 1920s." Journal of Asian History. 38.1 (2004): 1-26. Print.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Research and independent thinking:
- To be able to evaluate and critique scholarly material and to exercise informed independent thought and critical judgement.
- Critically address and understand complex issues that involve conceptualisation and challenging standard interpretations.

Personal communication skills:
- To be able to participate effectively in seminars, workshops and discussions and present research, scholarly work and language skills to others
- To be able to articulate, evidence and sustain a line of argument and summarise and communicate information and ideas effectively in written and oral form.

Autonomy and working with others:
- Exercise autonomy and initiative in team work
- Use and share acquired learning skills in collaboration with peers
KeywordsChinese political movements,social activism,Chinese public sphere,media studies,propaganda
Course organiserProf Natascha Gentz
Tel: (0131 6)50 4229
Course secretaryMr Iain Harrison
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