From Liberation to the Tiananmen Massacre: China From Mao to Deng Xiaoping, 1949-1992

The details
Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 15 December 2023
26 September 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

The Mao era was a period of momentous changes in Chinese society. This module explores the history of the first 50 years of the People's Republic of China (the PRC) from the Communist Liberation in 1949 to the aftermath of June 4th 1989 Tiananmen Massacre.

The module begins with the date when the Communist Party of China established state power under the leadership of Mao Zedong, and ends with Deng Xiaoping's 'southern tour' in 1992, which signalled the full-scale rejection of Mao's economic strategy by embracing the global market. It places this history within the context of China's international relations, to examine the international influences and ideological premises moulding the government's changing political and economic strategies.

Module aims

The aim of this module is:

  • To provide students with a broad historical understanding of the history of the first 50 years of the People’s Republic of China.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Develop a firm critical understanding of China’s recent history as well as good analytical skills in reading primary texts in English translation.

Module information

Students will work with a variety of primary and secondary sources in English language in order to develop specific skills of documentary analysis and historical interpretation. Readings will be complemented with the use of visual image, including film and political posters.

Students will examine some of the key themes and debates in modern Chinese culture and society as represented by Chinese and Western historians, as well as in contemporary accounts of China, and through these they will establish a critical understanding about the major political, economic and social changes between Mao's China and 1992.

Introductory Reading

  • Brown, Jeremy & Paul G. Pickowicz, eds. Dilemmas of Victory: The Early Years of the People's Republic of China (2008).

  • Frederick C. Teiwes and Warren Sun, Chinese Politics During the Twilight of the Cultural Revolution, 1972-1976.

  • Timothy B. Weston & Lionel Jensen, ed. China's Transformations: The Stories beyond the Headlines (2000).

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • Lectures.
  • Seminars.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Primary source analysis (1000 words)    35% 
Coursework   Essay (2000 words)    60% 
Practical   Seminar participation    5% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Xun Zhou, email:
History UG Administrators:



External examiner

Dr Ingeborg Dornan
Brunel University London
Reader in History
Available via Moodle
Of 25 hours, 25 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


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