Module 5: Re-entering the World – Show and Tell

Due Date: Dec. 9 (Wednesday)

  • If you want some feedback, submit early enough and poke me via email!

The Grand Finale!

As we reach the end of the course and the fifth module, you can do different things with this last module: you can focus on a piece of Chinese history between 1972 and the present (Module 5), or you can treat this last Show and Tell as an opportunity to connect with the longer arch of history covered in this course and explore a longer-term trend or development. But whatever you do, use something in the period 1972-present, or the textbook chapters 23-28 (of the third edition in The Search for Modern China), or weeks 12-14 as your starting points.

As always, there are many different ways you can do that: traditional, scholarly, or more creative and interpretive. As long as you can share your project digitally with your colleagues in the course, the sky is the limit (more or less).


To make sure you pick a viable project, one that your colleagues feel is of equitable size and effort, and to get a sense of the variety of ideas there are, please pitch your idea in the Cloud Lounge by Friday, Dec. 4, 11.59pm. I’ve opened a discussion. Just a few lines is fine, to coordinate between closely related topics and to prevent you from embarking on a Ph.D.-sized research project. (I’d love you to do that, but we don’t have time.)

During drop-in tutorials and the video-conference check-in, we will talk about your ideas. I highly encourage you to drop-in/attend and brainstorm.

How to submit

To submit your Show and Tell project:

  • Create a blog post, and share a link to the project. (If it’s a text-based Show and Tell, you can of course submit it as the blog post.)
  • Use the words “Show and Tell 5:” in the title of the post, you can further customize the title by adding a title that will draw the reader in.
  • Add the post to the category hst271.

I’ll add this to the list of assignments of Week 12 and 13, as an assignment to submit on Canvas, not as a declaration quiz.

Good to know

Remember you only need 4 out of 5 Show and Tell projects. If you do all 5, I’ll only count the 4 highest scores.

You can re-submit the project based on feedback, anytime before Dec. 11. (but I would not wait that long.)

Ideas and suggestions for formats

The description of the assignment in the syllabus contains a lot of suggestions, including information for analytical papers (in blog post form), small digital projects, response papers, … One student each can also provide a new or updated version of the map layer or timeline we have for “Part 5” on the course website.

Summaries of Spence Textbook (third edition)

We’re currently missing some summaries of chapters for the Search for Modern China textbook by Jonathan Spence (third edition. I can accept 1 person per chapter to volunteer to write a strong summary that will be useful for next semester’s students. First come first served!

Must be third edition – if you don’t have the third edition, I can get a scan to you. The following chapters are available:

  • Chapter 23
  • Chapter 28

Response papers

For the response papers, here are a few items I provide that work well with the time period under scrutiny. There are fewer materials available than previous but you can suggest materials you find or would like to explore, just add them to the Cloud Lounge discussion and I will vet them (and likely say yes).

  • Tuchman, Barbara W. Notes from China. New York, Random House Trade, 2017 (1972 first edition).
    • PDF
    • What is it? Tuchman, a prolific journalist and author, spent six weeks traveling through China in June 1972. She is well aware of her limitations in writing about a country when she does not speak the language, but she is a good observer who is familiar with China’s history. Her notes are an interesting insight in Americans’ re-engagement with China.
  • Adams, John. Nixon in China. Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet, conducted by John Adams. Libretto by Alice Goodman, production by Peter Sellars. Feb. 12, 2011, Metropolitan Opera, New York.
    • Access through Trexler Library
    • “John Adams’s groundbreaking work vividly brings to life President Nixon’s 1972 visit to communist China. … From the pomp of the public displays to the intimacy of the protagonists most private moments, Adams, Sellars, and librettist Alice Goodman reveal the real characters behind the headlines in this landmark American opera.”
    • This is a fascinating piece of music, which shows you how Westerns look back critically at the “week that changed the world”, and put it to music. At the time of composition (1987), Nixon had long resigned over Watergate, and Mao’s China had changed already dramatically in the eleven years since his death. While this is not the runaway success that Hamilton has become, it is interesting to think about how music adds a possibility to explore aspects of the human psyche where no historian can reach with their sources.
  • Wei, Jingsheng, and Kristina M Torgeson. The Courage to Stand Alone: Letters from Prison and Other Writings. New York: Viking, 1997.
    • PDF
    • What is it? Wei wrote in late 1978 a “big character” poster, entitled “The Fifth Modernization” (meaning democracy; see Week 12). He was in the spring of 1979 arrested and in the fall put on trial, including for spreading counterrevolutionary information and attempting to overthrow the government, and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Much of that time he spent in solitary confinement. He wrote letters, including to the leaders of the country: Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun (another high-level leader who took part in the Long March), Li Peng (Premier), Jiang Zemin (General Secretary of CCP and President). These excerpts are centered around the idea dealing with one’s persuasion, while the state is grinding away at one’s very sense of humanity.
  • Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, directed by Zhang Yimou. Beijing, 2008. (Youtube link)
    • Don’t balk at the length: the interesting bit is about an hour long (start at the beginning); you don’t need to look through the parade of nations. Scroll to 4h08′ in to see the run-up to lighting the flame.
    • How did China in 2008 want to present itself to the world? What is the impression we’re left with from the impressive opening ceremony? How does that vision of China sit with the image of China you have after a semester of studying it? And whatever else you can think of!

Final Show and Tell Special

  • You can use the final Show and Tell to show how your newly acquired knowledge of modern Chinese history (i.e. this semester) helps you understand recent events in China in a different light: pick an event or current affairs item, and show how your historical knowledge adds depth, helps you connect it to the longer history of China, and creates a new perspective. Be as concrete as possible in the parallels you identify. Maybe better to think “Show, don’t tell!” in this case 😉.
  • You can think about a topic that runs through many, if not all of the timespan we covered, and show the evolution across time. No need to write a Ph.D. thesis, but exploring parallels and connections across two or three concrete events, issues or figures could be a good way to highlight what you learned over the course of the semester.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Extensions? (ermm…. Final final final due date I give you is Friday Dec. 11 or you need to go to an Incomplete. Contact me.)