Understanding Today’s China

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  • Week 1
    October 8, 2021
    1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
  • Week 2
    October 15, 2021
    1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
  • Week 3
    October 22, 2021
    1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Instructor:  Elliott Berry

Fridays, 1 –3 PM | October 8 – 22      

Today China is increasingly viewed in the US and other parts of the western world as an emerging superpower that threatens the peace and stability of Asia and the current world order. In order to make an assessment of where China is headed, it may be helpful to examine where it is coming from and how the Chinese view themselves. In the first session we look at China at the apex of its imperial power, the collapse of the Qing Empire beginning with the First Opium War, China’s subjugation by western imperial powers, the social and political ferment of the first two decades of the 20th century, and the early stirrings of the communist movement.

In the second session we examine the surprising course of the Communist Revolution starting with its precarious early years to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. We also take a close look at the turbulent Maoist era, focusing on the disastrous Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution.

In the final session we examine the “reform and opening up” policy initiated by Deng Xiaoping that ushered in what is, by most measures, the most dramatic period of economic growth that any nation in world history has achieved. We end by looking at how China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, has steered a different course from his recent predecessors, one that may be more consistent with China’s imperial past. Hopefully this brief history can assist us in trying to assess China’s ambitions, challenges and fears in coming decades.

Elliott Berry graduated from the University of Michigan in 1971 with a B.A. in Far Eastern Studies (concentrating on China). From 2006-2009 he taught during the fall semesters at the Law School of the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing. He first visited China (Taiwan and Hong Kong) in 1970 and Mainland China in 1977. Since 2004 he has visited China 10 times, and has traveled extensively throughout the country. He has a “degree of fluency” in Mandarin Chinese. Elliott has been a lawyer at NH Legal Assistance since moving to New Hampshire in 1975.

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