Mao Zedong and China

Rather than keeping your eyes open
and listening to boring lectures,
it is better to get some refreshing sleep.
— Mao Zedong, “Remarks at the Spring Festival” (1964)

Chairman Mao and Twentieth-Century China (HIST203) is a 15-credit module open to second-year History undergraduates at the University of Liverpool. It has been offered since the 2014-2015 academic year, and will run again in 2017-2018.



Chairman Mao and Twentieth-Century China introduces students to one of the most important and controversial political figures in the twentieth century: the Communist revolutionary and founding father of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong (1893-1976). Using Mao as the point of anchorage, some of the key developments in twentieth-century China are explored: the demise of the Qing Dynasty, the May Fourth New Culture Movement, the Sino-Japanese War and Civil War, the Sino-Soviet Split, the Great Leap Forward and Anti-Rightist Movement, the Cultural Revolution, as well as the Reform period that followed Mao’s death and that produced the current “economic miracle”.

Mao Zedong was an extremely prolific theorist, and students would engage first-hand with a selection of his most important writings. There is also ample opportunity to examine some of Communist visual culture (e.g. Chinese films, propaganda art, music etc.), and of course to engage with some of the cutting-edge historical scholarship produced by the enormous “Mao industry”. Crucially, the course sets out to situate Mao’s career and the Chinese Revolution in global contexts, and to dissect Chairman Mao’s complex legacies in contemporary China. No prior knowledge of Chinese history, Chinese language, or Marxist philosophy is required.


Schedule 2017-2018

1.  China Humiliated, Chairman Begins
2.  Liberal Intellectual to Communist Revolutionary
3.  Chinese Peasants and Rural Mobilisation
4.  Maoist Epistemology and Practice
5.  Protracted and Guerrilla Warfare
6.  Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom
7.  Tutorial Week
8.  Surpass Britain and Catch Up with America
9.  Revolution is No Crime, To Rebel is Justified
10. Spiritual Atom Bomb of Infinite Power
11. Global Maoisms from Shining Path to Black Panthers
12. Seventy Percent Right and Thirty Percent Wrong


Recommended Books

Timothy Cheek (ed.), A Critical Introduction to Mao (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)
Alexander Cook (ed.), Mao’s Little Red Book: A Global History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014)
Rebecca Karl, Mao Zedong and China in the Twentieth-Century World: A Concise History (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010)
Daniel Leese, Mao Cult: Rhetoric and Ritual in China’s Cultural Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)
Mao Zedong, On Practice and Contradiction. With an introduction by Slavoj Žižek (London: Verso, 2007)


Source for Feature Image

“Long live Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought”, published ca. 1968 by Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Centre Revolutionary Preparatory Small Group. Landsberger collection PC-1968-l-005.