China class 1: From Imperial China to the Century of Humiliation (1800-1919)

May 20, 2020

Photo: Revolutionary Army attacking the Nanjing palace in the Xinhai Revolution of 1911.

Class description: The first class in the series is devoted to tracing the decline of the ancient imperial order in China under the combined attacks of Western imperialism and domestic rebellion in the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries. China was the most prosperous and sophisticated state in the world through the end of the 18th century, but the Industrial Revolution gave Britain and, later, other Western powers, both new economic power and new military capacities. Britain sold massive amounts of opium to China, then fought a war to open the country to “free trade” when China tried to control the drug dealers. The collapse of China’s domestic economy led to major rebellions, and efforts at reform of the Qing state faltered. When the last imperial dynasty was overthrown in 1911, a period of turmoil followed as Chinese people sought new paths to save their country from imperialist domination and to create a more just and equitable society.

This class was originally held and recorded on May 17, 2020.

Course description: As China’s global rise rivals U.S. hegemony, the number one priority of U.S. foreign policy is to wage a demonization campaign against China. Since the Obama administration announced the Pivot to Asia, the U.S. has spent countless military dollars in the Pacific to encircle China. While the demonization and propaganda campaign against China has been at an all time high, the unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the anti-China narrative.

As the outrageous demonization campaign against China continues to grow amidst this crisis, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, in partnership with the Qiao Collective, is holding a five-part class series on China. The course will examine the construction of modern day China in the context of global imperialism, starting from the very first Opium war between China and Britain in the early 1800s. Imperial China, which was one of the most advanced civilizations of the world, quickly became a country looted and torn apart by many imperialist nations who wanted a piece of the pie. The course will examine China’s century-long national liberation struggle and the construction of socialism. The purpose of the class is to provide the necessary context for understanding modern China today, especially under the weight of U.S. imperialism.

Return to the course page here.