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The University of Southampton

HIST6128 China in the Cold War

Module Overview

The Cold War was not only instrumental in shaping China’s foreign relations in the 20th century. Even though it ended over 25 years ago, it is difficult to understand China’s position in the world without taking the Cold War into consideration, if, for example, we think of China’s role in the Korean situation or of the tension between mainland China and Taiwan. In this module, we will talk about multiple aspects of China’s role in the Cold War. Among other things, we will discuss topics such as the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and their rivals, the Guomindang; the changing relationship with the Soviet Union and the United States; the debates about which ‘China’ – the mainland or Taiwan – should be represented in the United Nations; international exchange at a grassroots and public-diplomacy level; and, on a theoretical level, how we, as historians, should frame the Cold War and if it was really ‘cold’ or ever ended in East Asia. This will not only enhance your knowledge of China’s foreign relations in the 20th century, but also equip you with the skills to think about the Cold War in other parts of the world.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Modern Chinese history in a global context
  • Themes and methodologies employed by China historians and Cold War historians
  • Contemporary issues of China’s foreign politics
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Work independently on a substantial piece of research
  • Write in a literate, sophisticated manner
  • Manage your time effectively
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Complete an assignment using some of the methods and source materials explored in the module
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Examine the role that that global politics played in shaping modern Chinese history
  • Adopt a global approach to researching Chinese history, and a pericentric perspective on global politics


Typically, the module will cover • The influx of Marxist thought and the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party in the early 20th century • The Sino-Soviet Friendship and the Sino-Soviet Split • The Korean War • The Atomic Bomb • The Sino-American Rapprochement and the Entry of the People’s Republic of China into the United Nations • Public Diplomacy in the Cold War • The Role of Culture in the Cold War and the Impact of the Cold War on Western Chinese Studies • The Export of Maoist Ideology to Asia, Africa and Latin America • China and the Non-Aligned Movement • The End of the Cold War

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include * Weekly 2-hr seminars * Essay tutorials Learning activities include * Using (English Language) Primary Source Materials * Reading work of scholars from the social sciences alongside the historiography of modern China * Seminar presentations of independent research

Preparation for scheduled sessions80
Wider reading or practice8
Completion of assessment task40
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Brady (2003). Making the Foreign Serve China: Managing Foreigners in the People’s Republic. 

Johnson (1963). Nationalism and Communist Power: The Emergence of Revolutionary China 1937-1945 Peasant. 

Chen (2001). Mao’s China and the Cold War. 

Chen (1994). China’s Road to the Korean War: The Making of the Sino-American Confrontation. 

Jersild (2014). The Sino-Soviet Alliance: An International History. 

Radchenko (2014). Unwanted Visionaries: The Soviet Failure in Asia and the End of the Cold War. 

Spence (1999). The Search for Modern China. 

Horsburgh (2015). China and Global Nuclear Order: From Estrangement to Active Engagement. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 90%
Presentation  (10 minutes) 10%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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