HSTAS 327 A: China and the West in Historical Perspective, 1500-1976

Autumn 2022
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm / RAI 116
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
JSIS A 327 A
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

JSIS A 327/HSTAS 327

China and the West in Historical Perspective, 1500-1976

Autumn Quarter, 2022


Instructor: Prof. Matthew W. Mosca (mosca@uw.edu)

Class Time: T/TH 1:30pm-3:20pm

Place: Raitt Hall (RAI) 116

Office Hours: Tuesday, 10am-Noon, Smith 103E (or online at student request)


Course Description and Goals

This class examines the history of encounters between China and the West.  It has three major goals.  First, it will introduce the political and economic background of relations between China and the West, which set the basic conditions for other forms of encounter.  Second, it will consider the cultural, intellectual, religious, and quotidian elements of engagement between China and the West over time.  Finally, it will examine the concepts of “China” and “the West,” looking at how their multiple meanings have evolved.  Students are encouraged to consider how this complex historical legacy remains relevant today.

This class also introduces students to the methods of historical argument, placing particular emphasis on the analysis of evidence and the use of sources to support interpretive arguments.



1). Waley-Cohen, The Sextants of Beijing: Global Currents in Chinese History (Norton, 1999)

2). Westad, Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750 (Basic Books, 2012)



Participation in class discussions: 10%

Reading and interpreting historical evidence is an important part of this course.  A discussion of historical evidence and sources will form part of each class session.  Students are expected to come to class having read these assigned primary source materials carefully and prepared to speak about their own perspectives and insights.  Students who are uncomfortable speaking in a class discussion should contact the instructor to consider other options. 

Weekly reading comments: 10%

In Weeks 2, 3, 4, and 5 students will contribute a response to an assigned question.  These responses should be about 200 words in length, and should include at least one quotation from a primary source assigned for that week.  Provided comments are of appropriate length, cogent, and include a primary source quotation, they will be assigned full points.  Comments must be posted to the ‘Discussion’ section of Canvas by the start of class on Thursdays in the week they are due.  Late comments that meet all requirements will receive 50% credit.

Short paper: (3 pages, double-spaced): 15%

Making reference only to assigned course readings up to and including Oct. 25, students should write a short essay (at least 3 pages and no more than 4, double-spaced, 12 point font) on the question below.  Be sure to quote at least four different primary sources assigned in class.  Paper should be uploaded to Canvas by start of class on Nov. 1 (** extended to Nov. 2, 1:30pm**).

Question: Agree or disagree with the following statement: “Although Ming and Qing emperors regarded themselves as superior in status to all other rulers, this was not a primary cause of the conflict between the Qing Empire and Western powers in the period between 1500-1842.” Further assignment details will be distributed.

Final Paper: (6 pages, double-spaced): 40% total

The final paper assignment will be distributed in Week 2.  Students should complete preliminary research and write a prospectus for the final paper by Nov. 10 (see assignment instructions).  Final papers are due by the start of the final class on Dec. 8, and must be uploaded to Canvas in MS Word format. The prospectus is worth 5% of the total course grade, the final paper itself 35%.

Final Exam: 25%

The final exam will take place in the examination time slot assigned by the university, that is, 2:30-4:20pm, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022.  Details of the exam format will be distributed in advance.


All course grading will be in percentage terms; a percentage to 4.0 Scale conversion table is posted to Canvas.


The History Department operates a Writing Center to help students with written work.  See:



Course policies:

  • Late policy: Late discussion posts that meet all requirements will receive 50% credit. For the short paper, once an assignment is late it will immediately incur a penalty of 5% of the total assignment value, and a further 5% will be deducted for every subsequent 24 period until the assignment is submitted. This policy applies also to the final paper, but papers not received by 5pm on Dec. 16 will receive a grade of zero unless alternative arrangements have been made with the instructor.
  • If it is necessary for a student to miss class due to an emergency, please inform the instructor as soon as possible to make alternative arrangements. These will normally include a mandatory meeting with the instructor to go over what has been missed.
  • Students should turn off phones during class. Laptop computers may be used only for taking notes, reviewing course readings, or other course-related purposes.  Phones may not be used for these purposes.


** For departmental and university policies related to this course, please review the supplementary handout attached to this syllabus or available on Canvas.


Course Schedule


NB: For assigned readings, check page numbers carefully.  If there are no page numbers assigned for a reading, read the entire segment posted to Canvas.


Week 1

Class 1: Sept. 29: Introduction to Course


Week 2

Class 2: Oct. 4: First Contacts: Europeans Come to China

Textbook: Sextants of Beijing, Chapter 1, pp. 11-54

Other Readings: Marco Polo (read only sections 76, 95, 139, 151, 152, 153, 157); Mendoza, “Mighty Kingdom”


Class 3: Oct. 6: China’s Maritime Foreign Policy Debates in the Late Ming and Early Qing

Other Readings: Fok, “Early Ming Images of the Portuguese”; Fok, “Ming Debates on the Portuguese”


Week 3

Class 4: Oct. 11: Missionaries as Representatives of the West

Textbook: Sextants of Beijing, Chapter 2, pp. 55-91.

Other Readings: Matteo Ricci documents; “Chinese Responses to Early Christian Contacts”


Class 5: Oct. 13: The ‘Canton Trade’ to 1800

Textbook: Sextants of Beijing, Chapter 3, pp. 92-128

Other Readings: Read MIT Visualizing Cultures website: Rise & Fall of the Canton System, parts I-IV


Week 4

Class 6: Oct. 18: China and Russia to 1800

Other Readings: Tulišen, Yiyu lu (selections).


Class 7: Oct. 20: Cultural Encounters between China and the West in the Eighteenth Century

Other Readings: Leibniz on China (selections); Kangxi’s views of the West and Kangxi and Yongzheng on Christianity (read all entries with *)


Week 5

Class 8: Oct. 25: The China Coast: Macartney Embassy to the Opium Wars

Textbook: Sextants of Beijing, Chapter 4, pp. 129-165

Petition of British Subjects in China; Lin Zexu’s Advice to Queen Victoria

Browse MIT Visualizing Cultures website: The First Opium War (read essay “The First Unequal Treaty”)


Class 9: Oct. 27: The Qing Empire “Enters the Family of Nations”

Textbook: Sextants of Beijing, Chapter 5, pp. 166-206

Other Readings: The First Chinese Embassy in the West (selections)


Week 6

Class 10: Nov. 1: Japan as the West, 1868-1920

Textbook: Restless Empire, Chapter 3, pp. 87-122

Other Readings: Lu Xun, “Mr. Fujino;” “Li Hongzhang negotiates with Japan;”

MIT Visualizing Cultures website: “Throwing Off Asia II”

Short Paper assignment due to Canvas by start of class (** extended to Nov. 2, 1:30pm**)



Class 11: Nov. 3: East Asia in the Age of Ideology, Nationalism, and Revolution, 1911-1927

Textbook: Restless Empire, Chapter 4, pp. 123-170

Other Readings: Chen Duxiu, “Call to Youth” and Li Dazhao, “The Victory of Bolshevism”


Week 7

Class 12: Nov. 8: The Nanjing Decade, 1928-1937

Textbook: Restless Empire, Chapters 5 and 6, pp. 171-245

Other Readings: Hu Shih: “The Present Crisis in Christian Education,” and “Civilizations of the East and the West”


Class 13: Nov. 10: United States and China in WWII and Its Aftermath

Textbook: Restless Empire, Chapter 7, pp. 247-284

Other Readings: Selections from Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China

Watch “Why We Fight: The Battle for China” (on Youtube, watch to 12:45 mark)

Prospectus of Final Paper Due


Week 8

Class 14: Nov. 15: PRC and US During the Early Cold War, 1949-1964

Textbook: Restless Empire, Chapter 8, pp. 285-332.

Other Readings: “Farewell, Leighton Stuart”; Mao’s comments on the atomic bomb; multimedia sources (list to be distributed).


Class 15: Nov. 17: Nov. 22: PRC and US During the Later Cold War, 1965-1976

Textbook: Restless Empire, Chapter 10, pp. 333-404

Other Readings: Mao’s Remarks on the United States, 1970; PRC statement on Taiwan, 1971; Shanghai Communique, 1972; browse Life Magazine, Apr. 30, 1971, read Edgar Snow interview of Mao: https://books.google.com/books?id=MEAEAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover


Week 9

Class 16: No class session, work on final paper

Watch: “Nixon in China (The Film)”


Nov. 24: No class session, Thanksgiving holiday.


Week 10:

Class 17: Nov. 29: The 1980s: Into a New Era?

Other Readings: Fang Lizhi on Modernization and Democracy


Class 18: Dec. 1: Other Chinas: Taiwan and Hong Kong

Other Readings: Tsang, Documentary History of Hong Kong (selections)


Week 11

Class 19: Dec. 6: Contemporary Reflections

Other readings: To be distributed.


Class 20: Dec. 8: Review and Final Discussion


Final Paper must be uploaded to Canvas by the start of this class.


Final Exam Dec. 16, 2:30pm-4:20pm

Catalog Description:
Examines relations between China and the West in historical perspective. Covers the period from 1500 to 1976, including political interactions as well as intellectual, religious, and cultural contact. Investigates how and why these relations changed over time, and how this historical legacy is relevant today. Offered: jointly with JSIS A 327.
GE Requirements Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
February 23, 2024 - 4:42 pm