China, Rising

September 10, 2008

The summer Olympics provide an opening for exploring China's rapid expansion and its implications for Americans. Discussion questions follow four student readings.

To the Teacher:
 
“The most important thing going on in the world today is the rise of China—in the Olympics and in almost every other facet of life,” wrote Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times op-ed columnist (8/21/08). He has lived in China, traveled there extensively and, with his wife Sheryl WuDunn, a third generation Chinese American, won the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Chinese student pro-democracy movement and 1989 Tiananmen Square disaster.
 
Extensive television coverage of the Beijing Olympics offers an opening for a wider study of China’s rise and its implications for Americans. The student readings below provide a snapshot of  China’s dynamic growth and multiple problems, an overview of its modern history and relations with the United States, and discussion of its conflicted relationship with the people of Tibet and Xinjiang, its treatment of parents whose children who died in the Sichuan earthquake, and its management of official “protest zones” during the Olympics.
 
Discussion questions and suggestions for further inquiries and class organization for them follow.
 

Introduction

“China Opens Its Long-Sought Olympics Spectacularly” was the  headline of the Yahoo News story. “China didn’t just walk on to the world stage, it soared over it,” read the piece about the dramatic opening in the National Stadium known as the “Bird Nest.” (www.news.yahoo.com, 8/8/08)
 
A Los Angeles Times reporter was excited by the “waves of sound” and “the lights on the surfaces of the drums.” They “announced to the world that China and its 1.3 billion people were marching boldly into the 21st century.” (www.latimes.com, 8/9/08)
 
When the Chinese team entered, the crowd shouted, “’Jaiyou, jaiyou’…as the whole stadium pulsated with waving red flags. The word, pronounced ‘jie yo,’ literally means gas or fuel, but in China it is the equivalent of ‘go, go.’” (The San Francisco Chronicle, www.sfgate.com, 8/9/08)
 
China is on the go. This year’s Olympic games in Bejing were viewed as a coming out party for a nation that has developed with spectacular speed in recent decades. China has moved quickly from a society of mostly rural peasants living a marginal, pre-industrial existence to one of city people with growing incomes in an industrialized, modern society
 
But dramatic change has had its costs.
 
An authoritarian “people’s republic” government that still calls itself “communist” runs the country. But an entrepreneurial, free market economy has made millions of Chinese rich.  “The People’s Republic of Capitalism” was the title of a recent series of Discovery Channel programs exploring change in China (www.dsc.discovery.com)
 
In Out of Mao’s Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China, Phillip Pan, former Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post, who has traveled widely in China and interviewed many Chinese, wrote that Chinese leaders have created an “authoritarian capitalism.” Free enterprise “generated wealth and prosperity, but unrestrained by democratic institutions, they also produced grim work conditions.” And “no one has benefited more from the shift to capitalism than party officials and those with connections to them.”
 
Book reviewer Michiko Kakutani summarized the “grim work conditions”: “Without trade unions, a free press, independent courts or elections, workers have little leverage with their employers and no way to remove corrupt officials, who often collude with business interests.” (New York Times, 7/15)
 
Meanwhile, in the countryside, hundreds of millions of Chinese peasants still lead very hard lives.
 
In the mid-section of China, Ma Ya Bao, his wife and two sons live in “a cave-like home carved out of a hill” near a settlement of 1,800 called Mountain Village. Water is precious in these dry hills. “Mr. Ma has a daily trek to fetch the household water in a sort of improvised rubber tub strapped to the back of his mule. The journey—some 3 miles there and back—takes him four hours.”
 
The Ma family is among the 300 million poor farmers in China who live on $1 a day or less, according to the World Bank. “Forty years ago most of China was poor and rural like this,” (Peter Day, “Harsh Life for China’s Hill Farmers,” www.news.bbc.co.uk, 12/15/07)
 
For discussion
  • Did students view any of this summer’s Olympics? If so, what were their reactions? 
     
  • What do they think they might have learned about China from viewing the Olympics?
     
  • Did they see or hear any evidence of dramatic change in China?
     
  • What is meant by the phrase “The People’s Republic of Capitalism”? What is meant by the term “authoritarian capitalism”?
     

Student Reading 1: 

“Shanghai doesn’t even sit down”

New York may be the city that never sleeps, but Shanghai doesn’t even sit down….A home to handfuls of families—is bulldozed. In its place, here comes a high-rise rising higher than the one put up yesterday, a clothesline and an illegal satellite dish poking out from each window (a twenty-eight hundred–square-foot-four-bedroom, four bathroom rental at…$8,572 a month).” —The New Yorker, 7/2/08
 
“China Surpasses U.S. In Number of Internet Users”— New York Times headline
 
Quoting recent surveys, the Times reported that high school students are, “by far” the fastest growing group of new internet users in China, and that 70 percent of China’s internet users are 30 or younger. Internet use leaped more than 50 percent during the last year. Though 253 million Chinese are now online, this represents only about 19 percent of the Chinese population, which is 1.3 billion.
 
By contrast, about 220 million Americans are internet users, but this represents 70 percent of the 300 million U.S. population. (7/26/08)
 
More than four dozen online dissidents have been jailed in China, and 2,500 websites in that country were blocked last year, according to Reporters Without Borders. And despite the Chinese government’s promise that access to internet sites in China would not be blocked during the Olympics, some were.
 
In 2000, 87 million Chinese had cell phones. Eight years later, the country has 432 million cell phone users.
 
In his article “China’s Journey,” for the National Geographic (May 2008), Peter Hessler wrote that China is experiencing extraordinary growth. “For three decades the economy has grown at an average annual rate of nearly 10 percent, and more people have been lifted out of poverty than in any other country, at any other time. China has become home to the largest urbanization in human history—an estimated 150 million people have left the countryside, mostly to work in the factory towns of the coast. By most measures the nation is now the world’s largest consumer, using more grain, meat, coal, and steel than the United States.”
 
Hessler, who taught in China as a Peace Corps volunteer, quotes one of his students, who wrote: “When I graduated in 1998, I told my Mum, if I got 600 yuan (about $70) each month, I would be satisfied. In fact, I got 400 yuan then, and now each month I get about 1700 yuan.”
 
Another of Hessler’s students said, “Ten years ago, I worried that I could not have a good and warm family. Now I am worried about my loan at the bank.”
 
None of the students in Hessler’s class “expressed concern about political reform, foreign relations, or any other national issue. Nobody mentioned the environment.”
 
Among the facts cited in National Geographic’s “China: Inside the “Dragon” (May 2008):
  • “Each year roughly ten million rural Chinese move to the cities, producing a constant supply of cheap labor.”
     
  • China’s oil imports have “swelled over six-fold in the past decade as China woos oil-rich countries, such as Angola and Sudan, with investments and loans while largely ignoring corruption and human rights abuses. China’s demand has helped drive up oil prices to record highs….”
  • “Number of additional cars on Beijing roads every day: 1,000.”
According to National Geographic, “Westerners tend to focus on the dramatic—dissidents, censorship—but it’s the lack of institutions that actually hurts most Chinese. Workers are left to fend for themselves; no independent unions, no free press, few community groups.”
 
Good times for many
 
A young Chinese law student said: “China has serious environmental problems. There is inequality and poverty. But on the other hand, China hasn’t been this prosperous and stable and united in more than 100 years. People are poor, but there is no famine, there is no war. Wages and living standards are rising. In many ways these are very good times, and people know it.” (Christian Parenti, “Class Struggle in the New China,” The Nation, 8/18-25/08)
 
“Chinese people…increasingly live where they want to live. They travel abroad in ever-larger numbers. Property rights have found broader support in the courts.” (New York Times, 8/2/08)
 
From a July survey report by the Pew Research Center: 86% of Chinese people surveyed were content with their country’s direction, up from 46% in 2002; 82% were satisfied with their national economy. By contrast, 23% of Americans surveyed said they were satisfied with their country’s direction and 20% said their economy was good.
 
For discussion
  1. What questions do students have about the reading? How might they be answered?
     
  2. What are major contrasts in Chinese life?
     
  3. What reasons do you think Chinese officials might have for blocking internet sites?
     
  4. Why do you suppose that none of Hessler’s students express interest in or concern about political reform? The environment?
     
  5. In what ways might the Chinese be hurt by each of the following—“no independent unions, no free press, few community groups”?
     
  6. Why do you think many more Chinese than Americans are satisfied with their country’s direction?
     

Student Reading 2: 

China & the U.S. to 1945

Ancient China
 
Chinese civilization is ancient. Archaeologists date its beginnings to the Xia dynasty in 21st century BC. A succession of other ruling groups, some lasting for hundreds of years, followed until the collapse in 1911 of the last dynasty, the Qing, in 1911.
 
Paper, printing, the compass and gunpowder. British scholar Joseph Needham called these the “four great inventions of ancient China.” During its 4,000 years of civilization, China made huge strides in astronomy, physics, mathematics, philosophy, and the arts.
 
A century of Western control
 
In the mid-19th century, a population explosion, a stagnant economy, and social conflict  weakened Qing dynasty control and led to a series of “opium wars,” through which Britain forced China to accept the opium trade and to cede control of Hong Kong. The U.S., Germany, and other countries pressured China into providing special commercial privileges.
 
Tens of thousands of Chinese immigrated to the U.S. in the second half of the 19th century to work in the goldmines of California, on the transcontinental railroad, and in other low-wage jobs. In response to racism and anger that Chinese were taking American jobs, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which sharply restricted Chinese immigration. This was the first limitation on immigration in American history and lasted until 1965.
 
In China, a group calling itself the Society of Right and Harmonious Fists began a violent revolt against foreigners and foreign influence in 1899. Called by foreigners the Boxers, the group killed 230 diplomats in Beijing and thousands of Christians, among them missionaries who were accused of promoting foreign domination of China. An alliance of eight nations, including the United States, rushed troops to China, ended the Boxer Rebellion, and forced China to make payments to foreign victims of the violence as well as other concessions.
 
Japan’s concessions and invasions
 
After World War I, the victorious allies gave Germany’s concessions in China to Japan, another humiliating blow to the Chinese. The days of the imperial dynasties were over but not China’s troubles. Conflicts continued among warlords and two new parties, the Kuomintang led first by Sun Yat-sen and then Chiang Kai-shek, and the Communist Party led by Mao Zedong.
 
In 1931, Japan seized Manchuria and in 1937 invaded the main part of China, gaining control of its major coastal cities. During the conflict with Japan in World War II, the U.S. provided financial and military support to Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang. An uneasy truce between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party under Mao Zedong’s leadership lasted until the defeat of Japan in 1945.
 
Chinese film maker Chen Shi-Zhong expressed the Chinese response to foreign domination and treatment this way: “We Chinese carry the burden of our history with us and the question of Western humiliation is always consciously inside us. Thus, we feel sensitive to any kind of slight and often have a very sharp reaction to perceived unfair treatment or injustices. On an emotional level we cannot help but associate treatment in the present with past injuries, defeats, invasions, and occupations by foreigners. There is something almost in our DNA that triggers autonomic, and sometimes extreme, responses to foreign criticism or put-downs.” (Interview by Orville Schell, “China: Humiliation and the Olympics,” The New York Review, 8/14)
 
For discussion
  1. What questions do students have about the reading? How might they be answered?
     
  2. What are key elements in the historic “Western humiliation” that Chen Shi-Zhong spoke about? Compare it with the humiliation of Native American people at the hands of European settlers in what became the United States. 
     

 


Student Reading 3: 

China & the U.S., 1945-2008

Communist control and Korean War
 
In the years after World War II, China’s communists battled with the Western-backed Kuomintang. By 1949, the Communists, under Mao, had won the civil war. In Beijing’s tremendous Tiananmen Square (“Gate of Heavenly Peace”) Mao declared the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which, despite its name, would be ruled autocratically. Chiang Kai-shek and his army, along with two million refugees, fled to Taiwan, an island 75 miles off the southeastern coast of China that remains unofficially independent to this day—despite the Chinese government’s claims of sovereignty.
 
Since 1949, and through several crises, the U.S. has supported Taiwan’s status. Chinese leaders know that an attempt to force the island under its control would likely result in war with the U.S.   
 
In the postwar years, China allied with the Soviet Union. Republicans in the United States declared that the Democratic Truman administration was responsible, that it had “lost China” to the Communists.
 
Relations between the U.S. and the new China got off to the worst of starts in 1950, with the outbreak of the Korean War. Korea had been divided after World War II, with South Korea allying itself with the U.S., and North Korea allied with the Soviet Union and China. (More than 60 years later, thousands of U.S. troops are still stationed in South Korea.)
 
North Korea’s invasion of South Korea in June 1950 immediately drew in the United States and its UN allies in support of South Korea. Despite Chinese warnings, American troops under General Douglas MacArthur drove into North Korea, took its capital Pyongyang and headed toward its border with China. In response, Chinese troops entered the war to drive the Americans back. A very bloody stalemate ended in 1953 with a truce remaining in effect today.
 
Normalization of China-U.S. relations
 
For three decades there were no formal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China, which remained allied with the Soviet Union during these cold war years. In 1964 China joined the small group of nations with nuclear weapons.
 
But in 1972 President Richard Nixon launched “an opening” to China and met with Mao, a visit leading to the establishment of official relations in 1979.
 
In the meantime, Mao died, and his successors abandoned policies that had cost the Chinese people dearly. One was the “Great Leap Forward” of farm collectivization in 1958. The move, which was intended to increase crop production, led to the starvation of some 30 million people.
 
China also turned away from its “Cultural Revolution” of 1966-1976, during which China’s urban young people were mobilized in Red Guard units to uproot the bureaucratic type of Soviet communism. An internal political struggle followed. China was violently turned upside down. Schools were shut down. Books were burned. Teachers and intellectuals were forced from their positions and sent to the countryside to learn from peasants. As many as a million people died in the process.
 
By 1978, under a new leader, Deng Xiaoping, China’s slogan became “Four Modernizations”—a reference to reforms in industry, agriculture, science, and defense. China’s communist leaders relaxed the country’s centrally planned, collectivist economy and strict controls over daily life. They gradually replaced them with free enterprise, market-oriented development, freedom to live where one chose, and freedom to become a rich capitalist. These freedoms did not include speech, the press, assembly, or religion.
 
Tiananmen Square demonstrations
 
The absence of these freedoms was the focus of massive demonstrations in the late 1980s. In 1986 college students demonstrated for greater freedoms in several cities. The following year the Communist Party’s General Secretary, Hu Yaobang, who had expressed sympathy for the students, was forced by other party leaders to resign.
 
After Hu’s death in April 1989, a memorial gathering took place in Tiananmen Square. It led to a protest rally by Beijing University students, a boycott of classes and a student occupation of the square. By mid-May, some students had begun a hunger strike. The protesters had no single leadership or program but sought a  less authoritarian, less corrupt government responsive to the people as well as economic reforms. They erected a statue dubbed the Goddess of Democracy, modeled on the Statue of Liberty, to symbolize their demands.
 
By early June students had been joined by Beijing workers and intellectuals. They packed the 100-acre square. Though their protest was nonviolent, the government declared martial law, brought in troops and ordered everyone to leave. On the night of June 3-4, the army brutally cleared the square and the area around it. Nobody knows how many hundreds of students and others were killed, injured, or imprisoned. A lasting symbolic moment captured by TV cameras showed an unknown individual blocking a tank before he was rushed from the square to an unknown fate.
 
Played out on TV screens, these dramatic and horrendous events made a powerful impression around the world. The U.S. imposed a partial economic embargo on trade with China. But just as China has imposed media blackouts on the effects of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, so it has blacked out any mention of the events that took place at Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989. Many Chinese today, especially those under 30, know little or nothing about the protests.
 
Dozens of Tiananmen Square’s 1989 protesters are still in prison, according to Amnesty International.
 
China-U.S. relations since 1989
 
In recent years, business and trade relations between the U.S. and China have boomed. And on some international issues, the two countries have cooperated. For instance, China has used its close relationship with the North Korean government to pressure that government to abandon its program to develop nuclear weapons—a major concern of the U.S.
 
However, the U.S. and China have not seen eye-to-eye on pressuring the Sudanese government to stop its genocide in the Darfur region. China continues to buy oil from Sudan to fuel its growing economy and to sell military hardware to the Sudanese government.
 
Nevertheless, China has become the U.S.’s number-two trading partner (behind Canada). This trade, which has contributed greatly to China’s rapid economic development, has had many consequences for both countries. For example:
  • Wal-Mart, America’s largest retailer, can keep its prices low partly because of the cheap labor in its Chinese factories.
  • The 300,000 surveillance cameras everywhere in Beijing were provided by American corporations like General Electric.
  • When Apple sells its $299 iPod assembled in China, Apple makes an $80 profit, while the Chinese plant makes $4.
  • American Apparel is opening new stores in China.
  • China has purchased more than $500 billion in U.S. Treasury securities, helping to pay for the Iraq war.
Despite the rise of capitalism in China, the government still controls natural resources like oil, gas and coal as well as the steel, telecommunications, transportation and energy industries. The Chinese government also controls the country’s financial system. (New York Times, 8/7/08)
 
China’s rapid industrialization has taken a terrible toll on many Chinese workers and  communities. In an interview with journalist Philip Pan(Bill Moyers Journal, PBS, 8/22/08), Bill Moyers noted that he’d seen someone at an Olympics beach volleyball game wearing a T-shirt with a “made in China” label. Moyers said he had learned of Chinese “women crammed into dark and damp dormitories, working seven days a week with three days a year off. Their workshops filled with smoke, their eyes burning and watery, the skin on their hands peeling and painful…of more than a million workers contracting fatal diseases, of workers trying to organize…and being beaten and hauled to jail.”
 
Pan responded that most of the women in these factories are “from the countryside, poor villages.” Many were pulled out of school because parents “have to send their children to the cities to make extra income.” In these factories, Pan said, workers’ rights are limited. “They cannot form unions. They have very few venues to complain about working conditions. And because the labor force is so large, they have little leverage as well, in terms of wages. At the same time, though, these factories are paying them much more than they could have ever made in the countryside. And so, they're willing to take these jobs, and often times, they improve their lives through these jobs, if they can survive the conditions.”
 
China’s rapid industrialization has also produced a great deal of pollution, which has endangered the health of both people and the environment. As National Geographic reports, coal in China is “cheap, it’s dirty, and it’s fueling the burgeoning number of electric plants that provide power in China. Coal consumption has more than doubled since 1990…China recently surpassed the U.S. in carbon dioxide emissions.” (“China: Inside the Dragon,” National Geographic, May 2008)
 
“With little notice, somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 Chinese die prematurely every year from the effects of outdoor air pollution, according to studies by Chinese and international agencies alike.” (Nicholas Kristof, “Where Breathing Is Deadly,” New York Times, 5/25/08)
 
For discussion
  1. What questions do students have about the reading? How might they be answered?
     
  2. Why didn’t the U.S. have formal diplomatic relations with China until 30 years after Communists took power there? 
     
  3. Each of the following places have affected U.S.-China relations: Taiwan, Korea, Darfur. Tiananmen Square. In each case, how? If you need more information, how might you find it? 
     
  4. How is China important to U.S. business? 
     
  5. What is the chief cause of China’s environmental problems? 
     

Student Reading 4: 

A not so “harmonious society”

Chinese President Hu Jintao has said that the government’s aim is to construct “a harmonious society.” But China is not a harmonious society for human rights protesters, among others. (See the U.S. State Department’s website for a detailed report on human rights in China. (www.state.gov)
 
Disharmony in Tibet and Xinjiang
 
China called the around-the-world Olympic torch relay a “Journey of Harmony.” But in the weeks before the Beijing Olympics, the torch’s travels were repeatedly interrupted by protesters in Paris, London, San Francisco and elsewhere demanding that Tibet be freed from Chinese control. Buddhist monks began marching through the streets of Tibet’s capital, Lhasa. A wave of anti-Chinese demonstrations marked the anniversary of Tibetans’ unsuccessful protest against Chinese rule in 1959.  Shops and vehicles were smashed and burned and some people were killed and injured.
 
Tibet has been intermittently controlled by China since the 7th century. Tibet became independent in 1913, but in 1950 was brought under Chinese Communist rule. Many native Tibetans resent China’s political control as well as China’s interference with Tibetan culture and religion—especially the forced exile to India of Tibet’s spiritual and administrative leader, the Dalai Lama.
 
The Dalai Lama has said he accepts China’s rule. “The main thing is to preserve our culture, to preserve the character of Tibet. That is what is most important, not politics.” (New York Times interview by Nicholas Kristof, 8/7/08)
 
The Chinese government is very sensitive about the issue of human rights in Tibet. China blocked access to Apple’s iTunes during the Olympics, according to The Guardian, a London newspaper. An activist Tibetan group in the United States had invited athletes to download “Songs for Tibet,” including songs by Sting. iTune users in China soon discovered that the program’s software was not working. (New York Times, 8/23/08) 
 
Another area of “disharmony” for China is Xinjiang, a vast region of western China. Xinjiang is home to the Uighurs, a Muslim-Turkic ethnic minority. Like the Tibetans, many Uighurs resent the rule of the Han Chinese, China’s dominant ethnic group. The Han enforce religious prohibitions on the Uighurs, forbid them from using their  native language, and  receive preferential treatment in employment. There were several deadly attacks on Chinese security officials in Xinjiang before and during the Olympics.
 
The Sichuan earthquake
 
A May 12, 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province killed 70,000 people, according to Chinese estimates. About 10,000 were children in schools that collapsed—though other nearby buildings did not. Grief-stricken parents said the government had done a shoddy and negligent job of constructing the schools. Parents also charged a cover-up of official corruption during school construction. The government denied these charges.
 
Yu Tingyun’s daughter Yang “died in a cascade of concrete and bricks” at the high school in Hanwang, reported the New York Times (7/24/08). Yang was among at least 240 students who died at the school. “Mr. Yu became a leader of grieving parents demanding to know why the school, like so many others, had crumbled because of poor construction,” according to the Times. Parents were “offered the equivalent of $8,800 in cash and a per-parent pension of nearly $5,600. The offer was conditional on signing an official contract, which required future silence on the subject and declaring that the Communist Party ‘mobilized society to help us.’”
 
Most parents felt they had no choice but to sign the contract. Yu resisted at first, but when he learned that most parents had signed, he too complied.  He continued to carry a framed portrait of his daughter in his shoulder bag.
 
The government ordered Chinese news media to stop reporting on the school construction controversy.  
 
Space for protests, but none permitted
 
Before the Olympics, the Chinese government promised the International Olympic Committee that it would ease political controls during the games and set aside three Beijing parks as designated protest zones. All protest organizers had to do was fill out a form at their local police station. Zang Wei, who demanded compensation for her house, which she said had been illegally demolished, applied for a protest permit. According to her family, police took her into custody on August 6 for a month-long sentence for “disturbing social order.” Activists who applied for permits to protest official corruption and lack of democracy were also jailed.
 
By the close of the Olympics, Chinese officials had not granted a permit for a single demonstration and none had taken place in the official protest zones.
 
Nicholas Kristof wrote in the New York Times, “Yet even though the process is a charade, it still represents progress in China, in that the law implicitly acknowledges the legitimacy of protest….China is changing; it is no democracy, but it’s also no longer a totalitarian state….
 
“China today reminds me of Taiwan in the mid-1980s as a rising middle class demanded more freedom. Almost every country around China, from Mongolia to Indonesia, Thailand to South Korea, has become more open and less repressive—not because of the government’s kindness but because of the people’s insistence.
 
“I feel that same process beginning here, albeit agonizingly slowly.”  (New York Times, 8/17/08)
 
Philip Pan is more doubtful: “I think we have this assumption in the west that free markets lead to free societies, that capitalism will lead to democracy in China. That it’s almost an automatic process.” Instead, said Pan, “It’s a mixed picture.”  The Communist Party “is determined to hold on to power. And they’re not going to let anything happen without a fight.” (Bill Moyers Journal)
 
For discussion
  1. What questions do students have about the reading? How might they be answered?
     
  2. Despite President Hu Jintao’s slogan of “a harmonious society,” all is far from harmonious in China. What examples of disharmony are there in Chinese society? How do you explain each?
     
  3. Nicholas Kristof sees human rights progress in China and thinks continued progress is likely, though it might be “agonizingly slow” in coming. Philip Pan is less hopeful because he believes capitalism does not inevitably lead to democracy and that the Communist Party “is determined to hold on to power.” Which position makes the most sense to you and why?
     

Suggestions for Further Inquiry

Ask students: In what ways does China’s rise affects Americans and America?
 
Without comment, list responses on the chalkboard. Then discuss them with the class.
 
Next, call for a systematic examination of each response. How significant does this effect seem to be? Why? What evidence do students have for or against it? What additional information would they need answer this question more thoroughly? What sources might be helpful? What criteria would students employ to judge the reliability of a source?
 
Organize the class for independent and small-group investigations. See in the Engaging Your Class Through Groupwork for suggestions for choosing an issue, planning the project, working in a group and the like.
 
Another approach might be to list on the chalkboard general subjects for possible inquiry. For example:
  • Growing wealth in China
  • Continued poverty in China
  • A Chinese environmental problem
  • Chinese history—e.g.,: the opium wars; immigration to U.S and Chinese Exclusion Act.;  Boxer Rebellion; Sun Yat-sen; Chiang Kai-shek; Japanese invasion; Mao Zedong, Korean War, “great leap forward”; cultural revolution; Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations
  • Authoritarian capitalism
  • Business and trade relations with U.S.
  • Human rights issues
Having selected a subject, individuals and small groups should then frame one or two questions to guide their inquiry. See “Thinking Is Questioning” for suggestions on question-asking and analyzing.
 

This lesson was written for TeachableMoment.Org, a project of Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. We welcome your comments. Please email them to: lmcclure@morningsidecenter.org.