Continuing the Journey...
"China ... sews more garments than any other nation in the world," wrote Ted C. Fishman in the July 4, 2004 issue of The New York Times Magazine. At the same time, he points out, it is also "into biotech and high-tech computer manufacturing." Observes Fishman: "No country has ever made a better run at climbing every step of economic development all at once." But what does "climbing every step ... at once" actually involve? And how might such a strategy influence China's other policies, priorities and its people's lives? This Learning Enrichment (LE) unit is designed to help students start looking for answers.
In the following paragraphs, you'll find material to assist you in exploring and developing this unit's topic with students plus a whole lot of additional sources you may want to explore, and a special section on sharpening students' Social Studies Reading Skills as they tackle the unit pages designed for their use. For your own interest, these two sources will help you double-check basic information, as you go along: (a) the profile of "China" in The World Factbook and (b) the website for the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States.
This unit is appropriate for high school courses in world history, world regions, and contemporary issues. It has been written to help students achieve standards of learning suggested by two guidelines Expectations of Excellence (EOE) and the National Geography Standards (NGS). Thus, students using the unit should be better able to:
- "identify ... significant historical periods and patterns of change within ... cultures, such as the development of ancient ... civilizations, the rise of nation-states, and social, economic, and political revolutions." EOE: "Time, Continuity, & Change"
- "explain the purpose of government and analyze how its powers are acquired, used, and justified." EOE: "Power, Authority, and Governance"
- "identify ... problems in the transition period as a country shifts from one economic system to another (e.g., from a command economy to a [socialist] market economy)." NGS: "Human Systems"
For students who have not yet covered this topic, the organizational relationship between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) may seem complex. To simplify it for readers, this unit attributes major policymaking in modern China to the CPC and government actions to the PRC.
Other terms to preview: astronomer, central planning, civil court, commune, communist party, container port, dynasty, free-trade zone, fuel cell, genetic code, gross domestic product, hydroelectric, Kyoto Treaty, purchasing power, renewable energy, socialist market economy, wind farm.
The unit has been developed around a "widening-circles" approach to the study of modern-day societies. China is explored first as a nation, next as a member of a geopolitical region, and finally as a participant in global affairs. Running through all three student pages are underlying questions: How has China's geography influenced its people's challenges and choices? What is China's unfolding role in the world and how is that role related to its past? In what sense are the Chinese people on a journey? In what direction are they heading? You may want to use these questions for motivation and/or review purposes. (See also "For the Record..." questions on each page.)
BACKGROUND ON STUDENT PAGES
As you introduce this unit to students, ask them to speculate on the possible meaning of this unit's title. (Is every nation on a "journey"? If so, how might that journey's goals be defined or discerned? What kinds of moments or events would mark its progress?) Urge students, as they read each of the following three text pages, to look for important moments in the long, historic journey of the Chinese people. Here's some background on the content of each page:
1. Student Text Page
No. 1: "As a Nation." Much of the material on this page deals with China's economic development since 1949 with emphasis on recent years. You may want to expand on some of the following points, or have students research them on their own.
Geographic areas. Several of Chinese provinces and its largest city, Shanghai are named in the opening paragraph of this page. Each constitutes one of China's "administrative areas" (political units) and, for perspective, you may want to introduce students to all of them: At the highest level of government, the PRC includes: (a) 23 provinces (among which Taiwan is named); (b) 5 autonomous regions (Tibet, for example); (c) 4 special municipalities (Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Chongqing); and (d) 2 "SARs" special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau). Provinces, autonomous regions, and special municipalities are directly responsible to the national government though the autonomous regions are permitted self-government in matters related to their ethnic minority populations. The SARs Chinese territories that, for a period of time, were colonized by European powers have recently been returned to China, under terms guaranteeing their self-management in matters related to local economy and governance. TIP: All of these administrative units make good research topics! Each student might select one, and contribute his or her report in the form of a "chapter" for a class booklet on "China Today." To get started, select the "Province View" link on the opening page of the China Internet Information Center (CIIC), then follow links to individual provinces, etc. For a large overview map of China's political units, see the Map of China at the website of the U.S. Agricultural Department.
GDP data. On the "Nation" page (and throughout this unit) China's gross domestic product (GDP) is expressed in "purchasing power parity." For an explanation of the term, see the definition for "GDP methodology" in the current CIA World Factbook. In purchasing power, China's GDP ranks second, worldwide. But when based on currency exchange rates, China's GDP for the same year (2005) is $1.8 trillion, and it ranks sixth among nations. Prompt students to research, then discuss, the relative benefits of each form of GDP reporting. Note: Students researching China's GDP may find it expressed in terms of yuan renminbi (RMB); As of May 1, 2006, the Chinese yuan was converting to the U.S. dollar at the rate of 8.012 to 1. TIP: To check more recent exchange rates, have students use tap into the website for the x-rates calculator.
Economic growth, post-1978. The rapid economic development launched by Deng Xiaoping was first apparent in the country's new "Special Economic Zones" (SEZs), where growth advanced at double-digit rates in the 1980s. Under President Hu Jintao, China's economy has continued to grow at an average rate of 9 percent-plus annually, and the wealth it produces is especially noticeable in its eastern provinces. However, as the "Nation" page indicates, China's government is now intent on spreading the benefits of this growth more evenly within China's population and among its regions. Meanwhile, its five-year plan for years 2006-2010 places even greater emphasis on energy conservation and environmental protection. For more on all these points, see the cluster of links provided by the CIIC under the heading "China Mapping Out the 11th Five-Year Development Guidelines." TIP: Share some of these specific Five-Year plans and goals with students, then prompt them to speculate on which ones are China's most urgent priorities and which, the most difficult to attain.
Poverty reduction. For decades, world experts on the subject of poverty have been extolling China's efforts to aid its poorest people. "China has lifted more than 400 million people out of poverty," said World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz during a recent visit to Gansu Province. "Since 1980," he observed, "China [has] accounted for 75% of poverty reduction in the developing world." For policies related to that ongoing effort, see the CIIC website page "China's War on Poverty." TIP: Encourage students to research strategies currently used in the fight against poverty around the world: (a) To identify the countries that face the most severe challenge, one team of researchers might look to the end of the list "Rank Order, GDP, per-capita (PPP)" in the CIA's current World Factbook. (b) To see how poverty is being tackled in those countries, another group might then check for the name of each on the World Bank's list of "Countries & Regions." After following links to reports of poverty-fighting efforts in several countries, student teams might summarize and discuss their findings in a seminar. Does it appear that there are similar poverty-fighting strategies from nation to nation? How do other nations' efforts compare with China's war on poverty?
Urban populations. China's population is still mostly rural. But its cities (including Shanghai, the largest, and Beijing, the capital) are expanding rapidly. TIP: The Map Page for this unit is coded with circles and triangles to show the location of the country's largest metropolitan centers. You might want to have students work in groups to identify the cities' names: They can do so by matching the location of each circle or triangle on LE's map to the city in the same location on any good political map e.g., the one in The World Book Encyclopedia, under the entry for "China."
2. Student Text Page
No. 2: "Within Its Region." Is it possible to sum up China's history in a single page? No. But this unit's "Region" page does highlight some of the major topics in that history: the geographic setting for China's cultural development, its early emergence as a prominent empire, its political transformation in the 20th century, and its current role in the East Asian region. Here are a few themes you may want to share with students or have them research on their own.
minorities. Tell students they're speaking Uygur when they
say the name of the Taklimakan Desert! ("Taklimakan" means
"One can enter, but not come out.") Uygur is spoken by a minority
population in Northwest China one of many within the nation whose
major language is Chinese Mandarin (see this unit's Data
Page). TIP: Encourage students, in small
groups, to research China's ethnic minorities. (The Hui, Manchu, Miao,
Mongol, Tibetan, Uygur, Yi, and Zhuang are among the largest.) For starters,
they might consult any good encyclopedia or the Lonely Planet
paperback China, whose chapters open with brief profiles of
ethnic populations within the provinces. For more detail on each such
group, see the list of links under the title "China's
Ethnic Minorities" at the website of the Chinese newspaper
People's Daily Online. By way of reporting on their research,
student teams could collaborate on a TV "documentary" about
a few selected ethnic groups, using mock interviews, narratives, etc.,
to bring out unique details about each group (geographic setting, cultural
traditions, occupations, etc.).
addition to the achievements of the Qin and Han dynasties, several
other dynasties played key roles in Chinese cultural and political
history: the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing (Manchu) dynasties,
especially. TIP: Urge students to research
cultural and social achievements in China during the reign of any
one of these dynasties, then collaborate on preparing a scrapbook
that includes appropriate illustrations, diagrams, maps, and student-written
commentaries about that dynasty. With your guidance, they can make
a great start with Columbia University's excellent online curriculum
at the "Asia for Educators"
website. On the page that opens, look for links to "China"
under such general headings as "Art" and "Society and
Culture," then follow subsequent links to a wealth of information,
diagrams, maps, etc. (And donate the scrapbook to the school library!)
During the period between 1912 and 1949, a number of complex events
civil war, invasion by Japan, and World War II paved
the way for the formation of the People's Republic of China. For a
clear, objective, concise treatment of this period, see the second
half of the segment labeled "Foreign Intervention in China"
in the article "China" in The Columbia Encyclopedia
(5th edition). TIP: The three goals that
guided early leaders of the new Chinese republic after 1912 were summarized
by Dr. Sun Yat-sen in a 1923 publication. To stimulate a class discussion
of those goals, distribute copies of (LE's version of) Sun's story,
then ask: What seems to be Dr. Sun's basic understanding of the
relationship between China's people and their new government in the
early 20th century?
Yat-sen's "Three Principles"
* Nationalism. History, wrote Sun, proves that
the Chinese are "a people independent in spirit and in conduct,"
with a long-established national identity. Thus, he urged, they
"should ... maintain independence in the family of nations,"
while they "forge ahead with other nations toward the goal
of ideal brotherhood."
"It is widely recognized," said Sun, "that the people
constitute the foundation of a nation, and they are all equal in
their own country." To make this goal a reality, Sun reasoned,
China should become a constitutional republic.
Concluding that economic unrest within nations stems from "uneven
distribution of wealth," Sun explained his economic goal for
China: "I have come to the realization that the principle of
state ownership is most ... reliable and practical."
from Fundamentals of National Reconstruction, by Sun Yat-sen.
Regional economy today.
The "Region" page ends with a reference to China's recent
agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN),
to form a mutual free-trade zone. (Indeed, bilateral trade between
China and ASEAN has been growing by 15 percent annually since 1995,
with the result that China now recognizes ASEAN as a major trade partner.)
TIP: For a combined geography-economics
lesson, you might want students to do the following: (a) Research
and list the names and populations of ASEAN's members (Brunei, Cambodia,
Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand,
and Vietnam have a combined total of about 550 million people). (b)
Draw a map outlining the combined areas of China and ASEAN members.
(c) Discuss the late 20th-century trend toward the formation of regional
free-trade zones the EU, NAFTA, and MERCOSUL, for example:
What kinds of economic arguments might persuade a group of neighboring
countries to reduce and/or cancel mutual tariffs? What advantages
might the proposed free-trade zone in Asia offer China?
Regional politics today. China is emerging as a major influence
in East Asian politics a trend most publicly noticed (by the
West) as efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue unfold.
China is a key member of the so-called "six-party" talks
that are part of that effort. TIP: Encourage
a committee of students to research background information
and breaking news on the talks involving North and South Korea,
Japan, Russia, the USA, and China. By way of reporting, the committee
might collaborate on preparing a weekly "TV news" backgrounder
or update on the topic (with special attention to the role played
3. Student Text Page
No. 3: "In Today's World." On this page, students will find a brief survey of key environmental issues facing China in today's world with emphasis on China's efforts to protect its environment even as its surging economy demands more fossil fuels. If you're interested in an analysis of the challenges that this growth poses for China's financial system, see the "Economic Survey of China, 2005" at the website for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In addition, you may want to expand on the following points in class or assign them to students for independent research.
profile. Colleagues from your school's Science Department might
like to team with you in presenting this topic especially when
it comes to such renewable energy sources as biomass and hydrogen! For
a more detailed exposition of China's energy concerns, see the report
Energy: Continuous Struggle With Shortage" at the website for
the PRC's embassy in the United Kingdom. And, for a good global view
of the topic, keep your eye on the Worldwatch Institute's "China
Watch" page. (Select the categories "Energy & Climate"
and "Biodiversity," then follow the links.) TIP:
To get students more involved in thinking about alternate-energy cars
(and "hydrogen highways"?) in their own future, you might
want to recommend "China's
Next Cultural Revolution," an absorbing article by Lisa Margonelli
in the April 2005 issue of Wired magazine online. Follow-up
discussion would probably reveal students' own concerns about environmental
issues as they discuss China's policies for developing clean-energy
cars and Margonelli's anecdotes about new car owners in the PRC today.
China's efforts to conserve resources does not mean it lacks them.
The country has rich soil, rivers with enormous waterpower, and large
deposits of fossil fuels including natural gas and oil, plus
enough coal to last for centuries. (Seventy-five percent of China's
energy needs are still met by coal.) The country also has substantial
quantities of aluminum, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum,
tin, zinc. TIP: Have each student select
and research one of these resources paying special attention
to its properties and industrial uses. (A good starting place might
be the page titled "Common
Minerals and Their Uses" at the website for the Mineral Information
Institute.) After reports are shared in class, ask students to evaluate
the overall natural advantages that China enjoyed, when it launched
its economic modernization plans more than 25 years ago. (Clue: China
now leads the world in the production of coal, iron, and steel!)
Any discussion of China's current and future relations with the rest
of the world should take into account its membership in the World
Trade Organization (WTO, or occasionally WTrO). The
PRC adapted thousands of its own government regulations to prepare
for admission, and China is now widely predicted to become the world's
No. 1 trader within the foreseeable future. TIP:
To help students develop an understanding of the global impact of
China's expanding trade, appoint a committee to create (then regularly
update) a bulletin board dedicated to the topic. At minimum, the display
should include a world map (focused on East Asia) and allow sufficient
space (to the side) for posting news articles on China's trade with
countries on various continents. For easy access to such articles,
you might suggest that students enter the terms China and
trade in the Google News
Search box. When major trade issues arise, urge students to compare
the viewpoints in U.S. sources (The Washington Post, The Los Angeles
Times, etc.) with those from the countries in question (e.g.,
The Financial Express in India) and, of course, with those
from China (People's Daily Online, Shanghai
Daily, and others).
rights. The "World" page alludes to the gradual
pace at which institutional change (through local elections and civil
courts, for example) is occurring in China. Observers in the West
who urge a more rapid pace of change argue their views from within
a human-rights context, and religious freedom is frequently the focus.
TIP: Students interested in researching
such topics can find a summary of China's views at the website for
the Embassy of the People's
Republic of China in the USA. (Have them enter the term religious
freedom in the Search box, or scroll until they reach the term
"Topics," then follow links to "Human Rights Issues"
and "Religious Belief in China.") To examine the relationship
between state and religion throughout China's history, you might suggest
that they consult "China,
Religion, and the World Economy," a Public Justice Report
on two (edited) papers from a conference at the Brookings Institution
"It would appear natural for secondary teachers to blend comprehension strategies with enriched content," observed Max W. Fischer in a "Voice of Experience" essay in the January 3, 2003 issue of Education World. "It would appear even more likely that that will soon become a priority across the country!" It already has. Prompted by any number of recent trends in education, teachers are placing increased emphasis on the reading skills of secondary school students. Here's LE's contribution to their effort a range of reading-skills activities applied to materials in this unit (see also LE's website page on Reading Skills in the Social Studies):
* Anticipation/Skimming. (Note: Some reading teachers call this "prediction.") As you distribute each of the student text pages, give your class a brief time-period (60 or 90 seconds) to (a) read its boldfaced introduction and (b) skim-read the entire page. Then, calling on volunteers, have students go to the chalkboard and write a term or phrase to summarize what they think is the basic topic of that page. Thus, for example, an attentive reader might assume (from the introduction) that the "Nation" page deals with China's economy and (from the rest of the page) that it summarizes the history of that economy. The purpose of this exercise is not to see who gets "right answers," but to accustom students to the habit of zeroing in as rapidly and accurately as possible on the main topic of any article they read.
* Chronological organization. Taken together, LE's three student pages include more than two dozen references to specific years, decades, centuries, and millennia! Challenge student teams to do the following: (a) Locate every specific time reference on all three pages. (b) Write each date together with a brief summary of its significance to China's history on a separate small index card. (c) When all the cards have been prepared, arrange them in a chronological "tree," with appropriate spacing between "close" and "distant" dates. (d) After checking the accuracy of these trees, ask a volunteer from each team to provide a two- or three-minute overview of China's "journey" through history. Be sure students understand that some dates (650 CE, for example) are used representatively, while others (1949) note specific events.
* Recalling what is read. One
of the toughest challenges that social studies teachers face is to
help students summarize a reading passage objectively and without
bias. To help them practice that skill, you might give them copies
of the following excerpt from a 2005 address by China's President
Thinking About Tomorrow
"While ... carrying forward their proud past, the ... 1.3 billion Chinese people are writing a new chapter in history as they march ... on the road of building socialism with Chinese characteristics.
"We in China have identified the goal for the first 20 years of this century. That is, to firmly seize ... strategic opportunities to build a moderately prosperous society.... We will ... further develop the economy, improve democracy, advance science and education, enrich culture, foster greater social harmony, and upgrade the texture of life for the people....
"We believe, as long as we firmly follow the path ... that is consistent with China's national conditions, we will be able to realize our goal and play a greater and more constructive role in the promotion of world peace and common development. A developing China will ... generate ... opportunities with win-win results for other countries in Asia and the world."
Steps: (a) Have students read the excerpt silently once or twice. (b) Then ask them to write a brief summary of what they've read without looking back at the excerpt. (c) As volunteers read their summaries aloud, prompt other students to listen for any external data, opinions, or personal judgments that the volunteers may have unwittingly introduced into their summaries. (d) While honoring the value of such opinions and judgments, discuss the importance of being able to summarize any source without distorting it with one's own views.
The website for the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the USA is an excellent source on this unit's topic. For a broader spectrum of current news, data, and cultural insights into China today, see the website of the China Internet Information Center. (For example, under the "Features" section on the opening CIIC page, you'll find a link to some fascinating short biographies: Select "Who's Who in China's Leadership.") And to follow PRC policy vis-à-vis current world issues, check the website of the Permanent Mission of the PRC to the UN.
Closer to home, you may want students to explore the USA Newspapers.com website, where they'll find links to newspapers in their state and its larger cities. After they select and check local newspapers for a week or so, ask them to discuss the amount and type of coverage that China is receiving in their area. Or, as breaking news on any event in China begins to circulate, you might have students compare reports of the event from papers around the country. (Do the reports differ in any way?) Either of these exercises would be a good reading skills activity.
Finally, LE editors recommend the following publications to your attention. (A few have already been identified on this page but are repeated here for the purpose of fuller citations.)
"China". The World Factbook. Annual CIA publication. A comprehensive source and a good reference for building social studies vocabulary. See the "Definition" icon next to every category listing.
Fishman, Ted. "The Chinese Century." The New York Times Magazine. July 4, 2004.
Harper, Damian, et al. China. Lonely Planet Publications. Eighth edition. 2002.
Hu Jintao. "Full Text of Hu Jintao's Address." (Website of CNN.) President Hu's address to the 2005 Fortune Global Forum in Beijing. May 16, 2005.
Jiang Zemin. "Speech at the Meeting Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the Founding of the Communist Party of China." An address by the General Secretary of the CPC in 2001, including a lengthy and comprehensive review of China's experience, from the Opium War in the 1840s, through the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1921, to the present day.
Ohmae, Kenichi. "Profits and Perils in China, Inc." strategy+business. First Quarter, 2002.
Sun Yat-sen. Fundamentals of National Reconstruction. Excerpts cited on this Teacher Page were taken from: Sun Yat-sen, Fundamentals of National Reconstruction. Taipei: China Cultural Service. 1953. Pages 76-83.
Wilson, Edward O. "The Bottleneck." Scientific American. February 2002. Pages 83-92. (Excerpted from The Future of Life by E.O. Wilson. © 2002. New York. Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House.)
Ying Ma. "China's America Problem." Policy Review. Hoover Institution, Stanford University. February & March 2002. Pages 43-56. Candidly stated views on the topic of current relations between the USA and China, and between the American and Chinese peoples.
Student Text Page No. 1
| China Student Text Page No. 2 | China
Student Text Page No. 3 | China Map Page
| China Data Page | China
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LE wishes to thank the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States for underwriting the costs of producing and distributing the original printed version of this unit. We hope that, in this new electronic version, our unit continues to serve teachers and students in Grades 7-12.
© Learning Enrichment, Inc. Content last
updated: May 2006. Page last reviewed: May 2006.