Chinese Revolution essay questions


This collection of Chinese Revolution essay questions has been written and compiled by Alpha History authors, for use by teachers and students. They can also be used for short-answer questions and other research or revision tasks. These questions are currently being updated. If you would like to contribute a question to this page, please contact Alpha History.

Imperial China
1. What was the Mandate of Heaven? By the end of the 1800s, why might some Chinese have believed that the Qing had lost this mandate?

2. Describe the ethnicity and culture of the Qing dynasty, its leaders and high officials. How did these factors shape the relationship between the Qing and other Chinese people?

3. How did the teachings of Confucius shape political and social views and values in 19th century imperial China?

4. What was the status of women in 19th century China? Explain how social structures and values excluded women and prevented their independence.

5. Discuss three significant problems faced by the Qing regime as it attempted to govern China in the 1800s.

6. Explain how the Qing regime was challenged by foreign imperialism and the actions of Westerners in China during the 1800s.

7. What was the Self-Strengthening Movement? Evaluate the success of this movement and the impact it had on China’s government, economy and society?

8. Discuss the role of Japan in contributing to rising nationalism and anti-Qing sentiment during the late 19th and early 20th century.

9. Summarise and discuss the Guangxu Emperor’s attempts at reform in the 1890s. What was the emperor seeking to achieve and how successful was he?

10. Explain how Dowager Empress Cixi was able to dominate Qing government, despite her nominally inferior status as a woman and a former concubine.

The last years of Qing rule

1. Discuss and evaluate three nationalist uprisings in China between 1895 and mid-1911. Who was responsible for these uprisings, what was their objective and why did they fail?

2. Who were the Fists of Righteous Harmony? Explain the conditions and factors that motivated this group and their ultimate objectives.

3. Why did Dowager Empress Cixi decide to support the rebellious Boxers? What were the implications of this decision?

4. What was the Boxer Protocol? What impact did it have on the Qing government and the rising Chinese nationalist movement?

5. Discuss the late Qing reforms and the extent to which they were successful. Did these reforms bolster Qing rule or weaken it?

6. Describe the ideas, values and objectives of groups like the Tongmenghui. Where and how did these groups acquire and develop their ideology?

7. The New Army was formed to bolster Qing rule but instead contributed to its downfall. Why was this? Discuss the role of the New Army in the last years of the Qing.

8. Identify three conditions, factors or events that contributed to outbreak of the Wuchang uprising in October 1911.

9. Discuss and evaluate the impact that Yuan Shikai had on the national government of China between 1898 and 1912.

10. Evaluate the political activities of Sun Yixian between 1905 and March 1912. To what extent was Sun Yixian responsible for the fall of the Qing?

Years of division: 1912 to 1927
1. How and why did Yuan Shikai became president of the Republic of China. What were the implications of this decision?

2. Explain how Yuan Shikai attempted to weaken and usurp the democratic national government between 1912 and 1916.

3. Sun Yixian’s mission was to reunify China and restore a republican national government. What steps did he take between 1912 and 1924 to achieve this?

4. Explain the events and factors that led to the Warlord Era of 1916-1927. Who were the warlords, what motivated them and how did they control their regions?

5. What was the Beiyang government that existed during the Warlord Era? To what extent did this constitute a ‘Chinese national government’?

6. What events or factors led to the May Fourth Movement of 1919? What ideas emerged from this movement and how did they shape future revolutionary groups?

7. How and why did the Soviet Union and Comintern support Sun Yixian and the Guomindang during the 1920s?

8. The Huangpu (or Whampoa) Military Academy was opened in 1924. Who operated the academy and why was it important for the restoration of a unified China?

9. To what extent was Jiang Jieshi the natural successor of Sun Yixian as the leader of the Guomindang? How did Jiang’s ideological position differ from Sun’s?

10. Explain how Jiang Jieshi and the Guomindang reduced the influence of warlords in 1926-27, leading to the restoration of an effective national government.

War and civil war: 1927 to 1949
1. Discuss the relationship between China and Japan between 1915 and 1945. What were Japan’s intentions and how did they impact on China’s national government?

2. What happened in Shanghai in April 1927? Why did this occur and how did it shape the next two decades in China’s history?

3. Discuss the policies of the Guomindang government between 1927 and 1937. To what extent did they build a republican society and improve the lives of ordinary people?

4. Explain the causes and participants in the Central Plains War. What did this conflict reveal about the Guomindang and the leadership of Jiang Jieshi?

5. What was the New Life Movement? Was this movement intended to achieve modernisation and reform – or an attempt to reinforce traditional Chinese values?

6. Evaluate the political and military leadership of Jiang Jieshi between 1927 and 1949. Was Jiang a victim of circumstance or a victim of his own misjudgements?

7. Who were the parties involved in the Xi’an incident? How did this incident alter the political and military situation in China?

8. The Second United Front existed from early 1937 to the Japanese surrender in 1945. To what extent was it really ‘united’?

9. Using evidence and specific examples, explain why the Guomindang and Nationalist army were unable to gain support from the Chinese people.

10. Identify and discuss the three most important reasons for the CCP victory in the Chinese Civil War.

Chinese communists
1. Discuss the formation of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. Which people, groups and ideas contributed to the CCP in its early years?

2. Describe Mao Zedong’s contribution to the CCP and Chinese communism during the first ten years of the party (1921 to 1931).

3. Explain how the CCP and its members responded to the Shanghai Massacre and the collapse of the First United Front.

4. Discuss the role of the Comintern and foreign agents in shaping the ideology, tactics and direction of the CCP from 1927 onwards.

5. What steps did the CCP and its leadership take to establish a working socialist system in Jiangxi between 1931 and 1934?

6. Explain how Mao Zedong, Zhu De and others organised and trained the Red Army so that it was an important political tool as well as a military force.

7. Why is the Zunyi conference considered an important turning point in the history of the CCP?

8. Critically evaluate Mao’s strategic and military leadership during the Long March, referring to difference sources or historians.

9. Why did Mao Zedong describe the Long March as “a propaganda force, a seeding machine”? How has the legacy of the Long March been exploited by the CCP?

10. According to propaganda, the Yan’an Soviet was a period of great success, unity and optimism in the CCP. To what extent is this true?

The CCP in power: 1949 to 1959
1. Evaluate power structures in the Chinese national government after October 1949. To what extent was the “People’s Republic” answerable to the people?

2. Describe the land reform policies implemented by the government after 1949. What were these policies intended to achieve?

3. What were ‘Speak Bitterness’ meetings? Why did Mao Zedong and other communist officials encourage these meetings?

4. Discuss China’s involvement in the Korean War. Why did Mao and his government risk war with the West?

5. Explain what was targeted during the ‘Three-Anti’ and ‘Five-Anti’ campaigns of the early 1950s. What methods were used during these campaigns?

6. Evaluate China’s economic growth and development – from October 1949 to the end of the First Five Year Plan.

7. Discuss Mao’s relationship with the Soviet Union and its leaders, Stalin and Khrushchev. How did this relationship evolve in the 1950s?

8. Was the Hundred Flowers Campaign an error of judgement on Mao’s behalf? Or a political device to identify and deal with critics?

9. Explain the economic objectives of the Great Leap Forward. What policies or methods were adopted to fulfil these objectives?

10. What were the outcomes and consequences of the Great Leap Forward, both for the Chinese people and for Mao Zedong?

The struggle for control: 1960 to 1976

1. Discuss Mao Zedong’s position in the Chinese Communist Party between 1960 and 1966. How did Mao restore his position in the party by 1966?

2. What were the objectives of the People’s Communes, established by Mao in the late 1950s? Did they fulfil these objectives?

3. Why were Chinese people taught to “live like Lei Feng” and “learn from the PLA”? How successful were these campaigns?

4. Explore the sources and causes of the Cultural Revolution. To what extent was it really a popular revolution?

5. Referring to three specific events, explain how the Cultural Revolution forced ordinary people into compliance, obedience and loyalty.

6. Discuss the fate of Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping during the 1960s. How and why were they removed from positions of influence in the CCP?

7. What was the ‘Down to the Countryside’ movement and what was it intended to achieve? What impact did it have on its participants?

8. Evaluate the contribution of Lin Biao to the development of post-1949 China. How and why did Lin fall from grace?

9. How did China’s foreign policy evolve between 1960 and 1976, particularly with regard to Soviet Russia and the United States?

10. Who were the Gang of Four and what political, social and economic vision did they have for the People’s Republic of China?


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