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Mao to Now: On Chinese Marxism

3,856 people completed this program


To make sense of modern China, you simply cannot ignore Marxism. ‘From Mao to Now’ presents current topics that anyone who wishes to engage with China should know.

Rather than praising or condemning, the course focuses on building a deeper understanding of this history through two interwoven elements.

The first structures the course in terms of some ‘red tourism’ to the sites important to the communist revolution in the first half of the twentieth century.

Much of the course footage was filmed on location in China, including Shaoshan, Ruijin, Yan’an and important locations in Beijing, such as Tiananmen and the Nationalities Museum ( minzuyuan).

The second element of the course will take those experiences and use them to help answer some fundamental questions:

  • Is China socialist or capitalist today, or is it perhaps both at one and the same time?

  • Is there such a thing as Chinese socialist democracy, and, if so, what is it?

  • Does China have its own theory of human rights, drawn from the long Chinese tradition and Marxism?

  • If the Chinese state is a form that has not been seen before, then what is it?

  • How Mao Zedong is understood today in China

  • The relationship between socialism and capitalism in China

  • The nature of socialist democracy and a Chinese approach to human rights

  • What a Chinese socialist state might be

  • The meaning of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’


The course has five sections (covering 18 lessons). From each place visited on the ‘red tour’, we examine a key concept that arises from the place:

Topic 1. Shaoshan, in Hunan Province. Chairman Mao’s birthplace.

Shaoshan leads us to ask: Is China socialist or capitalist today, or is it perhaps both at one and the same time? To answer this question, you’ll examine Marxist approaches to contradiction and the unique Chinese way of facing contradictions.

Topic 2. Ruijin, at the border between Fuxian and Jiangxi provinces. Here the first experiments in socialism began.

The ethos of Ruijin raises the question of human rights. Is there a Chinese Marxist approach to human rights, and, if so, what is it?

Topic 3. Yan’an, in Shaanxi province. Home for the movement after the Long March and the cradle of modern China.

The origins of modern China begin in Yan’an, especially in terms of the state. Here you’ll delve into some heavier political thought, asking: if China is not an empire, a colonising power, federation or liberal nation-state, then what is it?

Topic 4. Beijing, the national day (1 October). On this day in 1949, Chairman Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic in Tiananmen square.

Arising from the national day, we’ll examine Chinese democracy. After distinguishing between different types of democracy you’ll explore what socialist democracy in a Chinese situation means.

Topic 5. Mao’s Mausoleum. At the centre of Tiananmen lies the body of Chairman Mao.

What does Mao mean today? We’ll examine how he is reinterpreted in China, with an eye on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. With new knowledge, you’ll identify the key elements of what Socialism means in a Chinese situation.

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Mao to Now: On Chinese Marxism
6 weeks
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