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Publisher's Summary

How can we account for China’s momentous - and almost wholly unanticipated - global rise? And what does it mean, for us in the West and for humanity’s future?

Speaking to these vital and fascinating questions, these 48 penetrating lectures by Professor Baum bring to vivid life the human struggles, the titanic political upheavals, and the spectacular speed of China’s modern rebirth. Offering multilevel insight into one of the most astounding real-life dramas of modern history, the lectures weave together the richly diverse developments and sociopolitical currents that created the China you now read about in the headlines.

You’ll get a detailed understanding of all the core events in China’s century of stunning change, including the collapse of the Qing dynasty, the Republican era and civil wars, the "Great Leap Forward", the Cultural Revolution, and the post-Mao economic "miracle". Throughout, Professor Baum reveals highly unusual details that enrich the cinematic sweep of the story. For example, you’ll learn about the Christian warlord who baptized his troops with a fire hose, the strange kidnapping of Chiang K’ai-shek, and Professor Baum’s own smuggling of top-secret documents out of Taiwan.

A core strength of these lectures is that they make sense of the dramatic events of the story by getting deeply at what underlay them, culturally, socially, and historically - leaving you with a nuanced knowledge of the forces moving China’s modern emergence. Bringing alive the passionate reinvention of China with deep discernment and humanity, they portray the confounding, majestic, heart-rending, and visionary story of a modern giant.

©2010 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2010 The Great Courses

What listeners say about The Fall and Rise of China

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Insightful Book

Bumped into this book while looking for a meaningful understanding of China. This book greatly met my expectation. It covers in depth and at the required breadth of the various topics that one needs to read to get a 360 degree perspective of China. The author, having spent quite a significant time in China, lends a degree of personal touch to the narrative (though some of the personal digressions could be shortened or made less dramatic in the interest of the overall story). A must read for any early China watcher.

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Mile wide and inch deep

What's good:
The range of topics covered
The authors seemingly genuine interest in China

What's not:
At the outset, the author promises to give an unbiased, historians account of China while sometimes making his personal views clear. In truth it's the other way round. We are almost always listening to his views delivered in a condescending, admonishing or patronising tone and sometimes offered an unbiased historians account. Even his praise is never whole hearted and always tempered in the same breath with cautious riders.
The author relies heavily on personal views and anecdotal evidence that support his views to make sweeping generalizations about the Chinese people and it's leaders.
The listening experience was very dissatisfactory. His arbitrary and inconsistent use of Chinese phrases can be unnecessarily distracting and annoying to listeners. Attempting to dramatise a historical account with affected emotions gives it an impression of a badly delivered soap opera performance and the serious business of a historically accurate account.
Overall a good book to read (not hear) for someone who know nothing about China and is alive to the possible mistakes that can be made by an author of a completely different cultural background while making perfunctory observations about a complex culture like that of the Chinese

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  • PM
  • 23-12-18

A good political history of Modern China

Pros:
The course offers a well-balanced history of politics in Modern China. The bulk of the focus is on Mao and his successor Deng Xiaoping, their incompatible visions, and the challenges faced from the political left, right and eventually reality. It made me realize that the CPC is not a monolith and that its grip on power is more fragile than is portrayed to the outside world.

Professor Baum is both erudite and enthusiastic about the subject. I also enjoyed the personal anecdotes. There were very few instances in which I felt bored.

Cons:
The lectures end at 2008. Chinese policy has seen many changes both internally and internationally after it. It could have been fascinating to hear Prof. Baum's views on the matter, but alas he has passed away.

I was expecting more on enterprise, monetary policy, trade policy, entrepreneurship etc. There were passing mentions of these subjects but mostly in relation to the party politics.

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  • Yu-Chin
  • 15-12-13

Offers excellent objective perspective!

What did you love best about The Fall and Rise of China?

Objective perspective of the events and captured the essense of leader's characteristics.

What does Professor Richard Baum bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The tone used to describe the events and his personal encounters which would not be conveyed through text alone.

Any additional comments?

As a Taiwan-borne Chinese, it was interesting to contrast the objective narrative of the last 100 years or so history with what I had learnt in Taiwan during childhood. Great to learn aspect of China that was foreign to me before taking this course. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of understanding of not just the historical events, but the Chinese psyche during those times. Highly recommend it! (I've already recommended this to friends and family)

63 people found this helpful

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  • Alan Rither
  • 27-03-14

Best of the Great Courses - Top 10 of all

What did you love best about The Fall and Rise of China?

Professor Baum's encyclopedic knowledge of the subject and his personal love for the culture and the people.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The embalmed remains of Chairman Mao looking green from too much formaldehyde. It was an insight 'behind the curtain,' so to speak, that one would never read in a serious work about China but that revealed the humor behind the god-man's image.

Have you listened to any of Professor Richard Baum’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

This is his only audiobook that I know of and he died in 2012 from cancer that he thought was gone when he recorded these lectures.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It is far too long and complicated to listen to it in one sitting, but I wanted to get back into the car where I keep my player and sometimes went on extended drives to avoid turning off a lecture in the middle.

Any additional comments?

The world has lost a great scholar and a generous human. I can only hope that his lectures in this Great Courses audiobook will inspire a new generation of people to learn more about China as the 'Sleeping Giant' takes a leading role on the world stage in this century.

28 people found this helpful

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  • Tommy D'Angelo
  • 20-12-16

Mixed Impression

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Richard Baum?

I have a mixed impression of this course. It had periods of extremely gripping lectures leading you to want more (the first 20 or so were very well done---four or five star quality). But then there were also many lectures that failed to capture my engagement and I found myself in zoning out mode (latter half of the course). This is the only real negative I can come up with but it is interesting that he could go from thrilling to listen to in one lecture to uninteresting and "hard to get through" in another lecture.

The length of the course may have contributed to the gradual decline. A 30-36 lecture course would seem a perfect length to me. 48 courses to study 150-200 years of history (or for that matter 42 lectures to cover 100 years) just seems too much and leads to many lectures feeling way too micro-level.

I do like the fact that the Professor split the lectures into distinct periods of years and used the timeframes in the lecture titles so you know what the boundaries are vs. the non-linear approach other history professors sometimes take in which timeframes bleed over into other lectures and you're left feeling like you are traveling back and forth in time.

I also liked the personal stories the professor sprinkled in to the historical narrative from his numerous trips to China. For the most part they were not overdone or tangential. He used them to provide true real life examples to illustrate certain points (such as his exposure to the first entrepreneurs in the 1980's or his experience in which an older woman berated a countryman for speaking to Professor Baum---a foreigner). And they brought history to life.

Lectures well worth my time: 2-3, 7-13, 15-16, 18-19, 25-26, 33, 43-44, 47-48

His closing lecture was excellent and thought-provoking: the question is not whether China will rise to world power status but whether China will be a force for peace or for conflict. His advice on how the United States should respond was intriguing: take an accepting stance---almost nurturing, and be willing to share the global scene vs. resistance to China's inevitable rise. And for those of you concerned of a belligerent Chinese military, this keeps sticking in my head: China is just as wary of our intentions towards them as we are towards them. It is an interesting dance of a cautious friendship but remember that the two countries are bound to one another economically so much so that it is in neither's best interest to see the other fail.

Prior to buying this course I had listened to "Foundations of Eastern Civilization" as well as "Great Minds of the Eastern Intellect Tradition" and was exposed to quite alot of Chinese history. But when I found this course I was interested in another professor's perspective, especially one who is obviously very passionate about Chinese society and its people. Notwithstanding the length of the course, I am glad I gave it a chance since my knowledge of recent Chinese history was deepened and led to a much better understanding of how China became the society it is today.

If your curiosity falls in the range of how the Manchu dynasty fell, how the Communist party came to power, consolidated power, and has ruled the country up until the present day then this course will do you well. If you are looking more for a "big history" view of Chinese history and society I would recommend "Foundations of Eastern Civilization". If you are more interested in the great philosophies of the region, then reach for "Great Minds of the Eastern Intellect Tradition".

47 people found this helpful

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  • Kirk
  • 30-12-13

Must listen to this!!!

Would you consider the audio edition of The Fall and Rise of China to be better than the print version?

This audio version of The Fall and Rise of China is very interesting and Professor Baum is so excited about his subject matter, he makes it entertaining! His passion transfers to the listener! I will probably listen to it a second time!

What did you like best about this story?

I am around a lot of Chinese people so I wanted to learn about their country so I downloaded this course and I was so surprised at how interesting China's History is and the professor is fabulous! Highly recommended! It was so interesting how he got his material for his Ph.D. dissertation. Amazing story! Listen to find out!

Which scene was your favorite?

Some of the situations that occurred while he was in China were my favorite. He was able to witness history in the making.

15 people found this helpful

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  • D. Millar
  • 30-01-14

Like everybody says. Excellent.

Where does The Fall and Rise of China rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Very high. I am a scholar on the subject and even I find some of the minutia of Chinese Communist history tedious. Yet Richard Baum makes it so compelling that I think even the non-expert will find it enjoying-- all 16 hours of it.

What does Professor Richard Baum bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His personal anecdote about his own role in discovering the split between Mao Zedong and his top lieutenants (Deng Xiaoping and Liu Xiaoqi) was excellent. Also, thank god you have someone who can pronounce Chinese!

14 people found this helpful

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  • shaun
  • 11-01-14

Simply Stunning

If you could sum up The Fall and Rise of China in three words, what would they be?

an amazing gift! this series really opened my eyes to the culture and I couldn't have been more happy!

What other book might you compare The Fall and Rise of China to and why?

a text book, however, the narrator does a fantastic job and is very engaging

11 people found this helpful

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  • Kelly
  • 22-11-13

Gripping!

What made the experience of listening to The Fall and Rise of China the most enjoyable?

This was just great story telling by a true enthusiast and expert.

Any additional comments?

I was sad when it ended.

11 people found this helpful

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  • owen
  • 01-06-15

Masterpiece, just finished it, and starting it again

Richard Baum is incredible. An engaging 40+ hr history audible book is no simple task. Couldn't stop listening. I just moved to China, running a consumer business. Anyone living or working in China should listen to this. Couldn't imagine not having this context. My Chinese customers appreciate my knowledge of Chinese history, and my interest in key historical players and events.

If I had six stars to give I would do it in a heartbeat.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Peter
  • 08-02-14

You dont need a tweed jacket to enjoy these books!

Any additional comments?

I've always enjoyed history. This is my second book of "The Great Courses".
My first one was "The Other Side of History".

The Professor in both cases are contagiously passionate. They are authorities of thier respective fields yet demonstrate natural humility. World class speakers giving exciting lectures meant for anyone interested in history. Not just scholars.

Extremely refreshing audiobooks after listening to so many bestsellers.
I hope Audible continues to expand The Great Courses library.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Raithea
  • 22-07-13

Excellent course on modern Chinese History

This course offers a fairly in depth history lesson for the last century in China. It starts out with a summation of the previous events, ideas and principles that led up to the collapse of the dynastic system. The author provides analysis of the events by referring to other historical references. During the more modern era the author is able to add in his own experiences to give the listener a more personal look at the daily realities of the Chinese today. Though there was less of an analysis on the financial history then I would have hoped for, particularly the financial practices of several groups in modern day China. I will admit this is simply my own preference and likely not a notable deficit for most listeners.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Chris
  • 03-10-15

Fascinating but speedy look at a century of China

Starting in the middle of the 19th Century and finishing in about 2009, this course covers a great deal of history in a relatively short number of hours.

The first third or so of the course deals with the decline and collapse of imperial China, and the civil wars that followed - the founding of the People's Republic and the Republic and the battle for control of mainland China.

Then the story picks up Mao, his rise to power and his eventual domination of the Communist Party in China. The course goes into great detail about Mao's policies and the heartbreaking and horrific effects they sometimes had. The second third of the course centres on Mao and on important events like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution which is absolutely fascinating.

The last piece of the course covers Deng Xiaoping reforms and how China has radically changed since Mao's death. This is the most relevant to understanding modern China and I learnt a great deal from it.

The lecturer is clearly one of the most knowledgable people on the subject in the world, and googling his name confirms this. His lecture style is rather more like telling a story than explaining history, and this does tend towards slight oversimplifications that are not necessarily obvious to a lay audience (like me). However, I believe this course examines the topics in an unbiased and informed way and deserves praise for it.

The one downside to this course is that the lecturer is clearly more interested in the communist history than the imperial history, and so the first third feels extremely rushed. I think the course would've worked better split into two, and giving the fall of imperial China the time it deserves.

Otherwise, this is a fantastic course, and well worth listening to for anyone who isn't already an expert on modern Chinese history.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Kolif
  • 23-08-17

Brilliant lectures from brilliant lecturer

Loved every single lesson. This is better than all other courses in the great courses series

5 people found this helpful

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  • Madhan Raman
  • 30-10-16

Awesome China Story, Probably the best

Great listening, keeps you glued to your device untill you finish. Worth every minute. Now going to search for the authors updated lecture since his finishing of this work in 2008. Loved it.

3 people found this helpful

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  • tarek
  • 24-07-20

Breathtaking performance

True to the serie's name, Richard delivers a great lecture on the history of China interwoven with his personal experience as an American China-Watcher and professor of political studies from the 70s and onwards. It is a heartfelt account that is both critical and admiring of China's complex and tough road to its current status as a global power. Many of my burning question on China's history have been answered.

2 people found this helpful

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  • RG
  • 18-06-19

Excellent thread through recent history

Going from knowing next to nothing about Chinese history, I now I have a base on which to build. I enjoyed this as a series of lectures plus the narrator’s own anecdotes. There’ll always be problems recounting politics and history but this thoroughly enjoyable

2 people found this helpful

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  • Cagri Gurkanli
  • 16-06-20

Excellent Insight into Modern China

There is hardly anything negative about the lectures. Baum's personal testimonies are great bonuses as invaluable insider information which are still academically filtered. If you want to have an introduction to understanding China, this is what you want to listen to.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Eder Souza
  • 03-06-20

Great book

Perhaps it is too long?, but the narrator does great job.
Very good points in our history.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kris GOODMAN
  • 19-05-20

China curious? THE best place to start

A huge undertaking, these lectures deliver. Factual, concise and fascinating. Great narration by a pro.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ivan
  • 20-03-20

Superlative crash course

I went from total ignorance on the topic to be able to talk intelligently on the subject of 20th century Chinese history. Compelling, fascinating and inspiring.

1 person found this helpful

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  • J. Jong
  • 05-12-20

Very difficult to fault as an intro to modern China

Prof Baum’s Mandarin is variable and his politics rather to my right, but this is (a) the best delivered GC+ series I’ve heard after more than a dozen by now, (b) analytical and critical enough to be engaging, and (c) not so much as to be propagandistic. Easily the best introduction to modern China I’ve encountered.

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  • Alex
  • 24-04-19

Absolutely fantastic! 9.9 out of ten! Would have been a 10/10 if it was updated to include the last 10 years.

Great series! I listened before and during a 4 month China work trip. Easy to listen too and very informative! I could not get enough!

But only downside is it ends almost a decade ago, so you miss the last ten years of China’s history and such a huge amount of things have happened in that time.

3 people found this helpful

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  • mrs
  • 16-09-19

Great introduction to modern Chinese history

This is a great introduction to modern Chinese history well told by a very knowledgeable academic. The only sticking point is the number of personal anecdotes interjected into the lectures. Although they did give you an insight into what China would have been like on the street during historical moments they were delivered with a generous serve of self-indulgence a lot of the time.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ronald McCoy
  • 20-01-19

Accessible overview of modern Chinese history

Richard Baum. presents his personal viewpoint of modern Chinese history in an accessible and gripping overview of the often turbulent times of this amazing country that has risen from an oppressed state to a modern superpower. Peppered with his own personal, eyewitness accounts, this history provides a firm framework and is a perfect first jumping point for people wanting to learn about the history of China. In easily digestible times, Professor Baum takes the listener on an epic journey from colonial influences, through revolutions and the march to modern China. Note, that the history finishes just after the Beijing Olympics, and much has happened in China since, that time. However, modern events are now much more comprehensible to me after completing this enthralling overview of this great nation.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • michael marchal
  • 08-12-20

well great book

I like the historical recount, but I am confuse on how the narrator make the Chinese the enemy, while westerners was in China without invitations in the first place.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 17-09-20

Objective step by step of china's rise

Other great courses muck around with themes etc, this just gives the facts in and us very engaging. Would have given 5 if it was updates to include last 10 years

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 24-02-21

I now understand China!

Absolutely fabulous yarn. Richard speaks passionately about China for almost 24hrs. In this time he manages to blow away the fog of confusion and mystery that shrouds China today, yesterday and well into the past few hundred years. Thankyou for putting together such an enjoyable lecture.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-12-20

Informative and listenable

Great reference material put together progressively and easy listening An update to 2020 would be excellent

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  • A. James
  • 12-12-20

Excellent and insightful course

Whilst long, this course thoroughly and objectively charts Chinese history in the modern era. And sheds light on the forces and history that has made contemporary China what it is today. I’ve been sad to learn that Dr Baum has passed away as I would love to hear his take on where China and International Relations have moved since this was recorded.

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  • Rustin Selvey
  • 12-09-20

I know China better after reading this

An insightful deep dive into Chinese history. Focus is 1930-2009. No recent updates. Fascinating story from world leading expert. Sometime felt lost in detail without clear summaries.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-09-20

I'm a time traveler from the year 2020!


I'm a time traveler from the year 2020!

Sorry to say but a more "democratic" and "pluralistic" China is nowhere to be seen and the trains of uighurs and CCP deceit is only just getting srarted!