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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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

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

What listeners say about The Fall and Rise of China

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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)

72 people found this helpful

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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.

31 people found this helpful

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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".

60 people found this helpful

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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!

16 people found this helpful

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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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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.

12 people found this helpful

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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.

11 people found this helpful

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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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I blame the Gang of Four for my ingorance on China

It was not my fault; the Gang of Four poisoned my mind as I held up five fingers with the implication being that Mao was at fault too. I think I’ll blame them too for me not having had known anything about China history since 1750 including how creepy the British were with their Boxer Rebellion and foisting opium on to the Chinese masses in order to enrich the coffers of the British, or for have not knowing what Maoism meant and how cults can lead to a ‘cultural revolution’, starvation and mass murder.

You ever notice that no matter where you are in the world ‘the last refuge of a scoundrel is patriotism’, and when Samuel Johnson said that he surely meant exclusive patriotism the kind of patriotism that morphs into Nationalism. The lecturer points out that the heroes of Tiananmen Square were called unpatriotic by the authoritarian oligarchy who was ruling over China at the time. No matter where or when we are in space or time scoundrels appeal to patriotism in order to justify their privileges and enslavement of the other. The powerful and the privileged love to justify their status and the status quo by demeaning others not like them by calling them unpatriotic, and in the case of Tiananmen Square it’s clear who the real heroes were and who were the scoundrels.

The lecturer made a point of how important it is to have good leadership at the top and what a difference a judicious decision can make. As the lecturer stated, an American ambassador was approached by a Russian ambassador in 1968 and wanted to know what the US would do if they ‘took out’ the Chinese Nuclear armament sites. Wisely President Nixon let it be known in no uncertain terms that would not be tolerated. The lecturer makes the point how different history could have been if somebody else had been in charge; I don’t know maybe if the president in those days had been someone who believed absurd statements such as ‘climate change is a Chinese hoax’ just maybe the world would have been a whole lot worse than it is today.

Instead of blaming the Gang of Four for my own ignorance I could have just listened to this highly informative lecture series on China.

8 people found this helpful

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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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  • Chris
  • 10-03-15

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
  • 08-23-17

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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  • Karolina
  • 07-24-20

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Madhan Raman
  • 10-30-16

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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  • RG
  • 06-18-19

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
  • 06-16-20

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
  • 06-03-20

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
  • 05-19-20

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
  • 03-20-20

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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  • Malcolm Anthony
  • 11-29-21

Excellent introduction modern Chinese history

Richard Baum is an entertaining, engaging and knowledgeable guide through the development of modern China.
This course provides a clear linear narrative of recent Chinese history. It is presented, with humour and charm by a man who would be a great dinner guest.

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  • Alex
  • 04-24-19

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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  • Ronald McCoy
  • 01-20-19

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • mrs
  • 09-16-19

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

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
  • 09-17-20

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
  • 11-28-21

Entertaining Speaker But Quite Biased

Not great. Basically provides a shallow summary of China over past 200 years, which you can already get from scrolling through Wikipedia. When he does go into analysis, he shows clear signs of bias too. For instance, his portrayal of the empress dowager Cixi as a fanatical opponent of reform is not particularly accurate. Some recent historiography has disputed this traditional portrayal of her and I at least would've liked to see him engage with different historical viewpoints on her. He is also quite pro-Mao in many respects (particularly in Maos early rise to power) and I also would've liked to see other viewpoints on Mao, not just the likely biased view of this author.

He often fails to mention sources that contradict his analysis or viewpoint. For example, in one of the earlier episodes he mentions how a British ambassador refused to kowtow to the emperor, but doesn't mention the different source from the Chinese court that claims the ambassador did in fact kowtow to the emperor and was respectful. I don't know which is true, but i would've liked to see more neutrality with sources.

Finally, being made in 2010 i think, many of his predictions of China have since become outdated or were proven wrong in the subsequent decade. He is an entertaining speaker, but not a great historian in my view. Wouldn't recommend.

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  • PJ
  • 11-16-21

brilliant

great overview. entertaining vignettes, and broad brush trends. very well delivered, something for everyone. The author draws upon his extensive experience in country

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  • Heidi
  • 09-23-21

Informative and interesting

The ancient history beginning of this series I struggled with, as it appeared to be a series of facts without insight.
However, from Mao’s trajectory, the whole narrative becomes extremely interesting and much more complex. The story telling us a good and detailed from this time, and follows the theme of individual events/personalities so that you get mini conclusions before he goes back and expounds on a new theme.
If deciding between this and the Economic History of the World, I’d choose the latter, but that may only be because I preferred the style of story telling. And, to be perfectly honest, the information is so unfamiliar to me and all of it was new, and perhaps I struggled to orient myself.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-09-21

Unrivalled insight

Richard Baum presents a thoroughly engaging and enlightening overview of the past handful of centuries of China in a manner that engages and challenges the listener. His historical accuracy and passion for telling the smaller stories of history paint a beautiful picture of China’s history. Baum has a unique way of recounting history in such a way that it feels like a story. His personal academic career, and first hand experiences of some of the events described in the second half of the course provide a legitimacy that commands your attention. It is evident that this China Watcher loves the topic on which he speaks and that enthusiasm comes across in every lecture.

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  • Trevor W.
  • 09-08-21

Lecture series

Better than any book

Logical detailed but big picture geo political history which is compelling listening