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The Fall and Rise of China

Narrated by: Richard Baum
Length: 24 hrs and 8 mins
Categories: History, Ancient
4.5 out of 5 stars (2,105 ratings)

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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

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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)

47 of 47 people found this review 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.

21 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Kirk
  • SAN ANTONIO, TX, United States
  • 12-30-13

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.

14 of 14 people found this review 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".

23 of 24 people found this review 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!

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • shaun
  • SAN TAN VALLEY, AZ, United States
  • 01-11-14

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

9 of 9 people found this review 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.

9 of 9 people found this review 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.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter
  • Prince George, BC, Canada
  • 02-08-14

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.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Raithea
  • Lewiston, NY USA
  • 07-22-13

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.

16 of 18 people found this review 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.

13 of 15 people found this review 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

3 of 3 people found this review 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

1 of 1 people found this review 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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Palindrome Mordnilap
  • 07-31-19

Outstanding, compelling lecture series

This is one of the best lecture series I have ever listened to. It is incredibly informative, very easy to listen to and utterly compelling. Professor Baum is a really engaging lecturer who clearly has a love for his subject matter. Far from the dry and overly academic delivery one might expect from a lecture series, this is in fact a set of exciting, educational and entertaining installments, each focused on a particular episode or period of Chinese history. Professor Baum is the perfect guide, as he not only knows the material well, but has also lived it and peppers his lectures with excellent anecdotes, as well as good humour and reflective observations all his own. I thoroughly enjoyed this series and would highly recommend it.

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  • Jonathan Baldie
  • 07-07-19

Best history of Mao’s China

It was a real shame to find out that Richard Baum is no longer with us, because I wanted to find some way to thank him for producing this fascinating history of modern China.

We never learn about the true horrors of socialism in school, but this really shows what can happen with an insecure dictator on top. A sad but absolutely engrossing story. Thank you to everyone involved in making this!

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  • Rafet M.
  • 05-14-19

Simply Captivating

this book covers the modern history of China, undoubtedly it had covered it thoroughly. The authors is an authority on the subject.
Great book and great audio version.

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  • C. D. Hough
  • 04-17-19

very informative

A fascinating insight into the culture and history of China. There is a definite political bias, but it is usually held in check and will not detract from your enjoyment.

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  • Luca Nicotra
  • 03-09-19

Excellent Lecture series

Insightful and well delivered content.

I shows that the author truly knows what he's talking about and has lots of personal experience of China.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-28-19

History of China up to 2009

Very well explained and structured history of China with particular focus on the 20th century, leading up to the present time (2009, when the lecture was recorded). Great to listen to and easy to follow, definitely recommended

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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.

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  • Adrian Carmody
  • 06-04-19

Superb!

Easy to absorb, informative and engaging to the very end. This is a triumph, and I could not recommend it highly enough.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 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.

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  • Heather Kemp
  • 04-07-19

Detailed exceptional historical account

This is an egaging,informative and interesting explanation of how China became the modern super power of the 21st century. Very enjoyable.

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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.

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  • Tomas
  • 10-13-18

Excellent Analysis

If you wanted to learn more about the sleeping giant of China that's starting to wake up in our modern world, the audio lectures in this course provide great detail and insight. A little dated in that it doesn't cover anything post 2009, but does cover a lot of ground leading up to that point. Gives particularly good character and political insight into Chairman Mao, the founder of communism in China.

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  • Alison
  • 10-05-18

engrossing

the best presented Great Courses series I have undertaken. fascinating, enlightening and enjoyable. the presentation was so engrossing I did not want to stop listening. presented in a TV episode story style rather than a lecture plus the material presented was fascinating, so listening for long periods easy.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-02-18

Excellent

Detailed and interesting book for history lovers.
It gives a good Chinese history perspective for westerners.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-13-18

Wonderful! I learnt so much!

I really enjoyed this history. It was engagingly told and full of detail that really provided a 'picture' of China's history of the past few decades.

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  • steve
  • 03-22-18

Good broad overview of Chinese history

Nice lecture series, engaging and easy to listen to with an emphasis on the politics of the communist era. I think it's a good place to start for someone who doesn't know much about China.