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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)

76 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".

61 people found this helpful

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CCP Lapdog

I've lived in China 10+ years. Like the author, I can speak, read and write Chinese. My wife is Chinese and my children half Chinese. I read the positive reviews and I can only think that most people don't know much about China or the 20th century.

The lectures are extremely biased. Like a good little boy wearing the blue jumpsuit, he refrains from mentioning Tibet, yet boasts how the modern China isn't aggressive. War is peace apparently. He at least recognizes the aggression intended for Taiwan although he claims an American carrier group is a single very small boat. To the listener with a strong knowledge of history, this garbage is all over the book. He mentions everything bad done to China but nothing bad that China does. He loves to minimize the west and play up the east.

He even calls the national Chinese soldiers in ww2 poor troops. They weren't. Chiang wasn't a good general. He would commit his forces piecemeal rather than in force. If you know anything about war you'll know this is bad as the enemy will be able to concentrate his entire force against parts of yours. Anyway, this was a sad line to hear anyone say as I thought they fought bravely.

His information about the Korean War, especially the causes of war and Mao and Stalin's role in it, are wrong as what he says is directly contradicted by the documents declassified by the kgb in the 90s. He even contradicts common knowledge. Mao agreed to actively fight the UN in North Korea if the invasion failed. It's like the professor was educated in China and told the twisted history people learn here: the USA is at fault for everything and China did nothing. War is peace remember.

His forecast for the future has been wrong as China devalued its currency yet again (he forecasts China stopping this). Pirating hasn't ceased. I live here, I know. Pollution isn't going down. Don't believe what you read in the paper. One thing most people don't realize is that over here, not just in China, but all over Asia simply lying about something is common because it saves face.

He cites a modern case where the USA and Saudi searched a Chinese boat traveling from North Korea to Iran and didn't find any weapons as a bad thing. Chinese boats keep the government trash of North Korea happy with luxuries and other things the UN has banned. Furthermore Iran and North Korea do do business in weapons. Actually, North Korea would have collapsed long ago if it didn't border China. The professor banks on your ignorance to make his arguments as any boat going from North Korea to Iran should be searched. I wouldn't be surprised if it was a decoy set up to create a situation for people like Baum to tell us about. Stuff like this is everywhere in the series.

Worst of all is the whole 3 or 4 sentences he says about Falun Gong. research this yourself and compare it to what he says. I'm in China so I'm going to not talk about this here. I don't understand how someone can put their career, as Baum is clearly doing here, before human rights.

He talks of China as if things are improving. It's not. if you think the USA is racist, try living in China. If you think the law isn't fair and applied to all equally in the USA, try living in China. If you think the USA is corrupt, come here. While we try to stamp these thing out, nothing here is done about them. What you read in the news is for show.

I found most of this series disgusting. I suppose if you don't know better, it might give you hope; however it is false hope. I don't have hope. I've watched things get worse here. I'm not sure the Mao and the cpp actually made China worse, and I obviously hope things do get better as I'm stuck here, but these lectures bothered me.

He is a good speaker and the story he tells is interesting, just don't get sucked into believing there isn't another side to the stories he's telling you. Don't get fooled by his jokes and disdain for Mao either as Mao isn't treated like a god here; it's understood he made mistakes and kind of lost his mind later in life. If you're trying to learn the history of China and the 20th century, fact check everything you hear. I'm relieved he resigned from the (hopefully) president cliton's Asia advisory team.




42 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.

32 people found this helpful

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Style Over Clarity

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

This is slightly worse than a middle of the road audio lecture. First let me say that you can absolutely tell that the Professor is intelligent, supremely knowledgeable in his highly interesting field of study, and he's put a great deal of effort into the content of his script.

So why is it a two-star-mediocre audio lecture? Because listening to this lecture is like listening to an academic paper the Professor wrote and then edited to come off more "interesting" to a lay-audience.

See if there is anything strange about this sentence: This audio lecture course employs a copious and wide-range of flowery verbiage--in the form of colorful adverbs, adjectives, verbs, and nouns--selected and sewn together with aplomb, but which ultimately tend to obfuscate the lecturer's underlying thesis from even the most attentive of listeners. Do you like sentences like that? If so and you can bare 20 hours of them being read out loud, maybe you won't mind this course. But in my personal experience as an attorney, I know that there is a big difference between effective academic writing and effective oral story telling. You can't shoehorn a written essay, even one written for a lay audience, into an oral lecture and expect it to be excellent. This is particularly true when all of the key persons and places to the story are in another language--Chinese. That tactics used to make writing colorful and interesting (varying sentence structure, diverse use of adjectives, verbs, and nouns, alliteration) often don't translate well to a good, and more importantly CLEAR, lecture. The language is stilted and the author comes off as trying to hard to make the lecture interesting through the use of interesting language, similes, metaphors, and Chinese translations. But these things tend to get in the way of what is really interesting--the facts. Often, though not always, the core facts of each chapter need to be untangled from the lecturer's presentation.

Here's an example that took me two minutes of listening to a random section to pull (around the 25-minute mark of Chapter 2):

"This remarkable imperial edict with its veiled threat, written shortly before the close of the 18th century, at a time when Chinese imperial potency was already beginning to fray around the edges, was in many ways emblematic of Chinese famous 'middle kingdom complex' a constellation of attitudes marked by extreme cultural self-satisfaction, economic insularity, military complacency, and above all, a xenophobic contempt for all things barbarian i.e. foreign--the two terms were used virtually interchangeably in late imperial China."

I understand every word in the above sentence. I understand every idea in it too. And while it's a fine sentence for an academic essay, it's a tedious sentence. And it's an awful sentence for a lecture because, when surrounded with a bunch of other overly long and complex sentences, ideas, names, locations, it induces extreme listening fatigue. Imagine trying to keep up with that sentence and, on top of it, figure out all of the jargon that this lecture on Chinese history necessarily brings. It doesn't let up and its clearly a product of the author not boiling his content down enough.

I'd stay away from this one unless you really are looking to burn your audible credits.

24 people found this helpful

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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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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!

17 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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  • 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.

20 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

7 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.

5 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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Tom Pilgrim
  • 09-24-21

Who knew history could be so gripping?

Fascinating series of lectures by a hugely knowledgable and insightful expert. I appreciated the peppering of personal anecdotes throughout. It was also clear that Baum is a Mandarin speaker - pronunciation of Chinese words was flawless.

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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Kris
  • 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.

2 people 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.

2 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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  • 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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  • 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.

4 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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  • Guy
  • 12-09-21

Compelling educative and insiteive.

Should be compulsory reading for those like me largely unaware of the tribulations faced by the people and decision makers of China. It is a shame that public opinion is not shaped by people like Richard Baum rather than politicians and news services.

1 person 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
  • 09-22-22

Colourful history

Such colourful history and interesting characters and ideas. Unlike some other reviewers, I quite enjoyed the author's personal anecdotes during his time in China. It makes one feel like they are on the ground witnessing the events as they unfolded.
The recounting was more balanced and nuanced than I would have expected.
Well done.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-20-22

History vs Media Hype

An unbiased step by step walk through history to just learn, understand with the aim of sharing knowledge. A clear and easy listening lecture voice. loved it, learned a lot and provided me a better understanding of this country, its politics and people.

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  • Andrew Ko
  • 06-16-22

Fascinating history

I felt the history was fairly balanced pointing out the negatives and positives of what China has achieved. The only negative feedback about this audiobook is the presenter sometimes spoke about his personal experiences in China which I'm not sure is that impactful in the grand scheme of Chinese history

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-10-22

very detailed

essential listing if you want to understand the world today especially the Asia pacific