This companion document to the Issue in Focus provides educators with guidance to incorporate the content into classroom teaching. This component is geared towards grade 6-12 teachers, with connections across subjects and disciplines.
Contents of this Classroom Companion include:
- Student Readings
- Discussion Questions
- Lesson Ideas/Curriculum
- Additional Resources
- National Standards
Below are some links to articles and reports at various reading levels that would be appropriate to use with students to learn more about contemporary issues in China.
"What's Next? The Road Ahead" from National Geographic
"China's Olympic Challenge" from the New York Times Upfront
"China Restricts Bad Habits and Free Speech Ahead of Olympics" from PBS NewsHour Extra
Background information on social and political issues in modern China:
"China Guide" from OneWorld.net
"Returning to China" from PBS NewsHour Extra
Possible Discussion Questions:
- What recent and/or upcoming events taking place in China have focused attention on that country?
- What kind of government does China have? What is the name of the ruling party of China?
- China has been growing and changing rapidly over the last decades. From the article you read, describe some ways in which China has changed.
- Have these changes you just described been positive or negative for the people of China? Why or why not?
- Critics believe that China is not doing enough leading up to the Olympic Games to address human rights and freedoms in China. What issue do you believe is the most important for China to address?
- Evaluate the relationship between the United States and China. What role do you think the US should take in its stance toward China?
- What do you think should be the stance of the international community toward China? For instance, on the question of the environment, should China be held accountable by the international community to improve environmental standards and reduce pollution, even though they are a developing country and in the process of becoming fully industrialized?
In this portion of the guide are selected suggestions for engaging activities and curriculum to teach students about this issue - across the disciplines. In addition, there are links to recommended curriculum units that are available from the web.
- Refer back to the Issue in Focus and select several of the key players described. Make sure students understand a bit about the background of modern China, then assign each of them (or groups of students) to take on the role of one of these key players. Create a simulation of a foreign summit or human rights conference where students, acting with the political interests in mind of the key player they were assigned, work toward resolution on a key issue in modern China, such as the environment.
- Trace the path of Communism in the Soviet Union versus China. How are they alike, and how are they different? Based on what you have studied, do you think the Chinese Communist Party can maintain its control over the country, or will it fall, as in the Soviet Union? Do you think that as the economy continues to grow and people become wealthier, the Chinese will continue to accept a totalitarian government?
- China is a large country with a very diverse physical geography – and could be an interesting study for geography courses. For middle school ancient civilization courses, study the way that rivers were crucial to the rise of early civilizations, and the role of rivers in China today; in high school courses, study the impacts – social, economic, political, and environmental – that the rapid migration from rural to urban areas is having in China. Or look at the vast landscape that makes up China – what challenges does this pose for keeping the country unified under one central government?
- Analyzing U.S. foreign policy toward China and its impacts presents a great opportunity for history and government students to examine foreign policy in action, and even design their own foreign policy proposals for how the U.S. should deal with the rising power and wealth of China. International Relations students could also study foreign policy relationships between China and her neighbors; hold a global summit, with the U.S., China, and China’s neighbors present (Japan, South Korea, India, etc.)
- 2009 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre. Have students investigate Tiananmen Square along with other historical revolts. What were the results, and what changes can or cannot be seen since Tiananmen Square in 1989? How does this compare to other popular protests and revolts?
- One of the main criticisms of modern China is that it does not protect the human rights of its citizens. Have students research human rights (see Key Foundation Documents for a place to start), and then choose a right that they feel is being violated in modern China to investigate. They can present what they find to classmates, or create a video PSA and discuss how to take action on the issue.
- Tibet has been in the news frequently over the years, and in the lead-up to the Olympics. Where is Tibet; what is its history, and what is its connection to China? Who is the Dalai Lama, and what does he propose in order to resolve the situation regarding Tibet? Have students write their own proposals to the Chinese government about how they believe this situation can be resolved.
- Have students in government courses investigate the role of the free press in a society, and then look at the role of media censorship and its effects in China. For those interested, Amnesty International USA has a campaign regarding freedom of the press in the lead-up to the Olympics.
- Recent protests in San Francisco and other cities around the world during the Olympic Torch relay highlight the strong feelings many people have about modern China. Many Westerners are upset at the human rights abuses of the Chinese government, but many Chinese have strong feelings of pride about the progress their country has made as an economic and world power over the last decades. Find readings that show both of these points of view, and analyze them with students. Examine these articles for media bias as well – whose point of view is represented, is there key information missing, who are the sources of information, etc.?
- Use China as a case study for learning about censorship and propaganda. What is the power of words; and why does censorship exist? Why does China’s Communist Party feel the need to control what its citizens read and say – both in the press and on the internet?
- Responding to Literature – there are many fiction and non-fiction works (see some recommended books below) detailing different perspectives on modern and historical China. Have students write literary responses using these texts, as well as analyze the historical context of literature and point of view.
- Creative writing – either in conjunction with the literature being read in class or in connection to reading non-fiction texts about China today, students can step into someone else’s through a creative writing project. Such projects could include writing diary or journal entries from a character’s or historical figure’s point of view, a letter to a noted figure or character, or writing a mock interview with a historical or modern figure.
- Have students research and design travel brochures to showcase China’s vast geography, people and culture.
- Study the environmental impacts of the Three Gorges Dam, which opened in 2006. The construction required flooding large portions of the valley, moving huge numbers of residents to entirely new cities, and changed the course of the Yangtze River, greatly lessening its flow to the sea. Have students track current news for the environmental impact of the dam. They can weigh the pros and cons of the project or hold a classroom debate – providing flood control and electricity to a growing populace versus the environmental (and social and cultural too) impacts of the dam.
- Study the impacts of urbanization on the natural environment of China. How is the rapid influx of people moving into the cities affecting the natural landscape? What health and environmental issues does rapid urbanization cause in cities?
- Desertification is increasing rapidly in China, starting in the North and West but moving toward the coasts, due to both natural causes and human activity. Have students research what causes desertification, what are its impacts on people and the environment. How can further desertification be prevented; and can some of the damage be reversed? Have students create proposals with their recommendations for addressing desertification in China.
- Pollution is a major problem in China, and will be getting much attention with the upcoming Olympics. What is causing this pollution, what impacts is it having on the country and its people, and what can be done to control pollution? Have students track instances of pollution throughout the Olympics. The wind patterns in Beijing are said to be such that pollution from Beijing and other cities affects the city – have students investigate wind patterns and how they affect pollution.
- Use information from the readings to review mathematical concepts. For example, there are about 1.3 billion people living in China, and it is estimated that 40% of the population lives in cities and 60% lives in rural areas – calculate the number of people living in urban and rural areas. Or look at the ratio of men to women in China today – 117 boys born in China to 100 girls. For a population of 1.3 billion, how many more men than women are there in total? You could also use comparative statistics for China and the US to show proportions, or review graphing and charts.
- The Olympics in Beijing in summer 2008 will provide ample opportunity to use numbers and statistics in math classes. Have students track the number of people attending the games, the number of medals won by different countries, the impact of the Olympics on the Chinese economy, number and cost of venues built for the Olympics (and the flip side of that, the number of people displaced to build venues).
- Global population growth provides an excellent, real world example of the exponential growth curve in algebra classes, but how does China compare? How is the One-Child Policy in China affecting its growth curve today? Have students research the estimated population of China through different dynasties and historical time periods, and the population of China today. Refer to this teaching resource from Columbia University for more background info.
- Delve into the mathematical and economic issues surrounding factories and manufacturing in China. Just how much are people earning on average? How does this compare to wages in other countries? Show the documentary China Blue to students, or search for current events articles on the topic to turn up statistical information, or go to www.cleanclothes.org to see the cost breakdown of the average pair of athletic shoes. For more ideas on this type of project, see the excellent reference book, Rethinking Globalization, from Rethinking Schools.
Recommended Curriculum Units:
Choices Program – China on the World Stage: Weighing the U.S. Response
This resource provides background information to familiarize students with changes in China over the last few decades, as well as the history of the U.S. – China relationship, and then asks students to analyze options for what they believe U.S. policy toward China should be.
China From the Inside Lesson Plans
Using clips from PBS’s documentary “China from the Inside,” two lesson plans explore the changing face of China. One focuses on the environment by exploring the impact of Three Gorges Dam while the other examines the complexities of globalization by having students take on roles in a debate on the issues surrounding globalization.
The Road to Beijing
With the coming 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) has developed a set of curricula units that promote a deeper understanding of Chinese culture, history, and contemporary issues.
PBS Wide Angle: Lessons on China’s Economy and Rule of Law
The first of these lessons investigates China’s rapidly growing economy and economic reforms; the second lesson investigates recent changes in the legal system in China, and both utilize film clips from recent PBS Wide Angle documentaries.
The China Project
This website contains an extensive list of lesson plans related to China, though some are beginning to be outdated. See in particular “Representation of Chinese minority Groups in Propaganda Art” and “Has Geography Contributed More to Uniting or Disuniting China?”
This list of resources is provided if you want to find some more specific and nuanced information about the themes presented in this issue of the World Savvy Monitor. These resources comprise additional books, films, web sites, and multimedia resources that can be used in the classroom. All resources are available from Amazon, unless other sources are noted.
Additional books for advanced high schoolers and adults can be found in the Salon Guide.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: A Novel by Dai Sijie
This moving, often wrenching short novel by a writer who was himself re-educated in the ‘70s tells how two young men weather years of banishment, emphasizing the power of literature to free the mind. A feature film has also been made of this novel.
The Diary of Ma Yan by Ma Yan
This is the real diary of Ma Yan, a 13-year-old schoolgirl from the extremely impoverished Ningxi region in northwestern China. Originally written with a ballpoint pen purchased in lieu of two weeks' worth of food, these diaries detail the day-to-day life of a girl determined to get an education despite crippling poverty. This book was first published in Europe, after Ma Yan's mother pressed three notebooks containing the diary into the hands of a visiting foreign journalist. With photographs.
Dragonwings by Laurence Yep
This Newberry Award-winning novel takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area at the turn of the 20th Century. It is the story of a Chinese boy, Moon Shadow (the narrator), who moves to Chinatown to be with his father, Windrider, who is working on a flying machine even as the Wright Brothers are. An historical novel, it depicts not only the lives of and discrimination against San Francisco's Chinese immigrants in the early 1900s, but also the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Many of Laurence Yep’s many other books touch upon similar themes and would be excellent for students.
Forbidden City by William Bell
This novel for teens focuses on the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in China in 1989. The genre is historical fiction, and tells the story of the protests through the eyes of a fictional American high school boy caught in the demonstrations with his father, a photojournalist.
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Set during the reign of the last emperor of China, this 1932 Pulitzer Prize winner tells the story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-lan, allowing readers to appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during the past century.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
This classic novel shows the stories and struggles of Chinese immigrants in America, but through their stories also provide a window into the lives they left behind in China as well.
Red-Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji-li Jiang
Ji-li Jiang was twelve years old in 1966--the year the Cultural Revolution began in China. Red Scarf Girl is her heart-wrenching account of the Revolution--an unforgettable portrait of a young girl torn between her love for both country and family. Memoir is appropriate for middle school and above.
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
Chang chronicles three generations of women in her family living in China during the 20th Century. Her grandmother was a warlord’s concubine, her mother rose to a prominent position in the Communist Party before being denounced during the Cultural Revolution, while Chang herself marched, worked, and breathed for Mao until doubt crept in over the excesses of his policies and purges.
China: A Century of Revolution
This powerful three-disc documentary takes an objective, first-hand look at China's tumultuous 20th century, examining the nation's social, political and cultural upheaval through personal interviews and rare historical footage. Beginning in 1911 with the fall of the last emperor, the program journeys through the decades, following China's growth into one of the world's largest economies.
China from the Inside
This PBS documentary explores China’s people, past and present, in four 60 minute episodes: Power and the People, Women of the Country, Shifting Nature, and Freedom and Justice. The full film is too long for the classroom, but lessons, film clips, and other background information are available from the PBS website.
Shot clandestinely at a blue jeans factory in southern China where 17-year-old Jasmine and her friends work around the clock for pennies a day, China Blue reveals what international retail companies don’t want us to see: how the clothes we buy are actually made. Available at www.teddybearfilms.com
This documentary by award winning director Jennifer Baichwal follows Edward Burtynsky, a large-scale photographer of nature, to China, as he captures the effects of the country’s massive industrial revolution. This film leads us to meditate on human endeavor and its impact on the planet.
China’s Mega Dam
Discovery Channel video about the making of the Three Gorges Dam. Investigates the engineering marvel of the Dam, as well as the social, cultural, and environmental impacts the dam has on the surrounding landscape. Available for viewing online at the Discovery Channel.
The Tank Man
This documentary from PBS Frontline chronicles the story of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989, and what has happened in the struggle for democracy in the years since then by tracing the story of “The Tank Man” – the iconic figure who stood in front of advancing tanks. Buy the film, or watch it online. The website also includes a teacher’s guide with lessons focusing on media and rights.
Voices in Exile
This documentary presents the Tibetan exile community from the Tibetan point of view. The perspective provided from the modern history of Tibet and China reveals a great deal about the nature of China’s future leadership. Available at www.tibetanphotoproject.com.
Websites and Multimedia
BBC website with graphs and charts about several key issues regarding modern China, including geography, the economy, ethnicity, and more. Click on the “Changing China” button at the top to see an additional BBC website with updated news and analysis on China today.
China on the Rise
PBS NewsHour correspondent Paul Solman traveled to China in the summer of 2005 to produce a seven-part series on the Asian nation’s rise as a global economic contender and America’s anxiety that China will overtake the United States as a superpower in the 21st Century. The website includes transcripts, audio, video streaming, as well as links to relevant resources.
China Digital Times
China Digital Times is a collaborative news website covering China’s social and political transition and its emerging role in the world by aggregating up-to-the-minute news and analysis about China from around the Web.
Choking on Growth
This 10-part series of articles and multimedia from the New York Times examines China’s pollution crisis and how it relates to the nation’s rise to economic power.
Stephen Voss Photography
A photo essay of water pollution in China that documents the effects polluted water has had on the land and the people.
Population by Age and Sex, 1950-2050
This animation of China’s population demonstrates the dramatic change in the country’s age structure between 1950 and 2050.
Activities described in this Classroom Companion correspond to the following national standards from McREL (Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning).
World History Standards:
Era 9: The 20th Century Since 1945: Promises and Paradoxes
Understands the rise of the Communist Party in China and factors that influenced political conditions in China after World War II
World History Topics:
Economic Development and Growth
Human and Civil Rights
Migration and Settlement Patterns
Population Explosion and Environmental Degradation
1. Understand and know how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns
2. Understands the historical perspective
2. Knows the location of places, geographic features, and patterns of the environment
12. Understands the patterns of human settlement and their causes
14. Understands how human actions modify the physical environment
15. Understands how physical systems affect human systems
16. Understands the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution and importance of resources
18. Understands global development and environmental issues
1. Gathers and uses information for research purposes
6. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of literary texts
7. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
10. Understands the characteristics and components of the media
Earth and Space Sciences:
1. Understands atmospheric processes and the water cycle
Populations and Ecosystems
Science, Technology, and Society
Water in the Earth System
1. Uses a variety of strategies in the problem-solving process
3. Uses basic and advanced procedures while performing the processes of computation
6. Understands and applies basic and advanced concepts of statistics and data analysis
9. Understands the general nature and uses of mathematics