Fall and Rise of China


Absolutely mind-blowing course on modern Chinese history, with invaluable time and attention spent on the post-Mao PRC. Will instantly level up your understanding of current events in China (especially when paired with the Economist podcast on Xi Jinping, "The Prince.")

Professor Baum's course was my first experiment with using GPT-4 to generate spaced repetition flashcards out of coursework. Because The Fall and Rise of China falls under The Great Courses' ToS, which prohibits any duplications or derivative works, I decided that instead of sharing my auto-generated flashcards for this amazing course, I'd instead do so on the freely available Making of Modern Ukraine.

However, I think it's acceptable to just share one or two at random. Baum's teaching is so vivid and clear, and the Great Courses format so organized, that GPT-4 took to it like a fish in water (which, thanks to these cards, I remember as a metaphor Mao used to describe how the Red Army blended in with the rural peasants in the Chinese Civil War.)

Each lecture transcript and guidebook chapter were fed to a Colab notebook with a chain of GPT-4 prompts and out the other end came a markdown file uploaded into Obsidian and sent to Anki via a community plugin.

The hashtags denote what lecture it is (below, it's lecture 17). I sometimes edit the cards after they're generated but they're mostly as-is from the LLM.

I was especially happy with the source citations, which refer you back to the specific time in the transcript where the claims were made. The handful that I checked all came back accurate--a testament to GPT-4's awesome power.

What was the purpose of Mao Zedong's Hundred Flowers campaign, and how did it lead to the Rectification Movement? #card #FRC #FRC17

  • The Hundred Flowers campaign was designed to encourage intellectuals to express their thoughts and grievances, with the aim of psychologically relieving their burdens and improving their enthusiasm for building socialism
  • The campaign led to mounting criticisms against the Communist Party and Mao himself
  • It's hard to know if Mao planned to root out intellectuals or if the critiques were so widespread and intense that it set him back and made him desire revenge for losing face (Deng Xiaoping, for instance, thought the Hundred Flowers campaign was a bad idea and was proven right)
  • As a result, the summer 1957 anti-rightist Rectification Movement was initiated, enforcing loyalty to the party through harsh crackdowns on intellectuals

SOURCE: 6:12-6:43 "Henceforth, they promised intellectuals would be treated with dignity and respect as valued members of China's socialist community. Thus began China's famous 100 Flowers campaign."

How did the use of dazibao (big-character posters) during the Hundred Flowers movement reflect the changing political climate in China at that time? #card #FRC #FRC17

  • Dazibao, posters with big letters on them, enabled Chinese intellectuals to anonymously express their grievances against the Communist Party, reflecting growing discontent in China
  • As criticisms gained momentum, the Party cracked down on free speech, moving away from the initial encouragement of open expression, and contributing to the Rectification Movement

SOURCE: 9:00-9:17 "At around the same time, a new form of political expression called dots-ball or big character posters made its debut on billboards and walls on Beijing's college and university campuses."