Department or Program

Asian Studies


The death of Chairman Mao and the demise of the Gang of Four shortly after in September and October of 1976 led to political chaos in modern China. Not only did Mao Zedong’s death mark the end of the Cultural Revolution, it also marked the beginning of a new era of economic, political, and social modernization in China, making it possible for China to open its borders to outside influence. In 1977, as Deng Xiaoping returned to office, all traces of the educational system created during the Cultural Revolution, particularly higher education, were discarded and replaced with policies and systems aimed towards the development China’s new challenge of agricultural, industrial, technological, and national modernization (also known as the “four modernizations”). The new desire for modernization was clearly stated in the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party in 1978. Though not explicitly listed, Chinese higher education was part of the plan for modernization and was considered a key element in the development of China. Since 1978, Chinese higher education has undergone extensive reforms and improvements including a return to rigorous college entrance exams, an increase in the number of higher education institutions, and the redevelopment of school curriculum. These reforms signified the, “beginning of an overhaul,” of China’s educational system. In other words, China performed an exhaustive reevaluation of the Chinese education system, with particular focus on higher education. Not only did this reassessment of the education system affect higher education as a whole, it also directly impacted China’s relationships with other countries and its subsequent economic development. The purpose of this thesis is to analyze the reform of higher education in China from 1912-1989 through the use of primary and secondary source materials published in both the People’s Republic of China and the United States.In order to accomplish the purpose of my thesis, I intend to research several different questions. What is the historical context of this reform? What were the specific aspects of higher education that was targeted during the reform? How and why did political, economic, cultural, and social forces influence higher educational reform?

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Faries, Nathan

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file


Available to Bates community via local IP address or Bates login.