Political Economy of China

Subject to change


(1) Course description

This course provides a political economy perspective on the rapidly changing economy and society in contemporary China. The course will focus on the discussion how political, economic and social forces shape “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Students who elect this course are assumed to have basic knowledge of China and Chinese.


(2) Objectives

The ultimate objectives of this course are:

  • to enhance students’ intellectual knowledge about China from a political economy perspective;
  • to improve students’ ability to think about China’s complex development more comprehensively and critically; and
  • to enable students to integrate what they have learned from this course into other China-related courses in their own discipline of study.


(3) Learning outcomes

After completing the course, students should

  • be able to explore controversial concepts and issues that are important for understanding socialism with Chinese characteristics;
  • be knowledgeable about the relationships between various development patterns and systemic features in both pre-reform and reform periods; and
  • be able to understand China’s development beyond what is presented in the mass media.


(4) Main text

  • The World Bank and the Development Research Center of the State Council, China 2030: building a modern, harmonious, and creative society, Part I: Overview (pp.3-73).


(5) Background readings

  • Janos Kornai (1992). The socialist system: the political economy of communism. Princeton University Press, chapter 15 (pp.360-379) and chapter 24 (pp.565-580).
  • Terry Cannon and Alan Jenkins (eds.) (1990). The geography of contemporary China: the impact of Deng Xiaoping’s decade. Routledge, chapters 3-4 (pp.61-101).
  • Barry Naughton (1996). Growing out of the plan: Chinese economic reform 1978-1993. Cambridge University Press, introduction and chapter 1 (pp.26-55).
  • John R. Logan (ed.) (2002). The new Chinese city: globalization and market reform. Blackwell Publisher, pp.3-21.


(6) Assessment scheme

Your final grades are determined by the total accumulative points of the following assignments. Students from different programs are assessed based on the same criteria.

Class participation 10%

Group projects 25%

Group presentation   20%

Group powerpoint and brief synopses 5%

Individual research proposal 25%

Take-home final 40%

Total   100%


Class participation

  • Class attendance is a component of your final grade. Absence from class will likely affect academic performance.
  • Any excused absence must be requested with valid reasons.
  • For both excused and unexcused absences, the student is required to inform the course instructor or TA.
  • Even though a student’s absence is excused from class, he/she is not normally excused the associated class work.


Group projects and requirements

A). Group projects are a significant part of learning activities in this course. The main purpose of group projects is to facilitate learning by doing research and by exchanging views among students. Students will be organized into several groups. Each group will consist of 3 or 4 members. Each group will be assigned a topic under the given theme. Each group is required to give ONE presentation in class, and submit ONE presentation powerpoint and brief synopses in a soft copy to the course TA via email before the time of presentation (9:00, 5 December 2014).

B). Each presentation will have 15 minutes in maximum, followed by 5 minutes Q & A. Students are encouraged for active discussion. For the benefit of all participants, the presenters are encouraged to provide brief synopses of the topic (including references) in writing to the students.

C). The presentations should deal with following issues and have following components. Presentations are basically in a review manner.

  • Presenting and interpreting key concepts that are highly related to the topic;
  • Highlighting defining features of the topic;
  • Reviewing influential works on the topic, such as their major arguments; and
  • Underlining your insights and understudied areas of the topic, if any.


Research proposal and requirements

A). Each student needs to write one research proposal (2,000 to 3,000 words). Students have freedom to choose their own interested topics under a broad theme of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”.

B). I intend the individual research proposal to, in addition to issues of practicalities

  • Be structured around enquiring a central question designed to stimulate academic interest and curiosity
  • Specify research objectives and rationale
  • Make a clear hypothesis that the particular insight could be developed to the topic in question by an appropriate perspective
  • Engage with a critical review of influential studies and identify research gaps
  • Elaborate the workable methodology
  • Anticipate the possible implications

To learn more about how to write a research proposal, you can consult the website: http://researchproposalguide.com 

The submission (in Microsoft word format) should be sent to the course TA. Late submission is subject to grade deduction by 20% of the total grade of the research proposal per day.



There is a take-home final exam in the end of the semester. The final consists of 2 short questions (selected from several questions) and 1 long analytical question (selected from several questions). The questions will be emailed to students in advance. The questions will be closely related to all lecture and project topics. The questions of the final emphasize depth of understanding and analytical ability. The review sheet will be available in the due course. Each student should submit her/his individual answers (in Microsoft word format) to the course TA through email. Late submission is subject to grade deduction by 20% of the total grade of the final exam per day.


Academic honesty

Students are advised to pay attention to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to reaches of such policy.

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