Course Outline


This course aims to provide the students with a comprehensive introduction to contemporary China from political, social, and cultural perspectives. China’s socio-political trajectory over the 20th Century, especially during the Republican, Maoist, and early-Reform eras, will be first discussed to provide a historical context, before the students are introduced to a range of topics pertaining to China today, including rural-urban divide, domestic migration, work and employment, education, ethnic politics, religion, civil society and so forth. Documentary videos will be used throughout the course to make for a lively learning experience, and students will form small groups to make short in-class presentations about specific topics of their choosing.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, the students

  • should have obtained a broad-brush understanding of the contemporary Chinese society;
  • should have clearer ideas about some of the most important social and political events in recent history that shaped today’s China;
  • should have gained greater insights into one particular aspect of the Chinese society or a specific contemporary social phenomenon/problem through carrying out a small group presentation project; and
  • should be able to articulate their knowledge, insights, and analyses in writing of a reasonable standard.


The course consists of 11 weekly 3-hour lecture sessions. Active class participation is required.

Course grades will be calculated based on three components:

1. Class participation (10%)

During most sessions, students will be asked to answer simple questions related to their learning activities (readings, documentary viewing, lecture materials etc.) using the clicker. Students’ class participation credit will be calculated based on their clicker records over the span of the entire course. (In this context, whether those questions were answered correctly or not does not matter.)

2. Group Presentation (20%)

Students are asked to form groups of 4 or 5 persons with their classmates and make 20-minute in-class presentations on specific topics about contemporary China. One or more members of the group may make the oral presentation, but all members of the group will get the same grade. The presentation grade is to be based entirely on peer evaluation. The presentations will start on the week after Chinese Yew Year.

A list of suggested presentation topics has been provided for the students to choose from. Any particular topic may not be used by more than two groups, but it is strongly encouraged that each group picks a different topic. Students are very welcome to propose their own topics, subject to the course coordinator’s approval. The course coordinator will be ready to offer advice and reading recommendations regarding students’ chosen presentation topic; in fact, students are encouraged to seek such advice.

3. Final Exam (70%)
The final exam will be a 2-hour closed-book paper (27 Apr 15).

  • There is usually one piece of background reading per week. The background reading is basic and compulsory, and students should have completed reading it before coming to the relevant session.
  • Students are encouraged to read more widely, but this is not compulsory. Examinable materials will be incorporated into the lecture slides/notes.


CLASS SCHEDULE (subject to change)

Week 1 (16 Jan) Course Introduction
Week 2 (23 Jan) Background (1): China in the early half of the 20th Century
Week 3 (30 Jan) Background (2): China under Mao
Week 4 (6 Feb) China enters the reform era
Week 5 (13 Feb) China’s “rural problems”; hukou and danwei systems, etc.
Week 6 (20 Feb) Public Holiday: Chinese New Year
Week 7 (27 Feb) Ethnicities; presentation: A2
Week 8 (6 Mar) RECESS
Week 9 (13 Mar) Religions and religiosity; Presentations: A3, B9, B10,
Week 10 (20 Mar) Civil society and NGOs; Presentations: B2, B4
Week 11 (27 Mar) Education; Presentations: A8, B5
Week 12 (3 Apr) Public Holiday: Good Friday
Week 13 (10 Apr) China since Xi Jinping took leadership…; Presentations: A11, A6
Week 14 (17 Apr) Conclusion: remaining student presentations: B7, B8, A5; and collective consultation session