The Rise of China - POLI6580

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2023 to 2024.


A thread running through this module is a belief that to understand today's China we have to know how it has come to the present, as present-day China is a product of its deep imperial past and of its revolutions in the 20th century, the Republican, the Nationalist and the Communist. Before studying the 'rise' of contemporary China, we must therefore understand the decline collapse of imperial China from the mid-19th to the early 20th century. We can perceive the said rise of China as the process of regaining its rightful place in the Western-dominated international system and of mutual accommodation between China and the rest of the world.

The narrative of modern China starts from the late 16th century when China, ruled by the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), was the regional hegemon. The demise of the Sino-centric regional order began in the early 19th century. Since then, Chinese rulers, officials and intellectuals have repeatedly groped for ways to modernise their country to counter mounting pressures from the West. Seen in this perspective, this module will be primarily focused on how China adapted itself to the modernising West in order to be accepted as a full and respected member of the international society while preserving its own non-Western identity. With this, you should be able to understand towards the end of this module why China now values the respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity and the right of all nations to freely choose their own paths to development. Also, for many students of International Relations, China’s entry and integration into the international society since the 1970s has been strikingly non-violent. A secondary focus of this module will be on how China and other key members of the world have been mutually accommodating to each other and whether China’s 'peaceful rise’ can continue.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 128
Total study hours: 150


BA in Politics and International Relations with a Year in the Asia-Pacific

Method of assessment

Essay 3000 words (60%)
Exam, 2 hours (40%)

Reassessment methods: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Reading list (Indicative list, current at time of publication. Reading lists will be published annually)

June Grasso, Jay P. Corrin and Michael Kort, Modernization and Revolution in China, 5th edition (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2018).

Jonathan D. Spence, The Search for Modern China, 3rd edition (New York: W. W. Norton, 2013).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Understand the influence of Western imperialism, China's quest for modernity and international recognition and status on the evolution of China's foreign relations and policy.

2. Understand China's importance as a rising economic and political power and analyse its role in the emerging post-Cold War global order.

3. Understand the challenges both China and the world face when they increase their mutual engagement with each other in the early 21st century.

4. Use the knowledge earned from the study of China to inform comparative political studies.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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