Modern Chinese Societies - SO709

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
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6 15 (7.5)
Canterbury Spring
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6 15 (7.5) DR Y Zhang







This course will provide students with a well rounded assessment of modern China, with particular emphasis on events since the 1978 Open Door Policy initiated by Deng Xiaoping. The course first introduces students with key sociological concepts related to Chinese traditional society, then move onto major events that form state-society relations in the past three decades. Students are encouraged to connect China’s rise to their own life and think comparatively. The bulk of the course will explore a range of contemporary issues, which includes:

  • One country, two systems and four worlds: Diversity and social gaps in modern China

  • The broken ‘iron rice bowl’: Social mobility and welfare system since 1980s

  • The Me Generation: The rise and individualization of China’s new middle class

  • New social media and the ‘Great Fire Wall’

  • Zao: The making of consumption culture within the World’s factory

  • Bit player or the new powerhouse? China’s struggle with scientific innovations

  • The triumph of paintings: Social protests and the Chinese art scene

  • From ping-pong diplomacy to Linsanity: Sports and modern Chinese identity

  • The greening of China: The social cost of industrialization and grassroots environmental movements

  • The ‘sea turtles’ (overseas-returns) and Chinese diaspora: An alternative imagination of Chineseness

  • ‘All under Heaven’ (Tianxia) reinterpreted : China in a globalized world
  • Details

    This module appears in:

    Contact hours

    1 hour lecture and 1 hour seminar each week


    Available 2016/17

    Method of assessment

    100% coursework (one 2000 word essay (40%), one 2500 word essay (50%) and a group seminar presentation (10%)

    Preliminary reading

    Fei, X (1992) From the Soil: The Foundations of Chinese Society. University of California Press
    Stockman, N (2000) Understanding Chinese Society. Polity Press
    Yan, Y (2009) The Individualization of Chinese Society. BERG
    Zha, J (1996) China Pop: How Soap Operas, Tabloids and Bestsellers are Transforming a Culture. The New Press
    Barr, M (2011) Who’s Afraid of China? Zed Books

    See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

    See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

    Learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

    Understand the key actors, social structures and evolving state-society relations in modern China.

    Develop insight into the domestic and global context which shaped contemporary China’s general social mindsets.

    Comprehend key Chinese sociological concepts and be able to apply different sociological theories in analysing pop cultures, news items, research evidence and official data

    Critically evaluate the assumptions of major sociological theories in relation to contemporary social processes

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