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The University of Southampton

UOSM2018 Understanding Modern China

Module Overview

After 30years of breakneck economic development, China is now the 2nd largest economy in the world and is predicted to catch up with the United States within 10 years. Is China's growth sustainable? What has been the impact of economic growth on Chinese society? What are China's foreign policy objectives? This module will introduce you to key aspects of Chinese economy, culture and society and provide opportunities for exploring and analysing contemporary issues including those arising from China's ascendancy as a world power.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • key issues and events pertaining to the economic, social and political evolution of China from an interdisciplinary perspective
  • different strands of theories and analytical frameworks used to analyse pertinent issues
  • policy challenges faced by contemporary China
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • demonstrate analytical thinking skills through the interpretation of evidence, identification and evaluation of points of view, and the formulation of warranted, non-fallacious conclusions
  • demonstrate that you can communicate effectively orally and in written forms


The PRC is currently the world’s second largest economy, represents about one quarter of the world’s population, and is a nuclear power with a huge military establishment. This course is designed to examine contemporary China since 1949 from an interdisciplinary perspective, focusing on four themes, namely, economy, society, politics and international relations. The syllabus will outline the key units of the module, the objectives of the course and learning outcomes, reading materials for each of the units, media and electronic resources, teaching and learning methods, methods of assessment, as well as feedback to students and feedback from students. The proposed structure of the module is as follows: 1. Introduction 2. Chinese economy, pre-1978 3. Chinese economy during the reform era 4. Chinese political thoughts in the 20th century 5. The Chinese Communist Party 6. Media 7. Migration 8. Demography 9. Ethnic relations 10. Human rights 11. The rise of China in global perspective 12. Sino-US relations.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The principal teaching methods will include a weekly two-hour lecture that involves the effective use of multi-media materials (such as documentaries) and encourages student in-class participation through debates and role plays. The learning methods will include: • Critical reading of assigned texts; • In-class debates; • Written assignments.

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Rana Mitter (2008). Modern China: A Very Short Introduction. 

Barry Naughton (2007). The Chinese Economy: transitions and growth. 

Tony Saich (2011). Governance and Politics of China. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessment will be comprised of two assignments using different methods. During the first part of the semester students will be required to write a 1500 word essay on a given topic related to one of the areas of study covered in weeks 1-5. The second assignment covering a choice of topics scheduled from week 6 onwards will require students to write a 1500 word Policy Brief. This assignment will be provide an opportunity for the exercise of analytical skills on an evidence base to create convincing arguments which could influence policy making Referral for the module is by way of 2500 word essay


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 50%
Policy brief  ( words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s)  (2500 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase reading texts as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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