CANCELLED - Sociological perspectives on contemporary China

Course content

China’s economic rise is reshaping the international arena with few counties in the world unaffected by this reality. Constructive engagement and a clear understanding of the changing world order requires a deeper understanding of contemporary Chinese society. As such, this course uses a sociological lens and provides a survey of contemporary Chinese society.

There are three main goals of the course. First, it will provide students with a nuanced understanding of Chinese society.  The second goal is that students will learn about relevant sociological theory and see how it lends insight into aspects of Chinese society. The third goal is to use sociological theory and insights to delve into current debates in Chinese society. For example, we will explore demographic trends such as the aging population, declining birth rates, and if, or how, ending the “one-child” policy will effect these trends. Other substantive topics covered include the Chinese economy and reform, social inequality, civil society and social movements, gender and sexuality


Elective course

Course package (MSc 2015):

Knowledge, organisation and politics



Learning outcome


  1. Students should be able to explain different aspects of contemporary Chinese society in a way that moves beyond simplification to capture the nuances of the reality.
  2. Students should be able to identify some of the most relevant sociological theory used to understand different aspects of contemporary Chinese society.




  1. Students should be able to theorize the different aspects of Chinese society.
  2. Students should be able to identify, reflect on and contribute to current debates on the subject area using scholarly insights.
  3. Student should be able to summarize and communicate complex sociological debates clearly.



Students should be able to add informed comments and new insights into debates about some aspect of Chinese society (e.g. “leftover women” or the role of civil society in maintaining social order in the Chinese context).

  1. Students should be able to identify which theories have developed out of the Western developmental experience, as compared to subaltern or indigenous theories, and they should be able to evaluate and compare strengths and weaknesses of the different theoretical orientations.

This class will be set up as a seminar with each topic covered by a lecture coupled with a student-led disucssion. When possible, this format will be supplemented with the use of guest lectures, authors, digital sources and other relevant media.

Selections from these, and other, books/articles will be included in the course:

Bian, Yanjie. 2002. “Chinese Social Stratification and Social Mobility.” Annual Review of Sociology 28 (1): 91–116.

Fei, Hsiao-tʻung, Xiaotong Fei, Gary G Hamilton, and Wang Zheng. 1992. From the Soil: The Foundations of Chinese Society. Univ of California Press.

Fincher, Leta Hong. 2016. Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China. Zed Books Ltd.

Gaetano, Arianne M, and Tamara Jacka. 2004. On the Move: Women and Rural-to-Urban Migration in Contemporary China. Columbia University Press.

Hung, Ho-fung. 2009. China and the Transformation of Global Capitalism. JHU Press.

Jacka, Tamara, Andrew B Kipnis, and Sally Sargeson. 2013. Contemporary China: Society and Social Change. Cambridge University Press.

Lee, Ching Kwan. 2007. Against the Law: Labor Protests in China’s Rustbelt and Sunbelt. Univ of California Press.

———. 2017. “The Spectre of Global China: Politics, Labor, and Foreign Investment in Africa.”

Lieberthal, Kenneth. 1995. Governing China: From Revolution through Reform. WW Norton.

Naughton, Barry J. 2006. The Chinese Economy: Transitions and Growth. MIT press.

Xie, Yu, and Yongai Jin. 2015. “Household Wealth in China.” Chinese Sociological Review 47 (3): 203–29.

Xie, Yu, and Xiang Zhou. 2014. “Income Inequality in Today’s China.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (19): 6928–33.

An interest in China is an important prerequisite for the course.

Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

The student-led discussion allows for peer-feedback and create space to connect to the lecture.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free written take-home essays are assignments for which students define and formulate a problem within the parameters of the course and based on an individual exam syllabus. The free written take-home essay must be no longer than 10 pages. For group assignments, an extra 5 pages is added per additional student. Further details for this exam form can be found in the Curriculum and in the General Guide to Examinations at KUnet.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Please see learning outcome

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Exam
  • 60
  • Preparation
  • 118
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • English
  • 206