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Centre for Financial and Management Studies (CeFiMS)

The Economy of China

Unit value:


You will gain an extensive knowledge of a wide range of economic and social issues concerning the contemporary business environment in China. Topics include population, migration and labour; rural development; agriculture and food security; energy needs; the environment; living standards; and cross-strait trade relations with Taiwan. It will also examine China’s future growth trajectory.

This module will be available to study in 2013. More information on the content of this module will appear shortly.


Study Guide

You will receive a looseleaf binder containing eight units. The units are carefully structured to provide the main teaching, defining and exploring the main concepts and issues, locating these within current debate and introducing and linking the further assigned readings. The unit files are also available to download from the Virtual Learning Environment.


Garnaut, Ross and Yiping Huang (eds.) (2001) Growth Without Miracles: Readings on the Chinese Economy in the Era of Reform, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


You will receive three Reader volumes, which consist of a selection of academic articles and book chapters, which are assigned as core readings in the Study Guide. You are expected to read these articles as part of your study of this module. You may find that some articles and chapters have a wider range than the Study Guide, but they have been specifically chosen to present central arguments relevant to this module.

Virtual Learning Environment

You will have access to the VLE, which is a web-accessed study centre. Via the VLE, you can communicate with your assigned academic tutor, administrators and other students on the module using discussion forums. The VLE also provides access to the module Study Guide and assignments, as well as a selection of electronic journals available on the University of London Online Library.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

When you have completed your study of this module you will be able to:

  • discuss China's demographic development and challenges including the economic and social impact of population change
  • critically evaluate developments urban and rural labour markets
  • explain the importance that lies with agriculture – and, more generally, the rural sector – in China
  • identify the difficulties as well as future challenges faced by China’s energy sector, with special reference to the coal and oil sectors
  • evaluate China’s environmental problems and the current framework for dealing with such pressures
  • discuss improvements in living standards since the pre-1949 period
  • outline political imperatives and economic ties across the Taiwan straits
  • interpret the importance of the Chinese economy, both in the perception of China’s population and the people outside China.

Scope and syllabus

Course Units
Unit 1: China's Transition to a Demographic 'Golden Age'
  • 1.1 Introduction
  • 1.2 An Introduction to Demographics
  • 1.3 Demographic Trends in China since 1949
  • 1.4 Population Policy in China since 1949
  • 1.5 Structural Features of Population and Population Changes in China
  • 1.6 Conclusion
Unit 2: The Employment Challenge
  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Employment Structure and Trends – National and Regional Perspectives
  • 2.3 Urban Employment
  • 2.4 Rural Employment
  • 2.5 Conclusion
Unit 3: The Role of the Rural Sector in China's Economic Growth
  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 The Importance of the Rural Sector
  • 3.3 Post-1978 Reforms and their Effect on Rural Living Standards
  • 3.4 Rural Development – the Regional Dimension
  • 3.5 China's Food Security in the Twenty-First Century
  • 3.6 Concluding Remarks
Unit 4: Energy Security – Meeting China's Energy Needs in the Twenty-First Century
  • 4.1 Introduction to Unit 4
  • 4.2 The Energy Sector in China before 1949
  • 4.3 China's Energy Sector during the Mao Era
  • 4.4 China's Energy Sector under the Impact of Reform
  • 4.5 Conclusion
Unit 5: The Sustainability of China's Economic Growth
  • 5.1 Introduction
  • 5.2 The Origins of Environmental Degradation in China
  • 5.3 Environmental Degradation in China Today
  • 5.4 Pressures on Natural Resources
  • 5.5 Emissions and Energy Efficiency – a Brief Comment
  • 5.6 The Legal and Institutional Dimensions of Environmental Protection
  • 5.7 Conclusion
Unit 6 The Impact of Economic Growth on Welfare in China
  • 6.1 Introduction
  • 6.2 Socio-Economic Conditions in China before 1949
  • 6.3 Changes in Living Standards under the Impact of Reform
  • 6.4 Future Prospects
Unit 7: Economic Integration across the Taiwan Straits
  • 7.1 Introduction
  • 7.2 Cross-Straits Economic Relations
  • 7.3 Future Development of Economic Relations
  • 7.4 Concluding Comments
Unit 8: China’s Future Economic Trajectory
  • 8.1 Introduction
  • 8.2 Does the Chinese Economy Matter?
  • 8.3 Historical Resonances
  • 8.4 The Ideological Dimension of Economic Debate in China
  • 8.5 Economic Freedom
  • 8.6 Future Developments

Method of assessment

Students are individually assigned an academic tutor for the duration of the module, with whom you can discuss academic queries at regular intervals during the study session.

You are required to complete two Assignments for this module, which will be marked by your tutor. Assignments are each worth 15% of your total mark. You will be expected to submit your first assignment by the Tuesday of Week 5, and the second assignment at the end of the module, on the Tuesday after Week 8. Assignments are submitted and feedback given online. In addition, queries and problems can be answered through the Virtual Learning Environment.

You will also sit a three-hour examination on a specified date in October, worth 70% of your total mark. An up-to-date timetable of examinations is published on the website in April each year.