SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Research Themes

1. China in Asia, Africa and the Middle East

SOAS is the world’s leading institution for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. This theme leverages the School’s regional expertise to better understand the global context in which China operates. It will examine China’s efforts to engage with these regions through its flagship Belt and Road Initiative, as well as the response they receive in these regions.

2. China: Global Power

China’s re-emergence as a superpower under a leader determined that his country should take centre stage in world affairs is a major development in the world.  How China engages with the United States of America, the other great powers and the international community have far-reaching implications across many areas, from those of peace and security to climate change to the operation of multilateral agencies such as the United Nations and World Trade Organisation. 

3. China: Family and Gender Relationships

The economic miracle of post-Mao China and implementation of the ‘one child policy’ have had a profound impact on Chinese society, particularly in terms of family and gender relationships.  This research programme not only examines the nature, origins and impact of changes that have unfolded in mainland China, but also contextualises them against parallel developments in Taiwan and Hong Kong, whose citizens also experienced significant changes to family relations and gender mores.

4. China: Economic Transformation

China’s economic transformation since 1978 has been truly astonishing. Domestically, it has removed hundreds of millions of people from poverty, facilitated a consumer revolution and enabled China to join the ranks of Middle Income countries. But it has done so at the expense of widening regional and social inequality. Under the Fifth Generation of leaders many are questioning China’s ability to maintain the momentum of growth and transformation and escape the Middle Income Trap. This Programme investigates salient aspects of China’s development strategy and the forces that will shape its future growth trajectory. In particular, it will examine the challenges facing agriculture as it seeks to overcome severe resource pressures and maintain China’s food security.

5. China: Images and Imagination

Working with visual material, ranging from art to advertising, from journalism to propaganda, we will explore innovative methods to visualise how China imagines itself, and how it is imagined elsewhere.  Whilst focusing on art and culture, this theme has a wider disciplinary resonance, and promises to generate new-style scholarly outputs beyond traditional books and articles.

6. China: Politics and its Future

China may have retained the same Leninist political system in place since Mao Zedong was leader, but great changes have taken place since Mao’s death.  One of the most important of these was the institutionalisation of the succession process.  In 2017, however, this was reversed, with the termination of the term limit for the State Presidency and the inauguration of ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in a New Era’. This Programme provides an in-depth examination of the meaning of Xi Jinping Thought and considers how it will shape China’s politics and the direction of travel set by the Chinese Communist Party.

7. China: Justice and Rights

Human rights and social justice are highly contested terms framing much of the debate about China in other countries. Having become a founding member of the UN Human Rights Council, China is now shaping global human rights agenda.  By examining the practical implications of social, political and economic inequality in China, as well as cultural and theoretical understandings of rights and justice from a Chinese perspective, we seek to contribute independent, informed perspectives from which to interpret an often highly polarise debate.

8. China: Beliefs and Communities

Questions about how religion, ideology and other belief systems not only provide social cohesion, but also produce tensions between different communities lie at the core of this highly complex and interdisciplinary research area. Within this Programme we will examine a range of issues, including China’s governance of ethnic minorities, historical changes in the ruling Party’s own belief system, and the culture of Chinese communities overseas. The Programme also embraces fieldwork among religious groups in China.