SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Understanding Contemporary China

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Full Year

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of the course students:

  • will have a grasp of the key themes and debates related to the study of contemporary Chinese society;
  • will be able to critically evaluate a range of social science methods that are relevant to the social scientific study of China;
  • will develop an understanding of interdisciplinary research and its potential

This course will form a theoretical and methodological base for students to write their dissertations (10,000 words) on a topic related to contemporary China.

Scope and syllabus

This course will serve as the core module for the programme MSC Contemporary China Studies. It will not only provide students with an interdisciplinary introduction to key themes and debates related to the study of Chinese society, it will also introduce to students a range of social science methods that are relevant to examining various aspects of contemporary China. Individual lecturers will aim to deliver methodology training with empirical examples of the topics that are discussed in the lectures.

Themes that will be covered in the course:

  • Economic reforms
  • China in the world
  • Family transitions
  • Rural-urban migration
  • Environmental challenges
  • Media and culture
  • Human rights and justice
  • Health, water and food security
  • Education and censorship
  • Beliefs and communities

Research methodology training that will be covered in the course:

  • Qualitative interviewing
  • Doing ethnography
  • Focus group
  • Contents analysis
  • Analysing visual materials
  • Survey design
  • Analysing numbers
  • Research ethics
  • Mixed methods approach
  • Reflexivity in research practice

Method of assessment

  • Essay reporting the results of a qualitative/quantitative exercise (2,500 words, 25%)
  • Research proposal (2,500 words, 25%)
  • 2-hour exam (50%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules