The Business and Economy of China

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
10 weeks
Module code
Centre for Financial and Management Studies

Module overview

The Chinese economy has been growing for decades at breakneck speed and it is expected to overcome the USA before the end of 2020s as the world’s first economy. From its opening in 1978 and the creation of the SEZs (Special Economic Zones), the country became the world’s manufacturing powerhouse. Its GDP growth has averaged almost 10 per cent a year, and more than 850 million people have been lifted out of poverty. Even more importantly, China’s path to the top has been both unique and fascinating, but also fright with dangers. The structural complexities of its development model in a continuously evolving landscape all make understanding the way China functions often challenging and time-consuming.  

For these reasons, this module has been specifically outlined to provide both an in-depth outlook of China at a political and economic level and an up-to-date analysis, which takes into account not only the historical perspective but also the new era opened by Xi Jinping’s accession to power in 2012.

As such, the module itself is multi-disciplinary by design, spanning from subjects such as economics, trade & investment, international business and finance to include political sciences, security studies, and innovation technology. Last but not the least, the final section is devoted to the looming challenges the country will face in the following years, both internally and in the international arena, together with opportunities for continuous prosperity.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of the module, you will have acquired a critical and informed perspective about the Chinese state and its economic and political fundamentals, including the country’s geographical and cultural dimensions and its rich historical background.

In particular, you will be able to:

  • understand the political, economic, cultural, social landscape of China and the way  it has evolved since 1949;
  • outline the trajectory China undertook and that made it an example of an emerging country with unique characteristics first and a fast-rising superpower later;
  • discuss the defining features of Chinese external trade and the upward trends in FDIs;
  • illustrate the typology and the pace of the economic reforms to the state and non-state actors, including the provincial bodies, and outline the rise of the private sector;
  • analyse the importance of business networks, industrial clusters and overseas communities in the ongoing management practice;
  • understand both the long-term geopolical trends in the Greater China region and the challenges the country faces in the coming decades.

Tuition and 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 6, and the second assignment at the end of the module, on the Tuesday after Week 10. 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 September/October, worth 70% of your total mark. An up-to-date timetable of examinations is published on the website in July each year.

Study resources

  • Study guide: The module study guide is 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 assigned readings.
  • Key texts: 
    • Naughton B (2018) The Chinese Economy: Adaptation and Growth. Boston: MIT Press
    • Lin JY (2012) Demystifying the Chinese Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Module readings: Throughout the module you will be directed to study a selection of readings, including journal articles, book extracts, and case studies that are of particular relevance and interest to the topics covered in the module.
  • Virtual learning environment: You will have access to the VLE, 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.

Study calendar 2022/23

Elective modules S1
The Business and Economy of China (M494)  Not running Not running Not running Running

Study calendars are subject to change.

Module overview

Unit 1 China and its Place in the World

  • 1.1 A Unique Country
  • 1.2 One System, Many Provinces
  • 1.3 A Few Thousand Years of History
  • 1.4 Beyond the Mainland: Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan
  • 1.5 Overseas Chinese: The Diaspora
  • 1.6 Conclusion

Unit 2 The Political and Economic Institutions of China

  • 2.1 The Party
  • 2.2 The SOE and the Central Government Bodies
  • 2.3 The Provincial Governments and Local Institutions
  • 2.4 The Private Sector
  • 2.5 Conclusion
  • Case Study: Xi Jinping’s New China

Unit 3 Geographical Facets of the Chinese economy

  • 3.1 The Jiangze River Delta
  • 3.2 The Pearl River Delta
  • 3.3 Beijing and the Technological Districts
  • 3.4 A Tiered City System
  • 3.5 Conclusion
  • Case Study: Chengdu Between History and Innovation

Unit 4 China’s Foreign Direct Investments

  • 4.1 Snapshot of Chinese FDIs in 2021
  • 4.2 The Rationale Behind FDIs, Both as an Investor and a Receiving Country
  • 4.3 The SEZs and the Opening of China
  • 4.4 China’s Going Out Strategy
  • 4.5 OBOR/BRI and a Global China
  • 4.6 Conclusion
  • Case Study: Beidou as a Geopolitical Tool

Unit 5 China’s Foreign Trade

  • 5.1 The World’s Manufacturing Powerhouse
  • 5.2 A Short History of Chinese Trade Exchanges
  • 5.3 China and the WTO
  • 5.4 Trade Logistics and FTAs
  • 5.5 The Political Economy of Trade
  • 5.6 Conclusion
  • Case Study: China’s Trade Wars. Past and Present

Unit 6 Banking, Currency, Capital Markets and Web-based Economy

  • 7.1 China’s Capital Market Development
  • 7.2 Key Features of China’s Equity Market Reform
  • 7.3 The Fintech Revolution
  • 7.4 Chinese Unicorns and Foreign Listed Companies
  • 7.5 Conclusion
  • Case Study: Chinese M&A in South-East Asia’s Online Business

Unit 7 Doing Business in China

  • 7.1 General Considerations
  • 7.2 Market Entry Mode Strategy Choices
  • 7.3 The Corporate Structure And The Case For Joint Ventures
  • 7.4 A Changing Labour Market
  • 7.5 Conclusion
  • Case Study: The Art of Negotiation in China

Unit 8 China’s Future Challenges

  • 8.1 The Looming Demographic Crisis
  • 8.2 The Employment Challenges
  • 8.3 From Export-led Growth to Increasing Domestic Consumption
  • 8.4 The Reform of Pensions and Healthcare Sector
  • 8.5 Non Traditional Security Issues: Food, Energy, Environment, Health
  • 8.6 The Trade-off Between Systemic Stability and Political Freedom
  • 8.5 Conclusion
  • Case Study: Hong Kong’s new National Security Law and the Business Future of the SAR.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules