State and society in the Chinese political process

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Politics and International Studies

Module overview

From the last years of the Empire to the present day, the Chinese state has experienced a succession of dramatic shifts in regime orientation, and the major sectors of Chinese society have undergone a series of changes no less significant. This post-graduate module focuses on state and society in Greater China (the People's Republic and Taiwan). It will specifically consider two closely interrelated themes: how China's state and society have evolved, and how they have interacted over the course of the 20th century. The bulk of the module will be devoted to China, and Taiwan will be included as a comparative referent.

After the first two sessions, in which western and traditional Chinese conceptions of state and society are discussed and compared, the module will be divided into three segments: state and society 1) in the Republican period, 2) until 1978, and 3) in the post-1978 era of reform. The first two segments will be concluded in the fall term, and the whole of the spring term will be devoted to the post-1978 reform period, when it will be possible to extend coverage to a wider span of social sectors, including sessions on women, development vs. environment, the role of foreign investment and the creation of new cities such as Shenghen, as well as units on the countryside, urban areas, and the intelligentsia. The module will conclude with a unit on Taiwan, an evaluation of contemporary political reform in China and a general review.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On completion of the module students will have:

  • A thorough grounding in the evolution of the modern Chinese state in relation to the most significant sectors of Chinese society: the Republic, the revolutionary People's Republic, the reformist People's Republic, and Taiwan
  • The ability to engage with material critically, both through oral and written analytical skills
  • The ability to think reflectively about concepts such as "democracy", "civil society" and "urbanization" in relation to China


Class meetings will consist of a combination of lecture and student presentation and discussion. Module requirements include: doing the reading in advance of each class meeting, and meaningful class participation and two medium length analytical papers (one due at the end of each semester).

Method of assessment

Assessment consists of 2 x 5000 word assignments, each worth 50% of the total mark.

Suggested reading

  • Joel Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States
  • Mary Rankin, Elite Activism and Political Transformation in China
  • David Strand, Rickshaw Beijing
  • Wen-hsin Yeh, The Alienated Academy
  • Vivienne Shue, The Reach of the State
  • Andrew Walder, Communist Neo-traditionalism: Work and Authority in Chinese Industry
  • Edward Friedman, Paul Pickowicz and Mark Selden, Chinese Village Socialist State
  • Merle Goldman, Timothy Cheek, Carol Lee Hamrin, China's Intellectuals and the State: In Search of a New Relationship
  • Jean Oi, Peasant and State in Contemporary China
  • Davis, Kraus, Naughton and Perry, Urban Spaces in Contemporary China
  • Dru Gladney, Muslim Chinese: Ethnic Natioalism in the People's Republic
  • Elizabeth Perry and Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China (2nd edition)
  • Gordon White, Jude Howell and Shang Xiaoyuan, In Search of Civil Society: Market Reform and Social Change in Contemporary China


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules