State and Society in the Chinese Political Process 1

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 1
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 course 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 and 21st centuries. The bulk of the course will be devoted to China, and Taiwan will be included as a comparative referent for the period after 1949. This module concentrates on the institutional and social background to the present, focussing on the different regimes of the 20th and 21st century, and the ways in which legacies from the Republican and Maoist periods continue to influence politics in the Xi Jinping era today.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the key political trends and changes in regime from the early 20th century to the present in China
  • Assess similarities and differences in the different regimes that China has found itself under from the early 20th century to the present
  • Identify the ways in which governments in China have attempted to shape relations with different key sectors of society since the early 20th century
  • Demonstrate improved ability to engage with spoken and written critical engagement
  • Assess critically the readings assigned throughout the course


2 hours lecture per week

1 hour tutorial per week

Scope and syllabus

  1. Introduction: Geography, History, and the Stage
  2. From Late Imperial Reform to Weak Republic
  3. Competing Variants of the Party-state
  4. Urban Life: Workers, Merchants, and Intellectuals
  5. Rural Life: Peasants and the Countryside
  6. Reading Week
  7. Revolutionary Transformations - Urban Life
  8. Revolutionary Transformations - Rural Life
  9. Taiwan: Economic and Other Miracles 1950-1980
  10. The End of Revolution: The Uncertain 1980s
  11. Rapid Development(s): China from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping

Method of assessment

40% unseen exam, 50% analytical essay and 10% seminar participation.

Suggested reading

  • Huang Liu-hung, A Complete Book Concerning Happiness and
  • Benevolence: a Manual for Local Magistrates in Seventeenth Century Translated by Djang Chu. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1984 (selections)
  • Julia Strauss, State Formation in China and Taiwan, Bureaucracy, Campaign and Performance (Cambridge 2020)
  • Sun Yat-sen, "The Fundamentals of National Reconstruction", from
  • The Fundamentals of National Reconstruction (Taipei: China Cultural Service, 1953
  • Federica Ferlanti, “City Building: New Life and the ‘Making of the Citizen’ in 1930s Nanchang”, in Billy K.L. So and Madeleine Zelin., eds
  • New Narratives of  Urban Space in Republican Chinese Cities: Emerging
  • Social, Legal and Governance Orders  (Brill, 2013
  • Huaiyin Li, Village Governance in North China (Stanford, 2006), Chapter  9
  • Jeremy Brown and Paul Pickowicz, Dilemmas of Victory: The Early Years of the People’s Republic of China, 1949-1953, (Harvard, 2008)
  • Eddy U, “The Making of zhishfenzi: the Critical Impact of the Registration of Unemployed Intellectuals in the Early PRC”, The China Quarterly , No. 173, March 2003
  • Bruce Dickson, "The Lessons of Defeat: The Reorganization of the Kuomintang on Taiwan, 1950- 53", China Quarterly , No. 1 33 (March, 1993

[all of these are in the library or are already uploaded to Moodle]


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules