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Chinese Politics in Comparative Perspective


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor and tutor: Chao-Yo Cheng
  • Assessment: a 1000-word critical response paper (30%) and 3000-word essay (70%)

Module description

This module provides an introduction to contemporary China's political and economic development. We will examine how the case of China enriches or challenges major theories in comparative politics and political economy. The lectures will cover four broad themes: (a) the formation of the modern Chinese state; (b) political institutions and policy-making; (c) the challenges of governance; (d) the rise of China. We begin with a historical overview of important events that led to the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 from the late Qing dynasty. Next, we turn to the political institutions and structures of policy-making and implementation established with the founding of the People's Republic of China, and the evolution of these institutions in the reform era. We then move on to discuss the challenges in the governance of a range of issues in China. Finally, we critically examine the rise of China as a key player and stakeholder in the international system. The seminars will be dedicated to studying major events and policy changes in post-1949 China.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Formation of the modern Chinese state: from Imperial to Republican China; China under Mao; Deng's Reform and afterwards
  • Institutions and policy-making: the formal institutions of the Party-state; elite/informal politics and factionalism; policy experimentation and implementation
  • Challenges of governance: identity and ideology; social protection and redistribution; co-optation and participation; coercion, repression and political control
  • Rise of China: China's pursuit of security; China as an emerging global power; China’s presence in Global South

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • be familiar with the main theories and models applied in the study of Chinese politics and government
  • have developed a critical approach to current debates and issues in Chinese politics and its foreign relations.