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PPR.391b: China in the Modern World

Tutor: Dr Astrid Nordin
Term: Michaelmas

Course Description

China's rise is commonly understood as a key factor that will shape future world order. In this seminar-based course, students will become familiar with different approaches to understanding China's rise, and critically evaluate the opportunities and challenges this poses to both China and the surrounding world. In each seminar we will consider a key issue in China's relation to the world from different perspectives. Issues that will be explored include: the possibility of an alternative modernity; sources of party-state legitimacy; Chinese nationalism; the limits of Chinese identity; new tools of China's 'soft power'; the 'Chinese school' of International Relations theory; questions of territorial integrity; and Chinese ideas of world order and the ‘China model’. This course will thus offer students an opportunity to discuss familiar concepts like nationalism, democracy and modernity in the concrete context of China in the post-Mao era. It will help students improve their research skills, enhance their understanding of the complexity of issues in contemporary China, and critically examine conceptual tools of political analysis in the Chinese context.

Learning outcomes:

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Give a sustained critical discussion of one substantial theme or line of argument that is in part or whole constitutive of the chosen topic: China in the modern world.
  • Independently conduct and time-manage a research project under guidance of the tutor.
  • Prepare and communicate questions and findings to an informed audience at various stages of a research project, and make use of their feedback for the continued development of that project.
  • Use the resources of small study group to develop their own critical thinking.
  • Critically examine conceptual tools of political analysis in the Chinese context.
  • Show proof, by way of a long essay, of independent research skills.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the complexity of issues in contemporary China.


1 long essay, 5000 words, 100% (Students are strongly encouraged to negotiate their own essay title).

Teaching method:

One seminar (2 hours) weekly.
Please note that this course does not involve any lectures, but is based on student-led seminars and delivery of an independently formulated research project. Students who do not feel inclined towards the skills development or experience that this independent learning style will give them are recommended to choose a different module.

Introductory reading:
Callahan, W. A.                                     China: The Pessoptimist Nation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010




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