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Regular version of the site

Contemporary Chinese Politics

Academic Year
Instruction in English
ECTS credits
Course type:
Elective course
4 year, 1, 2 module


Course Syllabus


This course is tailored for students majoring in “Political Science and International Relations”, whose regional focus is BRICS states and who want to learn more about contemporary Chinese politics. The aim of this course is to familiarize students with political development of the PRC after 1978. First, the course discusses major events in China’s political history and their implications for contemporary Chinese politics. Second, the students focus on domestic politics in China: major political institutions and their evolution, the impact of politics on the trajectory of economic development, role and structure of political elites, policy-making process, public participation in political life and political regime transformations. Students also discuss selected policy areas, e.g. ethnic, social and economic policies. Third, the course looks into foreign policy of the PRC, discusses China’s changing role in Asia and the world, in particular its Belt and Road Initiative, relations with other East Asian countries, participation in major international organizations. The course not only provides factual knowledge about politics in China, but also offers conceptual perspectives to study it, such as political culture, political elites, political economy, political regime and democratization, etc.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • • To give students an overview of the major changes and transformations in Chinese politics since 1978
  • • To acquaint students with the major political institutions and policy-making process in the PRC, the basic trends of political elites’ and public’s participation in Chinese politics
  • • To develop students' skills in application of theoretical models to the analysis of political processes in the PRC
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Is familiar with analytical approaches to Chinese politics
  • Knows key events in China’s political development
  • Explains resilience of authoritarian regime in the PRC
  • Explains the changing role of ideology in Chinese politics
  • Describes structure of political system in China, key state (government, legislature, judiciary) and CCP institutions and their functions
  • Analyses political processes in China through the prism of elite politics
  • Knows major facts about Chinese political elites: characteristics and types, selection, key strategies for success
  • Is familiar with the role of provincial, municipal and local governments in Chinese politics
  • Knows the background and contents of “One country, two systems”
  • Applies the concepts of political culture and political participations to the analysis of Chinese politics
  • Gives examples of collective actions and protests in China
  • Knows the typical features of policy process in China, role of society and local governments in this process
  • Applies this knowledge to the analysis of particular policies development
  • Applies political economy perspective to the analysis of Chinese economics since 1978
  • Describes development of population policy and ethnic policy in China;
  • Traces evolution of China’s foreign policy interests (1978-2020)
  • Evaluates the risks to China of its dependence on oil imports
  • Defines the role of trade and foreign investments in China’s foreign policy
  • Explains the impact of various domestic forces and actors on China’s foreign policy
  • Describes China’s role in multilateral institutions and global governance
  • Assesses PRC’s diaspora policy and its efforts in attracting high quality talent to return from abroad
  • Explains different approaches of the PRC to different territorial disputes
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Part 1: Introduction. Lecture 1: Introduction. How to study Chinese politics. Seminar 1. Political history: from empire to people's republic.
  • Part 1: Introduction. Lecture 2. China's political history 1949-1978. Seminar 2: China’s political history.
  • Part 2: Major Political Institutions and Actors. Lecture 3: The Central Governing Apparatus. Seminar 3: Chinese Communist Party.
  • Part 2: Major Political Institutions and Actors. Lecture 4: Provincial, municipal and local governance in the PRC. Seminar 4: One Country, Two Systems.
  • Part 3. Civil Society and Political Participation. Lecture 5: Civil Society. Seminar 5: Protestors and protests.
  • Part 4: Policy-making and Policies. Lecture 6: Policy Process in China. Seminar 6: Population policy.
  • Part 4: Policy-making and Policies. Lecture 7. Media system and governance. Seminar 7: Media policy.
  • Part 4: Policy-making and Policies. Lecture 8: Political Economy and China’s Model of Development. Seminar 8: Social Consequences of the Reforms and Social Policy.
  • Part 4: Policy-making and Policies. Lecture 9: Ethnic policy. Seminar 9: Tibet and Xinjiang.
  • Part 5: China and the World. Lecture 10: Evolution of Chinese Foreign Policy: actors, interests, identities. Seminar 10. China’s Global Economic Presence.
  • Part 5: China and the World. Lecture 11. Belt and Road Initiative. Seminar 11. China and global governance.
  • Part 5: China and the World. Lecture 12. Chinese diaspora and immigration policy of the PRC. Seminar 12. China’s peripheral diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Exam
    The exam is a written test with different types of questions: multiple choice, questions with open answer, etc.
  • non-blocking In-class participation
    Lecturer evaluates students’ progress, including comprehension of lecture materials and assigned readings, as well as contribution to discussions. The component is calculated as an average grade achieved on all seminars. If a student is not able to attend the seminar due to illness or any other legitimate reason (relevant document should be provided), he/she is not graded for that seminar. In all other cases students are graded with 0 for the seminar they have missed.
  • non-blocking Group presentation
    Depending on the number of students, presentations will be conducted in groups by 2-4 students. The time limit for presentation is 20 minutes and should not be exceeded. Students are expected to read literature recommended in the syllabus, as well as to search for extra sources, especially in order to get most recent information on the topic of their presentation. If a student is not able to be present at the seminar due to illness or any other legitimate reason (relevant document should be provided), he/she should approach lecturers to be assigned with alternative task. The presentation cannot be moved to another seminar, other students in his/her group should present without the missing student.
  • non-blocking Book review
    For this assignment, students need to read a book from the list provided by the instructor and write a short book review (1000-1500 words). The students should sign up for books to review during week 2 of the course. The review is due by the week 10 of the course. If the book review is submitted after deadline, each day of delay results in minus one point from the grade given for the book review. If students cannot find the book in the library, they should contact the instructor. Students should include three following points in the book review: 1. Summarize the major themes of the book and the author’s chief argument, evaluate their importance 2. Describe and evaluate the author’s methodology, analysis and the evidence provided to support his or her argument 3. Conclude by saying how significant author’s contribution to studies of Chinese politics and society and who will benefit from reading this book.
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • 2022/2023 2nd module
    0.2 * Book review + 0.4 * Exam + 0.2 * Group presentation + 0.2 * In-class participation


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Shambaugh, D. L. (2013). China Goes Global : The Partial Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=nlebk&AN=563818
  • William A. Joseph. (2014). Politics in China : An Introduction, Second Edition: Vol. Second edition. Oxford University Press.

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Cai, Y., & Zhu, L. (2013). Disciplining Local Officials in China: The Case of Conflict Management. China Journal, 70, 98–119. https://doi.org/10.1086/671339
  • FERDINAND, P. (2016). Westward ho-the China dream and “one belt, one road”: Chinese foreign policy under Xi Jinping. International Affairs, 92(4), 941–957. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2346.12660
  • Fravel, M. T. (2005). Regime Insecurity and International Cooperation: Explaining China’s Compromises in Territorial Disputes. International Security, 30(2), 46–83. https://doi.org/10.1162/016228805775124534
  • Heilmann, S. (2008). From Local Experiments to National Policy: The Origins of China’s Distinctive Policy Process. China Journal, 59, 1–30. https://doi.org/10.1086/tcj.59.20066378
  • Heilmann, S. (2008). Policy Experimentation in China’s Economic Rise. Studies in Comparative International Development, 43(1), 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12116-007-9014-4
  • Joniak-Lüthi, A. (2015). The Han : China’s Diverse Majority. University of Washington Press.
  • Landry, P. F., Xiaobo Lü, & Haiyan Duan. (2014). Does Performance Matter? Evaluating the Institution of Political Selection along the Chinese Administrative Ladder. Conference Papers —— American Political Science Association, 1–45.
  • Liu, H., & van Dongen, E. (2016). China’s Diaspora Policies as a New Mode of Transnational Governance. Journal of Contemporary China, 25(102), 805–821. https://doi.org/10.1080/10670564.2016.1184894
  • Liu, W., & Dunford, M. (2016). Inclusive globalization: unpacking China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Area Development & Policy, 1(3), 323–340. https://doi.org/10.1080/23792949.2016.1232598
  • O’Brien, K. (2011). Studying Chinese Politics in an Age of Specialization. Journal of Contemporary China, 20(71), 535–541. https://doi.org/10.1080/10670564.2011.587157
  • Shi-Kupfer, K. V. (DE-588)129242225, (DE-627)557947200, (DE-576)18644222X, aut. (2017). Ideas and ideologies competing for China’s political future how online pluralism challenges official orthodoxy Kristin Shi-Kupfer, Mareike Ohlberg, Simon Lang, Bertram Lang ; merics, Mercator Institute for China Studies. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.505467844
  • Shih, V. C., & Keller, F. B. (2016). Moving beyond Factions: Using Social Network Analysis to Uncover Patronage Networks among Chinese Elites. Journal of East Asian Studies, 16(1), 17–41. https://doi.org/10.1017/jea.2015.3
  • SHIH, V., ADOLPH, C., & LIU, M. (2012). Getting Ahead in the Communist Party: Explaining the Advancement of Central Committee Members in China. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0003055411000566
  • Yee, A. (2011). Maritime territorial disputes in East Asia : a comparative analysis of the South China Sea and the East China Sea / Andy Yee.
  • Yongshun Cai. (2008). Social Conflicts and Modes of Action in China. China Journal, 59, 89–109. https://doi.org/10.1086/tcj.59.20066381
  • YUEN, S. (2015). Hong Kong After the Umbrella Movement: An uncertain future for “One Country Two Systems.” China Perspectives, 1, 49–53.
  • Zhao, S. (2008). China’s Global Search for Energy Security: cooperation and competition in Asia-Pacific. Journal of Contemporary China, 17(55), 207–227. https://doi.org/10.1080/10670560701809460
  • Zhu, J. V. (DE-588)1035651459, (DE-576)383417864, aut. (2017). Weapons of the powerful : authoritarian elite competition and politicized anticorruption in China / Jiangnan Zhu, Dong Zhang.