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Understanding China's Economic Development


Admission requirements

  • only to be attended in combination with Chinese Economy and its Institutions

  • previous knowledge of economics or business (e.g having taken a minor in a related subject area),

  • in a degree programme with China focus

Only a limited number of MA-students in Asian Studies can be admitted to these courses. If you meet the requirements above, please send your request to attend and proof to


The course will provide advanced studies and interpretations of China’s economy and development. We will review core theories of growth, transition, trade, and development to see how scholars have made sense of the unprecedented economic changes we observe in China. The course then moves on to discuss the applicability of these theories to the Chinese context. We will look at the different “production factors” that drive economic growth and will examine what role they each play in China’s economic development. Where relevant, we will ask in which ways theories diverge from China’s empirical reality.

This course gives students a good understanding of the historical origins, the physical “hardware”, the main drivers, and the potential future trajectories of Chinese economic growth and development.

Course objectives

After completing this course, students will be able to:

  • Comprehend the various economic, socio-cultural, physical and historical factors that propel Chinese development;

  • Critically rethink major theories and notions of development and transition economics;

  • Be able to apply these in the Chinese context, and pinpoint their divergence from their theoretical premises;

  • Comprehend and contribute to debates around Chinese economy and development;

  • Work as a team and present a topic related to China’s economic development.


Check the timetable on the departmental website.

Mode of instruction

Lectures and group presentations
Please note that attendance to the course is obligatory and will be registered during each session.

Assessment method

The course consists of 7 sessions of 2 hours and uses a mix of lectures, plenary discussions, and group presentations. The group presentations (40% of final mark) and a final written exam (60% of final mark) form the method of examination for this course.


Blackboard is used for regular course communication, general course proceedings, and information on reading material as well as assessment criteria and grading. Note also that all readings, presentations, and a detailed course manual will be made available on Blackboard. In addition, the presentation of the 1st lecture contains important information about the course.

Reading list

All required readings are announced in the respective weekly sections on Blackboard. If no link is provided to a public version of the texts, you will need to check the digital library for a copy. For book chapters, see the course shelf in the Leiden University East Asia Studies library, located in the Arsenaal.
A book that we will continuously use in both courses this block, and which may therefore be worth purchasing rather than reading in the library, is the following volume (note: it will be available on the course shelf at the EAS library):

  • Naughton, Barry (2007), The Chinese Economy: Transition and Growth, Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.
    The following introduction is recommended (though not required) for students who have not studied Chinese studies as an undergraduate degree, or students who would like to fresh up on their background knowledge of modern China (similar introductions are also available in the same series on other topics like economics or globalization):

  • Mitter, Rana (2008), A Very Short Introduction to Modern China, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Contact information

Dr. F.A. Schneider