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Introduction to the Politics, Economics, and Society of Modern China


Admission requirements

This is an introductory-level course. No previous knowledge of social sciences or of China is required.


This course gives a basic overview of the major political, economic, and social issues relevant to the study of modern China (including the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China on Taiwan, and the SAR Hong Kong). The course is structured thematically rather than historically. It introduces various social science disciplines as well as the major theories on how politics, economic development, and social processes work in China. This will also include a discussion of what ‘modern’ means, and what ‘China’ is. The course then covers core issues in contemporary China Studies, such as the relation between the Chinese Communist Party and the state, the rapid changes that the economy has undergone, the crucial challenges that people today face as they go about their everyday lives, and the complex relation between the mainland and other Chinese-speaking territories. The central questions throughout the module will be how China has changed over the past decades, how political, economic, and social issues are related to one another, and how we might make sense of recent developments in the PRC under Xi Jinping’s rule.

Course objectives

Participants in this course will acquire the following:

  • An understanding of basic social science concepts, and the ability to critically assess those concepts in light of the Chinese context.

  • An understanding of the broad issues and changes that shape the societies and characterize the political and economic systems of the PRC, the ROC, and the SAR Hong Kong.

  • Knowledge of the mechanisms used to steer China’s development.
    The course will provide the necessary background knowledge for the pursuit of BA2 courses on Chinese politics, economics, and international relations. Completion of this course will be a pre-requisite for taking such higher-level courses.


Timetable Chinastudies BA 1

Mode of instruction


The work-load for this course will roughly be as follows:

  • Seminar time: 26 hours

  • Course reading: 50 hours

  • Preparing for written exam: 34 hours

  • Writing of essay: 30 hours
    Total: 140 hours

Assessment method

In order to pass this course, the following will be required of the participants:

  • Essay paper (40% of final mark).

  • Written examination with open factual questions and a brief essay question (60% of final mark).

Regular, punctual attendance, thorough preparation of reading material, and continuous participation in plenary debates are also expected.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


A list of weekly readings will be posted on Blackboard the week before the start of the semester.

Additional information (lecture slides, useful websites, etc…) will also be found on blackboard over the course of the semester.

Reading list

There is no mandatory text book for this course. All required readings will be announced on blackboard and will be available through the digital library. Students interested in getting a head-start may find the following introductory books useful (in alphabetical order):

  • Hong-Fincher, Leta (2016), Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China. London: ZedBooks.

  • Joseph, William A. (ed.) (2014), Politics in China: An Introduction (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Naughton, Barry J. (2018), The Chinese Economy: Adaptation and Growth (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  • Pieke, Frank (2016), Knowing China: A Twenty-First Century Guide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (for Dutch version, see below).

  • Shirky, Clay (2015), Little Rice: Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream. New York: Columbia Global Reports.

For Dutch-speakers, the following additional readings might be of interest:

  • Pieke, Frank (2016), China, een Gids voor de 21e Eeuw. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

  • Chong, Woei-Lin & Ngo, Tak-Wing (eds.) (2008), China in Verandering: Balans en Toekomst van de Hervormingen, Almere: Parthenon.


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

For questions or additional information please contact your study coordinator, or the lecturer: Dr. Florian Schneider