Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Contemporary China

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT International Relations

DESCRIPTION The core theme of the study-unit is focused on an overview of contemporary China’s foreign policy and an up-to-date analysis of China’s evolving relations at both a regional and global level. In order to understand these dynamics, the course will be thus divided into two sections. The first section will concentrate on the emergence of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) focusing on key features of Maoism and Post-Mao reforms. The second section will focus on the main features of China’s foreign relations since the 90s. Particular attention is here given to contemporary relations between Beijing and the rest of the world.

Inter alia, the study-unit explores:

- The history of the PRC’s political system including the evolution of the one party state and the role of the Chinese political party;
- The political economy of the reform era and China’s most relevant political and social developments since 1978;
- Issues regarding democracy, the role of law and human rights;
- China’s modernization and its growing involvement in international regimes;
- Key aspects of China’s international and regional relations. Here thematic issues will be addressed such as: The rise of China; China in international organizations; Sino-US Relations; China and Africa Relations; China Relations in the Asia Pacific.

Study-Unit Aims:

This study-unit aims to:

- Analyze the evolution of the PRC's domestic political system and economy;
- Examine processes of internal reforms introduced since the end of 1978;
- Identify key transformations and challenges regarding democracy, human rights and the rule of law;
- Identify key forces, actors and instruments that shape China’s political and foreign relations;
- Interpret China’s contemporary global and regional role and the impact of its foreign policy and internal developments at a regional and global level.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Discuss key issues pertaining to the political, economic and social evolution of China’s domestic politics since the establishment of the PRC and more specifically regarding major developments occurred since the 80s;
- Identify key problems of governance;
- Examine the evolution of China’s foreign relations and security polices;
- Interpret the key drivers of Chinese security policy behavior in the Asia Pacific and at the world stage.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Identify major transformations and challenges of contemporary China;
- Critically discuss China’s evolving relationships within the international system;
- Critically discuss the role and impact of contemporary China at a regional and global level.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Compulsory readings:

- Shaun Breslin (ed) Handbook of Chinese International Relations (Routledge, 2010).
- Avery Goldstein, Rising to the Challenge: China’s Grand Strategy and International Security, Stanford, 2005.
- Iain Johnston and Robert Ross, New Directions in the Study of China’s Foreign Policy, Stanford, 2000.

In addition to the required texts, students will also be asked to do readings that will be provided during the study-unit.


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Seminar Paper Yes 30%
Examination (2 Hours) Yes 70%

LECTURER/S Angela Pennisi Di Floristella

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.