The Making of an Economic Superpower: China since 1850

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Debin Ma SAR 6.12


This course is available on the BA in History, BSc in Accounting and Finance, BSc in Economic History, BSc in Economic History with Economics, BSc in Economics, BSc in Economics and Economic History and BSc in Economics with Economic History. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course provides a survey of long-term economic change in China from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. It focuses on China's long path to becoming a major global economic power at the beginning of the new millennium. The course examines the importance of ideological and institutional change in bringing about economic transformations by surveying major historical turning points such as the opening of China in the mid-nineteenth century, the collapse of the Qing in 1911, the rise of the Communist regime in the 1950s and the adoption of a reform policy since the late 1970s. It examines both the constraints as well as the capacity of a giant traditional economy to respond and regenerate in the face of external challenge from outside since the Opium War of the mid-nineteenth century. The economic analysis of Chinese economic history will examine both macro and micro level questions.


10 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of classes in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to write four essays or equivalent pieces of written work.

Indicative reading

Naughton. B., The Chinese economy, transitions and growth (MIT Press); Rawski. T., Economic growth in prewar China (Univ. of Berkeley Press); Brand, L. and Rawski. T (eds.) China's great economic transformation (Cambridge University Press); Richardson, P. Economic change in China, c. 1800-1950 (Cambridge University Press); Spence, J.D The search for modern China (New York : W.W. Norton).


Exam (70%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (15%, 1500 words) in the MT and LT.
Essay (15%, 1500 words) in the ST.

Coursework of two take home essays of 1,500 words (inclusive of bibliography and footnotes) to be completed independently by each individual student. The essays should develop arguments, analysis and evidences on a specific research question (or a set of research questions) chosen by the student in consultation with teachers and should be related to the course materials covered. While it is essential to demonstrate one’s grasp of the course material, students are encouraged to develop their own insights and arguments going beyond the course material.

Teachers' comment

Survey questions on feedback to students may be non-informative because assessed work comes later in the term than the survey.

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2016/17: Unavailable

Average class size 2016/17: Unavailable

Capped 2016/17: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information