GV4H1      Half Unit
Chinese Political Thought

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Leigh Jenco


This course is available on the MSc in China in Comparative Perspective and MSc in Political Theory. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped at one group. The deadline for applications is 17:00 on Tuesday 1 October 2019. You will be informed of the outcome by 17:00 on Wednesday 2 October 2019

Course content

This course will introduce students to recurring debates and concepts within Chinese political thought. We focus on the germinal texts of the Warring States period (circa 400 BCE), such as the Analects of Confucius and the Dao De Jing of Laozi, which continue to shape political debate in East Asia.  Reading texts in translation, we will critically examine the variety of normative frameworks that have structured political thinking in Chinese history, with a particular focus on the relationship between personal agency and political outcomes. This is NOT a history course; its broader goal is to help students use Chinese thought to think critically and creatively about political and social life in general and not just in "Chinese" contexts. This course is suitable for students interested in political theory, philosophical approaches to politics, Chinese studies, and/or the history of political thought. Readings are entirely in English and NO prior knowledge of Chinese or China is required.


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

There will be a reading week in week 6 of the LT for private study and assessment preparation.

Formative coursework

• One review essay of a secondary source from the course reading list, 750-1000 words;  • One formative essay of 1500 words maximum excluding footnotes and bibliography, on an assigned topic. 

Indicative reading

Ivanhoe, Philip J. Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy. Edited by Philip J. Ivanhoe and Bryan W. Van Norden. 2nd ed. Hackett Pub Co, 2006. Selections from De Bary, Wm. Theodore, and Richard John Lufrano. Sources of Chinese tradition. Vol. 2, From 1600 through the twentieth century. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.


Essay (100%, 4000 words).

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication