China in Comparative Perspective

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Johannes Steinmuller OLD 5.06A, Dr William Matthews OLD 6.16 and Prof Stephan Feuchtwang


This course is compulsory on the MSc in China in Comparative Perspective. This course is available on the MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management, MSc in International and Asian History and MSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Places are limited and priority is given to MSc China in Comparative Perspective students.

Course content

The main object of the course is to help students develop ways of putting the politics, economy and social life of China into a framework in which they can compare and juxtapose it with other major examples. Main topics include China's imperial bureaucracy, Chinese religion, the great divergence debate, as well as current issues such as urban life, the family, the rule of law, and contentious politics. Students will bring whatever theoretical approaches they have already learned and are continuing to learn in the disciplines they bring to the course. They will be expected to demonstrate and explain how they are using them as well as to listen to other approaches and disciplinary perspectives. 


15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT. 15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT. 1 hour and 30 minutes of lectures and 1 hour of seminars in the ST.

This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of virtual lectures, classes and online interactive activities. The contact hours listed above are the minimum expected. This course has reading week in Week 6 of both MT and LT.

Formative coursework

Formative coursework consists of participation in weekly seminars, and the opportunity to discuss one formative essay in each of the MT and LT with the course convener or the student's academic mentor.

Indicative reading

  • Fei Xiaotong 1992 [1948]. From the Soil, the Foundations of Chinese Society: A Translation of Fei Xiaotong’s Xiangtu Zhongguo, with an Introduction and Epilogue, transl. Gary Hamilton and Wang Zheng, Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Harrison, Henrietta 2001. China (Inventing the Nation). London: Arnold.
  • Stockman, Norman 2001. Understanding Chinese Society. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Spence, Jonathan D. 1991. The search for modern China. New York: Norton.
  • Weber, Max 1951. The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism, transl. Hans H. Gerth, New York: The Free Press.
  • Yan Yunxiang 2003. Private Life under Socialism. Love, Intimacy, and Family Change in a Chinese Village 1949-1999. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2019/20: 39

Average class size 2019/20: 13

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information