China in Comparative Perspective

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Johannes Steinmuller, Prof Stephan Feuchtwang and Dr Gareth Breen


This course is compulsory on the MSc in China in Comparative Perspective. This course is available on the MA in Asian and International History (LSE and NUS), MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in International and Asian History, MSc in Political Economy of Europe (LSE and Fudan) 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 AT. 15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the WT. 1 hour and 30 minutes of lectures and 1 hour of seminars in the ST.

The contact hours listed above are the minimum expected. This course has reading week in Week 6 of both AT and WT.

Formative coursework

Formative coursework consists of participation in weekly seminars, and the opportunity to discuss one formative essay in each of the AT and WT 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 spring exam period.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2022/23: 32

Average class size 2022/23: 11

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (MT)

Value: One Unit

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