IR473      Half Unit
China and the Global South

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Chris Alden 9th Floor IDEAS, PAN


This course is available on the MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in International Relations (Research). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

All students are required to obtain permission from the Teacher Responsible by completing the online application on LSE for You. Admission is not guaranteed.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). In previous years we have been able to provide places for most students that apply but that may not continue to be the case.

Course content

This course focuses on the substantive role that China plays in the Global South where its preponderance of material power and putative developing country status confers upon it a dominant position in bilateral and regional political economies.  China's economic position, coupled to an astute use of finances flowing from its mercantilist policies, has enabled it to become the leading trading partner and a significant investor in the developing world.  Moreover, the Global South is increasingly figuring in Beijing's expanding security interests and soft power provisions.  Interpretations embedded in prevailing academic discussions like socialisation, threat and peaceful rise take on new meaning when studied through the lens of ties with developing countries.  Understanding how dynamics in this relationship are impacting upon a host of global and contemporary issues (BRICs, multilateralism, peacekeeping, the environment) is crucial to the shape of the 21st century.  Students will acquire a deeper appreciation of the concept of agency linked to the varied response of countries and regional organisations in the Global South, from policy elites to local communities, to China's growing structural power, as well as placing Chinese engagement within the context of other 'traditional' and emerging powers.  This will offer a deeper analysis of the way in which the dynamics of China's economic and political model impact on its relationship with the Global South.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the AT.

Formative coursework

There are two possible formative coursework options:

  1. The first option is a book review of one of the publications on the reading list (weeks 1 through 4). Students will be expected to produce 1 book review in the AT. Essay length for book review 1000 words.
  2. The second option is to produce a 2 minute video based on course materials (reading lists, lectures and seminar discussions) in week 1 through 4. The video should be accompanied by a short annotated bibliography.

Indicative reading

Ariel Ahram, 'Theory and Method of Qualitative Area Studies', Qualitative Research (11:1 2011), pp. 69-90

Chris Alden and Chris R Hughes, 'Harmony, Discord and Learning in China's Foreign Policy, China Quarterly, Special Issue (No.9 December 2009), pp.13-34

Chris Alden, 'China and Africa - The Relationship Matures', Strategic Analysis (36:5 2012), pp.701-707

Chris Alden and Lu Jiang. (2019). Brave new world: debt, industrialization and security in China–Africa relations. International Affairs, 95(3), 641-657. doi:

Gaston Fornes & Alvaro Mendez. (2018). The China-Latin America Axis: Emerging Markets and their Role in an Increasingly Globalised World (2 ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan

Van Staden, Cobus, Alden, Chris, & Wu, Yu-Shan. (2020). Outlining African Agency Against the Background of the Belt and Road Initiative. African Studies Quarterly, 19(3-4), 115-134.

Arthur R Kroeber, China's Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know (OUP: 2016)

Alvaro Mendez & Chris Alden. (2021). China in Panama: From Peripheral Diplomacy to Grand Strategy. Geopolitics, 26(3), 838-860. doi:10.1080/14650045.2019.1657413

Alvaro Mendez. (2019). Latin America and the AIIB: Interests and Viewpoints. Global Policy, 10(4), 639-644. doi:

Barry Naughton, 'China's Distinctive System: Can it be a Model for Others?' Journal of Contemporary China (19:65: 2010), pp.437-460

Michael Pettis, Avoiding the Fall: China's Economic Restructuring (Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: 2013)

David Shambaugh (Ed.) (2016). The China Reader: Rising Power (6 ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press

Ian Taylor, Africa Rising? BRICs and Diversifiying Dependency (James Currey: 2014)


Essay (75%, 4000 words) in the WT.

Group presentation (25%) in the AT.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 58.9
Merit 30.6
Pass 9.7
Fail 0.8

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2022/23: 40

Average class size 2022/23: 13

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (MT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication