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Unit of study_

CHNS1601: Understanding Contemporary China

This unit of study introduces key topics essential to understanding contemporary Chinese society and culture, including geography and environment, recent social and political change, art, literature and cultural practice, population and economic structure, education systems and issues of gender and sexuality. As a foundational unit in Chinese studies, it assumes no background knowledge of China or the Chinese language. It will be taught in English with an interdisciplinary approach.


Academic unit Chinese Studies
Unit code CHNS1601
Unit name Understanding Contemporary China
Session, year
Semester 1, 2023
Attendance mode Normal day
Location Remote
Credit points 6

Enrolment rules

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff and contact details

Coordinator Yu Sang,
Lecturer(s) Jiefen Li ,
Tutor(s) Jiefen Li ,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Presentation Class presentation
20% Multiple weeks 1000 words equivalent
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3
Small test In-class test
30% Multiple weeks 1500 words equivalent
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO2
Participation Tutorial participation
10% Ongoing
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO2
Assignment Essay
40% Week 11
Due date: 08 May 2023 at 23:59
2000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Special consideration

If you experience short-term circumstances beyond your control, such as illness, injury or misadventure or if you have essential commitments which impact your preparation or performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Administration of Unit; Land, People and Culture Lecture (2 hr) LO1
Presentation Allocation Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 02 From Imperial China to Communist China Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Chinese Traditions Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 03 Land Reforms and Mass Campaigns, 1949-1978 Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Modern Transformation Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 04 Economic Open-Door Policy since 1978 Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Mass Campaigns Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 05 Class and Social Stratification Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Consequences of Economic Reforms Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 06 Government and Politics since 1978 Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
The Rural Condition Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 07 Gender Issues Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Government and Politics Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 08 In-Class Test I (during the lecture) Rural Administration and Reforms Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Gender Issues Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 09 Urbanization Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Rural Reforms Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 10 Social Organization Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Urbanization Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 11 China's Developmental Model Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Urbanization Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 12 China beyond the Hinterland Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Environment and Health Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 13 In-Class Test II (during the lecture) Summary Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
China beyond the Hinterland Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: According to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold.
  • Lecture recording: Most lectures (in recording-equipped venues) will be recorded and may be made available to students on the LMS. However, you should not rely on lecture recording to substitute your classroom learning experience.
  • Preparation: Students should commit to spend approximately three hours’ preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed on the Library eReserve link available on Canvas.

  • Dillon, M. (2009), Contemporary China: an Introduction. London and new York: Routledge

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University’s graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. demonstrate introductory factual knowledge about contemporary Chinese society and culture
  • LO2. demonstrate a knowledge of different perspectives of understanding China
  • LO3. critically understand these different perspectives and reflect upon your own preconceptions.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities
No changes have been made since this unit was last offered


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