Skip to main content
Unit of study_

GOVT3651: Politics of China

Semester 1, 2022 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit introduces the government and politics of modern China. The primary focus will be on ideology, leadership, institutions and political processes of the People's Republic. We explore politics of social groups, major issue areas in Chinese politics, the Cultural Revolution and the politics of reform.

Unit details and rules

Unit code GOVT3651
Academic unit Government and International Relations
Credit points 6
GOVT2424 or GOVT2402
12 credit points at 2000 level in International Relations or 12 credit points at 2000 level in Politics or 12 senior credit points from Government and International Relations
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Jamie Reilly,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Small test In-class reading quizzes
10% Ongoing 1000 word equivalent
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Reading Responses
Reading Responses
30% Ongoing approx. 750 words x 2 (1,500 total)
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
Participation Discussion Group Participation Report
20% Week 13 1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Final Essay
Final Essay
40% Week 13 2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4

Assessment summary

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

For more information see guide to grades.

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.

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.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 02 China's revolution(s):1911-1949 Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 03 China under Mao: 1949-1978 Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 04 Governance in China Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 05 China’s Economy: An Overview Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 06 China’s Economy: A Bottom Up View Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 07 Central-level Governance Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 08 China-Australia Relations Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 09 Regional and Local Governance Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 10 Policymaking Processes: Lobbying and Agenda Setting Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 11 Activism and Resistance Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 12 Online Controls and Propaganda Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 13 COVID: A Case Study of Chinese Governance Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4

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

Weekly Required Readings


Week 1:  Introduction

1 March

            No required readings 


Week 2: A Revolutionary History 

8 March


Rana Mitter, A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, pp 3-40. 


Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions: A comparative analysis of France, Russia and China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979, pp 236-283. 



Week 3: China Under Mao

15 March


FrederickCTeiwes, “ThChinesState during thMaoisEra”, in Shambaugh, (ed) , ThModern ChinesStateCambridgeCambridgUniversity Press2000pp105-160.


Andrew G. Walder, China under Mao: A revolution derailed (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015), pp. 1-14; 315- 344. 



Week 4 Governance in China

22 March


Sebastian Heilmann and Elizabeth Perry, “Embracing Uncertainty: Guerilla Policy Style and Adaptive Governance in China,” in Mao’s Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China, eds. Sebastian Heilmann and Elizabeth Perry (Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 2011): pp. 1-29. 


Vivienne Shue and Patricia M. Thornton, “Introduction: Beyond Implicit Political Dichotomies and Linear Models of Change in China,” in To Govern China: Evolving Practices of Power, eds. Vivienne Shue and Patricia M. Thornton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017): pp. 1-26. 



Week 5: China’s Economy: An Overview

29 March

Arthur R. Kroeber, China’s Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2016). Read: chapter 1 (pp. 1-26); and Chapter 3 (pp. 43-66).



Week 6: China’s Economy: A Bottom Up View

12 April


Wang Feng, “China’s Uphill Battle Against Inequality,” in Polarized Cities : Portraits of Rich and Poor in Urban China, ed. Dorothy J. Solinger (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018): pp. 23-55. 


Haiqing Yu and Lili Cui, “China’s E-Commerce: Empowering Rural Women?” The China Quarterly238 (June 2019): pp. 418–437. 



Week 7: Central-level Governance

19 April


Sebastian Heilmann, “Epilogue: Changes in China’s Policy Process under General Secretary Xi Jinping,” in Red Swan: How Unorthodox Policymaking Facilitated China’s Rise by Sebastian Heilmann (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2018): pp. 197-219. 


Xingmiu Liao and Wen-Hsuan Tsai, “Strengthening China’s Powerful Commission for Discipline Inspection under Xi Jinping, with a Case Study at the County Level,” The China Journal84 (July 2020): pp. 29-50. 



Week 8: China-Australia Relations

26 April


Guangyi Pan and Alexander Korolev, “The Struggle for Certainty: Ontological Security, the Rise of Nationalism, and Australia-China Tensions after COVID-19,” Journal of Chinese Political Science(January 2021):


Michael Wesley, “Beijing Calling: How China is testing the alliance,” Australian Foreign Affairs, No. 8, Feb 2020: 7-28. 


Week 9: Regional and Local Governance

3 May


Tao-chiu Lam and Carlos Wing-Hung Lo, “Local State-Building and Bureaucratization of China’s Public-Sector Service Organizations: A Case Study of the Environmental Protection System in Guangzhou,” The China Journal81 (2018): pp. 123-141. 


Kyle A. Jaros and Yeling Tan, “Provincial Power in a Centralizing China: The Politics of Domestic and International “Development Space,” The China Journal 83 (January 2020): pp. 79-104.


Week 10: Policymaking Processes: Lobbying and Agenda Setting

10 May


Dongya Huang and Minglu Chen, “Business Lobbying within the Party-State: Embedding Lobbying and Political Co-optation in China,” The China Journal 83 (January 2020): pp. 105-128.


Kellee S. Tsai and Qingyan Wang, “Charitable Crowdfunding in China: An Emergent Channel for Setting Policy Agendas?,” The China Quarterly 240 (December 2019): pp. 936–966. 



Week 11: Activism and Resistance

17 May


Xi Chen, “The Logic of Fragmented Activism among Chinese State-Owned Enterprise Workers,” The China Journal 81 (2018): pp. 58-80. 


Ching Kwan Lee and Yong Hong Zhang: “Seeing like a Grassroots State: Producing

Power and Instability in China’s Bargained Authoritarianism,”in To Govern China: Evolving Practices of Power, eds. Vivienne Shue and Patricia M. Thornton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017): pp. 177-201. 



Week 12 Online Controls and Propaganda 

24 May


Rongbin Han, “Harmonizing The Internet: State Control Over Online Expression” in Contesting Cyberspace in China: Online Expression and Authoritarian Resilienceby Rongbin Han (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2018): pp. 29-55. 


Elizabeth J. Perry, “Cultural Governance in Contemporary China: ‘Re-Orienting’ Party Propaganda, inTo Govern China: Evolving Practices of Power, eds. Vivienne Shue and Patricia M. Thornton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017): pp.  29-55. 



Week 13 COVID: A Case Study of Chinese Governance

31 May


Ciqi Mei, “Policy Style, Consistency And The Effectiveness of the Policy Mix in China’s Fight Against COVID-19,” Policy and Society, 39:3 (2020): pp. 309-325.


Wuna Reilly, “Beating the Virus in the Chinese Countryside,” forthcoming in: The China Story 2020 (Canberra: ANU Press, 2021). PDF file will be provided directly to students. 


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. develop a clear understanding of the patterns of political change and continuity in Chinese politics
  • LO2. demonstrate familiarity with different methods used to study Chinese politics
  • LO3. demonstrate the ability to synthesize, analyse, and critique scholarly writing on Chinese politics
  • LO4. demonstrate enhanced critical reading, analytical, and scholarly writing skills.

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

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

I have updated the assessment tasks, weekly topics, and required readings in response to student feedback.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.