Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Economic and Social History

Undergraduate Course: Tradition and transformation in China's economy, 1949-2001 (ECSH10108)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores the trajectory of Chinese economic history from the establishment of the People's Republic of China until the present day, complementing approaches of economic and political history with those of social, cultural, and intellectual history. From the early days of central planning, to the People's Republic of China's accession to the World Trade Organization, via the heydays of Maoism and Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms of the 1980s, this is a class on modern economic Chinese history for anyone interested in understanding one of the most important actors in today's world economy.
Course description This course analyses the development of China's economy between ideology and economic necessity, dramatic failure and extraordinary success. This part of the course covers the period since 1949, when the People's Republic of China was established. In the early 1950s, the new People's Republic of China looked set to become a planned economy on the Soviet model; but a few years later, Mao Zedong launched the 'Great Leap Forward', a developmental policy that may well have been one of the most disastrous economic experiments of the 20th century. The PRC had hardly recovered from the 'Great Leap Forward' when it was devastated by the 'Cultural Revolution', an all-consuming political campaign, the scars of which are visible in China to the present day. And yet, one only needs to open a newspaper these days to be reminded of the supposed threat which China's economic development poses to the developed economies. How was this astonishing economic recovery possible? In this course, we will trace the story of the PRC's economy, from planned economy through Maoist utopia to its present perceived glories; by the end of the semester, students will have developed an understanding of why the history of China's economic development is crucial to making sense of today's global economy. No previous knowledge of Chinese history or of the Chinese language is required to take this course.

Content note: The study of History inevitably involves the study of difficult topics that we encourage students to approach in a respectful, scholarly, and sensitive manner. Nevertheless, we remain conscious that some students may wish to prepare themselves for the discussion of difficult topics. In particular, the course organiser has outlined that the following topics may be discussed in this course, whether in class or through required or recommended primary and secondary sources: mass violence, famine, and starvation. While this list indicates sensitive topics students are likely to encounter, it is not exhaustive because course organisers cannot entirely predict the directions discussions may take in tutorials or seminars, or through the wider reading that students may conduct for the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking Tradition and Transformation in the Chinese Economy since 1949 (ECSH10088) OR The Chinese Economy: Past and Present (ECNM10079)
Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students must have 3 History courses at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses. Enrolments for this course are managed by the CAHSS Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department. All enquiries to enrol must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 172 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 40 %, Coursework 40 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
3,000 word essay (40%)

Non-Written Skills:
Presentation (20%)

Two-hour final exam (40%)
Feedback Students will receive written feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser during their published office hours or by appointment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. analyse and evaluate conflicting historical interpretations on a given topic;
  2. demonstrate the acquisition of basic knowledge in some of the most important fields of research on the history of the Chinese economy since 1949, of a better understanding of the globalised nature the Chinese economy during this period, and of some of the most important concepts and methodological approaches to studying it;
  3. demonstrate an understanding of the political importance of interpretations of China's economic development since 1949;
  4. demonstrate an understanding of the importance of concepts such as Socialism, Stalinism, Maoism, Authoritarianism, and Neoliberalism;
  5. synthesize secondary literature.
Reading List
1. Christopher Bramall, 'Chinese Land Reform in Long Run Perspective and in the Wider Asian Context', Journal of Agrarian Change, 4/1-2 (January, April 2004).

2. Alfred L. Chan, Mao's Crusade: Politics and Policy Implementation in China's Great Leap Forward (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

3. Sherman Cochran, 'Capitalists Choosing Communist China: the Liu Family of Shanghai, 1948-1956', in Jeremy Brown, Paul Pickowicz (eds.), Dilemmas of Victory: the early Years of the People's Republic of China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).

4. Frank Dik├Âtter, Mao's Great Famine: the History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962 (London: Bloomsbury, 2010).

5. Edward Friedman, Paul Pickowicz, Chinese Village, Socialist State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), Ch.s 4-8.

6. Deborah Kaple, Dream of a Red Factory: the Legacy of High Stalinism in China (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1994).

7. Li, Huayu, Mao and the Economic Stalinization of China, 1948-1953 (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006).

8. Li, Wei, Tao, Dennis Yang, 'The Great Leap Forward: Anatomy of a Central Planning Disaster', Journal of Political Economy, 113/4 (2005).

9. Edward E. Moise, Land Reform in China and North Vietnam: Consolidating the Revolution at Village Level (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983).

10. Barry Naughton, Growing out of the Plan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

11. Barry Naughton, The Chinese Economy: Transitions and Growth (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007).

12. Carl H. Riskin, China's Political Economy: the Quest for Political Economy since 1949 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Felix Boecking
Course secretary
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information