Global Seminar in China

This is a particularly exciting time to know what is going on in China today. After its unification in 1949, following a “century of humiliation” between the Opium War that began in 1840 and the end of the Second World War, China remained poor, undeveloped and isolated from the rest of the world until 1978, when economic reform initiated a new era. Since 1978, China has been undergoing a social transformation of which the scope, rapidity and impact are unprecedented in human history; all aspects of Chinese society are changing fundamentally and forever.

The seminar offers an introduction to some of the most prominent features of Chinese society, including work organizations, the education system, the urban/rural divide, migration, social inequality, marriage and family, ethnicity and religion. The emphasis is on understanding social phenomena in China within its historical, cultural, political and economic context.

This seminar gives a substantive introduction to sociological perspectives of China that will allow students to begin to study other social changes in China and their long-term impact on not only the 1.3 billion Chinese now living in China—the largest population in the world today—but also people living elsewhere, in developed as well as developing countries.

The seminar uses a combination of in-class lectures and presentations and field excursions to sites within Beijing, western China, and southern China. Lectures and presentations will be held at Yuanpei College, Peking University’s preeminent residential college, some given by local experts and scholars. Several day trips to locations in Beijing will examine such issues as education, healthcare, and society and culture. Two weekend trips to western and southern China will examine China’s growing wealth and social disparities, the impact of fast-paced economic growth on society and regional differences in culture and traditions of China.

The weekend trip to Western China includes a visit the Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves in Gansu Province where ancient Buddhist art survives. The trip will also include an opportunity to examine rural life in China.

The weekend trip to southern China is to Shenzhen,  a special economic zone located in Guangdong Province.  The visit will include tours of manufacturing facilities, the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, and the Dafen Art Village in Shenzhen,. China is unique in its manufacturing model, where employees live on the factory grounds in dormitory-style housing and dine in communal kitchens. At Dafen Art Village, Dafen artists produce paintings en masse for just a few dollars.

The course fulfills the Social Analysis (SA) requirement and the departmental requirements for Sociology (SOC) and East Asian Studies (EAS). It may be used to fulfill the requirements for the East Asian Studies Program Certificate or the East Asian Studies Department Language and Culture Certificate. Language instruction will be given at the beginner (no prior training) and advanced (conversational) levels.

Cosponsored by the Center on Contemporary China.

Contact: Yan Bennett, (ybennett@princeton.edu)