CCCH9014 China: Culture, State and Society
Social Development: China, Asia, and the World

This course is under the thematic cluster(s) of:

  • Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth (SCCE)
  • The Human Life Span (HL)
  • Gender, Sexuality, and Diversity (GSD)

Course Description

Starting in the late 1970s, the Open Door Policy ushered in an era of privatization, decentralization, modernization, and the dismantling of the Mao era’s ‘iron rice bowl’. The reforms have had a profound impact on Chinese society, creating a rising quality of life and income, but also contributing significantly to rising inequalities, environmental degradation, and retrenchment of social welfare entitlements.

Is inequality a necessity to motivate social development? Who are the emerging urban poor, and how can China achieve poverty reduction? Why is it expensive and difficult to obtain quality health care? How can welfare policy help to achieve social integration? How is China’s social development status compared with other Asian economies and the world? This course focuses on the nature and magnitude of key social development challenges in China, and how Chinese policymakers and the emerging civil society are addressing them. Key questions explored will include indicators and frameworks of social development, the limits of market power in providing social goods, trending social issues, and the progress and challenges of policy and social service in the Chinese institutional context in a globalizing world.

The course relies extensively on current information including news reports, video clips, in-class discussions, and group activities to explore the topics.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Define the concept of social development and explain the surrounding controversies.
  2. Enhance understanding the nature and magnitude of the social challenges facing current China.
  3. Examine the role of the government and civil society in addressing social problems in the context of modernization and globalization, and analyze these responses within the historical, economic, and cultural contexts.
  4. Recommend viable reform directions for China’s social development.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 22
Tutorials 8
Reading / Self-study 40
Assessment: Essay writing 20
Assessment: Group project (incl preparation) 20
Assessment: Quiz (incl preparation) 20
Total: 130

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Individual essay 20
Group project and presentation 40
Open book quiz 20
In-class discussion 10
Tutorial participation 10

Required Reading

Week 1

  • Pawar, M. S., & Cox, D. R. (2010). Social development. In M. S. Pawar & D. R. Cox (Eds.), Social development: Critical themes and perspectives (pp. 13-36). New York: Routledge.

Week 2

  • Leung, J., & Xu, Y. (2015). China’s Social Welfare: The Third Turning Point. [Chap. 2 (pp. 17-38) ‘From socialism to modernization’] Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Week 3

  • Peng, Y. (2020). Should we have a second child? Reproductive decisions and family negotiation under China’s Two-child Policy. Journal of Contemporary China, 29(125), 792-807.
  • Riley, N. (2017). Population in China. Cambridge: Polity Press. [‘China’s Recent Demographic History’ (pp. 15-36)]

Week 4

  • Chou, R. J. (2011). Filial piety by contract? The emergence, implementation, and implications of the “family support agreement” in China. The Gerontologist51(1), 3-16.

Week 5

  • Sun, S., & Chen, F. (2015). Reprivatized womanhood: Changes in mainstream media’s framing of urban women’s issues in China, 1995–2012. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77, 1091-1107.
  • Zhao, Y. (2017). Gender Equality in a Global Perspective. Taylor & Francis. [‘(Un)doing gender equality in China’ (pp. 77-100)]

Week 6

  • Ngai, P., & Koo, A. (2015). A “World-Class” (Labor) Camp/us: Foxconn and China’s New Generation of Labor Migrants. Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique, 23(3), 411-435.

Week 7

  • Wang, Y., & Ross, H. (2010). Experiencing the change and continuity of the college entrance examination. Chinese Education & Society, 43(4), 75-93.

Week 8

  • LaFraniere, S. (2010, November 10). Life in the shadows for mentally ill in China. New York Times.
  • Riley. N. (2017). Population in China. Cambridge: Polity Press. [Chap. 5 ‘Public Health, Morbidity and Mortality’ (pp. 94-122)]

Week 9

  • Link, P., Madsen, R., & Pickowicz, P. (Eds.). (2013). Restless China. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. [Chap. 10 ‘A Collapsing Natural Environment’ (pp. 215-236)]

Week 10

  • Teets, J. C. (2013). Let many civil societies bloom: The rise of consultative authoritarianism in China. The China Quarterly, 213, 19-38.

Week 11

  • Leung, J., & Xu, Y. (2015). China’s Social Welfare: The Third Turning Point. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. [Chap. 8 ‘The third turning point’ (pp. 172-184)]

Weekly readings are expected to be self-studied before the class. Electronic copies of all reading materials will be posted on Moodle.


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr S. Lu
Department of Social Work and Social Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 2080
Email: shuanglu@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr S. Lu
Department of Social Work and Social Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 2080
Email: shuanglu@hku.hk