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Unit information: China’s Political Economy: Trade and Finance in China in 2021/22

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing, student choice and timetabling constraints.

Unit name China’s Political Economy: Trade and Finance in China
Unit code POLIM0040
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. King
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit delves into an assessment of China’s economic reform experience, focusing on the 21st century and the People’s Republic of China’s efforts to: 1) avoid the middle income trap; 2) secure its position as the world’s largest economy; 3) to balance its domestic needs and priorities with that of changing external expectations. Concentrating on the two central pillars of Trade and Finance, the unit will allow students to analyse state and party efforts to diversify China’s economy, develop new technology and innovation focused industry, as well as the barriers that exist to such efforts. The unit will also consider how China is trying it establish a balance of internal-external relations and networks, and the extent to which this is fundamentally different to the PRC’s previous approach to trade and finance. Students on the unit will also address issues of currency internationalisation, and the development of China’s banking and finance sector; as well as the risks that come with reform and with China’s efforts to become a leader in the next generation of economic innovation (in areas such as artificial Intelligence, digitisation, and fintech).

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to demonstrate via the unit assessments:

  • An ability to critically engage with existing scholarship on political and economic systems in the People’s Republic of China.
  • A sophisticated understanding of the dynamics of power, policy-making and state-business relations with regard to the People’s Republic of China
  • An ability to critically evaluate the influence of the international political economic system on the Chinese national economy;
  • Detailed awareness of China’s growing economy and its implications for the international economy.
  • Critical awareness of how the Chinese government balances its efforts to maintain a ‘hybrid approach’ to trade and finance with ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’.

Teaching details

2 hour seminar

In addition to the 20 hours of classroom time, students are expected to devote approximately 180 hours to independent reading, seminar preparation, essay writing and exam revision.

Assessment Details

Presentation (Summative) 50%

The presentation will function as both a formative and summative assessment.

Its practical aims include: developing team work, presentation skills, and an initial effort at research and presenting an ‘oral essay’ similar to a typical MSc formative presentation. As this is a team presentation and the scope of the assignment will require substantial research outside course readings, and means the assessment should be summative in nature. Students will also be provided with feedback prior to submitting their essay (the other summative assessment component listed below), and so this assessment will also serve a formative function for students.

The presentation will involve in-depth assessment of one of four aspects of China’s economy, which will change yearly to hinder repetition and plagiarism. For instance, the 1st year may be:

1) Finance and Fintech

2) Finance and the Bond Market

3) Trade and Innovation

4) Trade and Finance

1,500 Word Essay (Summative) 50%

The essay, which will be submitted at the end of term, will build upon the themes of the seminars and seminar readings, as well as the group presentations done throughout the term. It will be a research based hybrid research paper/policy paper. The students will have to reflect upon the economic objectives and political hurdles which policy makers face; identify the objectives of said policy with regards to domestic and international considerations and audiences; all while rooting this in the existing literature in Chinese Political Economy. Students will not be allowed to write on the same topic as their presentation.

Reading and References

Joseph Fan and Randall Morck (eds.), Capitalizing China, University of Chicago Press, 2012

Luo Dan, The Development of the Chinese Financial System and Reform of Chinese Commercial Banks, Palgrave, 2016

Ross Garnaut and Yiping Huang (eds.), Growth Without Miracles: Readings on the Chinese Economy in the Era of Reform, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001

Yasheng Huang, Tony Saich, and Edward Steinfeld, Financial Sector Reform in China, Harvard University Press, 2005

Barbara Krug and Hans Hendrischke (ed.) The Chinese Economy in the 21st Century: Enterprise and Business Behaviour, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2007

Barry Naughton, The Chinese Economy: Adaptation and Growth, 2ND Edition, MIT Press, 2018

Paola Subacchi, The People's Money: How China is Building a Global Currency, Columbia University Press, 2016

Li Yang and Robert Lawrence Kuhn, China's Banking and Financial Markets: The Internal Research Report of the Chinese Government, John Wiley and Sons, 2007

George S Yip and Bruce McKern, China’s Next Strategic Advantage: From Imitation to Innovation, MIT Press, 2016

Joe Zhang, Inside China’s Shadow Banking: The Next Subprime Crisis? Enrich Professional Publishing, 2013