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CHN4004 : China and its Peripheries: Repression, (In)stability and Conflict in the 21st Century

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Jo Smith Finley
  • Owning School: Modern Languages
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


In consonance with the overall aims and objectives of the degree programme:

1) To develop an understanding of competing nationalist and ethno-nationalist discourses in Republican (1911-1949), Maoist (1949-1978) and Reform-era (1978- ) China;

2) To foster awareness of how popular nationalism is channelled by the state as a means to promote national unification, and of how popular nationalism may also undermine the state;

3) To develop an appreciation of the relative construction of the Han majority identity vis-a-vis the minority nationality identities;

4) To build knowledge of the historical and contemporary origins of Uyghur and Tibetan ethno-nationalisms, and to explore ways in which minority nationalities construct and express alternative identities to those imposed by the state / the Han majority.

5) To develop an understanding of competing pro-independence and pro-(re)unification aspirations in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

In this module, you will take an analytical approach to the study of nation, nationalism, ethnicity, and peripheral (in)stability in contemporary China.

Outline Of Syllabus

Module Talk (Introduction)

Topic 1. The May Fourth Movement, 1919 / New Culture Movement
Topic 2. Competing Discourses of Nationalism in Republican China (1912-49) - Guomindang (GMD, Chinese Nationalist Party) vs. Gongchandang (CCP, Chinese Communist Party)
Topic 3. ‘Anti-Traditionalism’, ‘Nativism’ and ‘Pragmatic Nationalism’ from the Maoist Era (1949-78) to the Reform Era (1978 - present)
Topic 4. ‘Patriotic Education’ and Emotive Popular Nationalism following the 1989 Tian’anmen Incident
Topic 5. State and Media Representations of the Han Majority and Minority Nationalities (Ethnic Minorities) in China
Topic 6. Origins of Uyghur and Tibetan Ethno-Nationalisms
Topic 7. Ethnic Stereotypes (and Counter-Stereotypes)

Essay planning workshop

Topic 8. The Evolution of Taiwanese National Identity (incl. 2014 Sunflower Movement)
Topic 9. The Hong Kong Protests 2014-20 and the HK Independence Movement
Topic 10. Chinese Nationalism and the World: The Authoritarian Turn
Topic 11. The Post-2017 “De-Extremification” and Mass Internment Campaign in Xinjiang.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion301:0030:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials51:005:00Online, non-synchronous
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00Present-in-person: Seminar (Discourse Analysis)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00Present-in-person: Discussion and Q and A on Lecture materials (PPT viewed in advance)
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities51:005:00Online, non-synchronous
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops11:001:00Present-in-person: Essay planning workshop
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1371:00137:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk11:001:00Present-in-person
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Pre-reading, in the form of short, online blog pieces written by China scholars and experts, and/or viewing of short podcasts and videos, stimulate students’ initial interest in each lecture topic.

Online lecture materials (Powerpoints) then introduce students to competing discourses of nation in Republican, Maoist and contemporary China; to relative (majority-minority) configurations of Han and minority ethnic identities in official and popular discourses; and to the origins, constructions and expressions of alternative, peripheral identity movements in Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, and related centre-periphery conflicts. Students take an initial look at the PPT ahead of class, and then meet in person with the Lecturer to discuss what they have learned, and take part in Q and A.

An in-person Essay planning workshop is designed to counsel students on how to research material, analyse sources critically, and plan, structure and present their arguments.

Small-group, in-person seminars, held on campus, encourage students to further explore the lecture themes through research, reading and discourse analysis, focused on carefully selected texts and audiovisual media (images and videos) related to the 11 lecture topics. Research and reading can be conducted independently or in small groups with student peers, in order to foster both individual initiative and teamwork.

NOTE: This module will be delivered in blended mode: 33% online and 67% present in person. The blended learning mode of teaching was previously shown to be effective, since it allowed students to first read up, research and reflect on topics independently in their own time, then meet with the lecturer and one another face to face to discuss, debate, and ask follow-up questions.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M70An Essay of 2500-2800 words (including quotations and footnotes but excluding bibliographies).
Written exercise1M30Critical Commentary (1200 words) on a single text chosen from 3 options, each reflecting a different topic or combination of topics
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The module will be assessed by:

- a Critical Commentary of 1200 words (30%), on a single text chosen from three options. The student will analyse and discuss core themes relating to the lecture topic – or combination of lecture topics – covered in that text. This exercise encourages independent critical thinking and processing of different types of document, including those from government, NGO, media and academic sources.

- an Essay of 2500-2800 words (70%), demonstrating knowledge of taught aspects of nation, nationalism, ethnicity and peripheral (in)stability in contemporary China, as well as the ability to critically analyse social and political themes. There will be a choice of essay questions covering the 11 lecture themes.

Reading Lists