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CHN4004 : Ethnicity and Nationalism in Contemporary China

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Jo Smith Finley
  • Other Staff: Miss Hanna Burdorf
  • Owning School: Modern Languages
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


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 and contemporary China
2) To foster awareness of the ways in which popular nationalism is used by the state, but also how it may undermine state discourses of nation
3) To develop an appreciation of the relative construction of Han majority versus minority nationality-identities
4) To build knowledge of the origins of Uyghur and Tibetan ethno-nationalisms
5) To explore ways in which minority nationalities construct and express alternative identities to those proposed by the state.

In this module, you will take an analytical approach to the study of ethnicity, nation and nationalisms in contemporary China.
Through a series of 12 lectures, 8 sessions of political discourse analysis, and 12 seminar presentations and debates, you will study key themes and moments in Chinese nationalist history, including: the May Fourth Movement, 1919 / New Culture Movement; the competing nationalist discourses of rival political elites (Chinese Nationalist Party; Chinese Communist Party) during the Republican era; discourses of ‘anti-traditionalism’ and ‘nativism’ during the Maoist period; discourses of ‘pragmatic nationalism’ in the post-1978 reform era; the function of ‘patriotic education’ in the reform era; the role of perception and sentiment in contemporary popular nationalism; the pragmatic strategy of PRC leaders in using popular nationalism, and ways in which pop. nationalism may ultimately undermine the state; Chinese nationalism in diplomatic encounters with foreign powers (especially the U.S. and Japan); China as a site for the evolution of both Han nationalism and regional ethno-nationalisms among non-Han minority nationalities; the origins of Uyghur and Tibetan ethno-nationalisms; constructions and expressions of Uyghur and Tibetan identities and nationalisms during the 20th century; the evolution of multiple Taiwanese identities; and prospects for national integration versus disintegration.

The module is assessed by two pieces of work: a 2000-2500 word essay (75%) and an assessed seminar presentation (25%), in which you are expected to demonstrate your knowledge of taught aspects of ethnicity, nation and nationalisms in contemporary China.

Outline Of Syllabus

Teaching Weeks 1-4:
3 x Lectures per week (total of 12 Lectures) on a given aspect of state or popular nationalist or ethno-nationalist discourse in contemporary China.
Lecture syllabus:
1. Introduction: module structure and requirements; approaches to ethnicity, nation and nationalism.
2. Origins of Chinese nationalism: the May Fourth Movement, 1919
3. Competing discourses of nation in Republican China: GMD versus CCP (1920s-1940s)
3. Discourses of ‘anti-traditionalism’ and ‘nativism’ during the Maoist period (1949-78)
4. Discourses of ‘pragmatic nationalism’ in the post-1978 reform era
5. The function of ‘patriotic education’ in the reform era
6. Interactions between popular nationalism and state discourses
7. Diplomatic encounters with foreign powers: Sino-American and Sino-Japanese relations
8. Majority (Han) versus Minority: relational identities
9. Origins of contemporary ethno-nationalisms in Xinjiang and Tibet
10. Construction and expression of alternative identities among Uyghurs and Tibetans
11. Taiwanese multiple identities: independence versus reunification
12. Concluding debate: prospects for national (dis)integration.

Teaching weeks 5-7:

8 x sessions of Political Discourse Analysis, based on material selected by the Lecturer
1 x Essay Planning Workshop

Teaching weeks 8-11:

3 x Assessed Seminar Presentations per week (total of 12 Presentations), each followed by 30 minutes of whole-class discussion and debate.

Teaching week 12:

3 x Module Surgery hours.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture151:0015:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00Discourse analysis sessions
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00Seminars.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops11:001:00Essay planning workshop
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops31:003:00Module Surgery
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1161:00161:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce students to competing discourses of nation in Republican and contemporary China; to relative (majority-minority) configurations of Han and minority ethnic identities in official and popular discourses; and to alternative constructions and expressions of minority identities in Xinjiang and Tibet.
Political Discourse Analysis sessions give students practice in reading and interpreting a variety of discourses, state and popular, majority Han and minority nationality, as well as an opportunity to discuss those discourses in the broader context of the history of the Chinese nation and globalising flows.
Student-led seminars encourage students to consolidate knowledge acquired from the lectures through wider reading and research; to address a specific, narrow research question via an oral presentation; and to participate in whole-class discussion and debate on the questions and issues raised.
Each student will prepare and present one oral presentation, which will be recorded for assessment purposes.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation152A2515-20 minutes.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2A75(2750 words).See student handbook for precise submission details.
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Essay2MStructured essay plan.To include an intro, a structure plan, and a conclusion. Will be marked and returned with formative feedback.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessed oral presentation, based on extensive independent and collaborative study, allows students both to foster individual initiative and to develop team-working and organisational skills. A successful presentation will require the development and application of library and research skills, IT skills, the ability to work in a team, and the successful demonstration of oral presentation skills.

The assessed essay, based on extensive independent study, encourages students to foster individual initiative and project management skills. A successful essay will require the development and application of library and research skills, as well as word-processing skills. Students will be assessed on their depth of understanding of the chosen topic as well as on their skills of independent thinking, critical analysis and academic discourse organisation.

Reading Lists