Understanding China

Course Description

The history of China is both rich and complex, as is its development in the modern era. The growing influence of China on the world stage, as one of the largest economies, a prominent player in international relations, and a major centre for knowledge creation, highlights the need for an integrated and multi-disciplinary understanding of its past and present.  This course brings together several perspectives on China in addressing the following topics: cultural and intellectual roots, epochal events in history, modernisation and social change, economic development, and science and technology. This online course is required of all undergraduates admitted in 2022-2023 and thereafter.


In addition to an introductory lecture to the course, its video lectures consist of the following five modules:

  1. Understanding China: Intellectual Foundations
  2. History as Mirror: Looking at Today’s China from the Past
  3. China’s Road to Modernisation
  4. The Chinese Economy: Past, Present and Future
  5. Science and Technology in China

Learning Outcomes

Students enrolled in this course will be able to:

  1. acquire a basic understanding of selected key cultural concepts that have shaped individuals and society in Chinese history, with reference to the Confucian, Daoist and Buddhist traditions;

  2. gain an appreciation of the complex forces that have impacted historical development in China and contributed to unity and division, the cultural and ethnic diversity of the nation, as well as continuities between past and present in government institutions, in the relations between China and the West, and in the historical-mindedness of the people;

  3. develop a basic grasp of the modernisation of China as a movement of national salvation and self-empowerment involving giant social transformations, the emergent role and influence of China as an important member of the international community, and the concept of modernity in relation to Westernisation and globalisation;

  4. become familiar with selected milestones in the economic development of China in the last two centuries, in particular the period since the founding of the People’s Republic, and future challenges in sustainable development;

  5. acquire a basic knowledge of the major scientific and technological advances in ancient and modern China, with an understanding of the significance of these achievements as well as their limitations from a comparative cultural perspective in the study of scientific discoveries;

  6. develop an understanding of the phenomenon of China rising in the broader context of Chinese culture and history, and reflect on how one may respond to the challenges of China;

  7. enhance awareness of cultural differences, leading to further reflections of one’s own cultural identity;

  8. develop a deepened appreciation of the complexity, grandeur and richness of Chinese history and culture, and with it a potentially enhanced sense of national identity.


  • The course will adopt the Distinction/Pass/Failure grading.
  • The assessment of the course will consist of online assignments and a final examination.
  • The online assignment for a module will be posted for a specified period. One must complete all the online assignments to obtain the “Distinction” grade.
  • An examination of the video lectures and required readings will be conducted to help students better understand their attainment of the learning outcomes.
  • Please refer to the “Assessment Methods” and “Grade Descriptors” of the course through CUSIS for the assessment details.