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University College for Interdisciplinary Learning

Why China Matters

Course Unit Code


Course Unit Details

This unit has been designed specifically for online learning and offers a unique interactive experience.


  • Level 2
  • 10 Credits
  • School of Social Sciences


With nearly a fifth of the world's population, the world's second largest economy, the world's largest standing army, and by far the world's greatest emissions of greenhouse gases, China is intrinsically important. How is China shaping the world and your future? Can China's rise be peaceful, or will it lead to conflict? Will it accelerate or slow global climate change?

This course, led by the Manchester China Institute Director and Professor of Politics Peter Gries, introduces you to China's rise in the 21st century within its local and global contexts. Its scope is broad, addressing China's economy, global trade and investment, politics and international relations, diverse populations, social issues, technology and innovation, and energy and environmental challenges.

Over a dozen China experts from Manchester and beyond will offer their academic and professional expertise in a range of different disciplines: from International Relations and Economics through to Sociology and History. You will be exposed to diverse views of China from across the UK, China, the US, and beyond. The focus will be on equipping you with the knowledge and skills needed to think critically about China and global affairs-and interpret them for yourself. You will be asked to construct well-reasoned arguments.

Studying China should encourage self-reflection on your pre-existing (national, ethnic, religious, gender, and class) identities, ideological commitments (e.g. left or right) and views about today's world and society. Ultimately, the course aims to help you think beyond binaries and be better equipped to act as a global citizen and future professional in the interconnected world of the 21st century.


This unit aims to expand your understanding of China and contemporary global politics. It will encourage you to further develop your worldview and understand your own place in the global community. It offers you a unique opportunity to learn and think about issues that are pertinent both to China and the rest of the world from different disciplinary perspectives.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of key concepts related to China's rise and international relations in written form
  • Engage critically with different viewpoints and describe, analyse, and interpret decisions taken and policies applied by different parties concerning China's relations with the rest of the world
  • Make use of theoretical concepts and case studiesincluding concepts from different disciplines-to propose solutions to problems in a range of different areas (economics, society, technology, human rights etc)
  • Assemble data and prioritise information to build a policy-memo a type of document used in several professional settings
  • Use Library and electronic resources, including tools used specifically for online asynchronous learning


You will take all 10 modules of the unit. The modules are likely to cover the following themes:

  • Introduction. Panda-huggers, dragon-slayers, and China's rise
  • Economy. Is China's economic growth sustainable?
  • Trade & Investment. What are the promises & perils of China's global economic reach?
  • Politics. How does the Communist Party rule China?
  • International Relations I. In/security during China's rise.
  • International Relations II. The Indo-Pacific and beyond
  • Populations. What are the implications of China's population decline, and how are China's major demographic groups faring?
  • Self & society. Expressing identities in China today
  • Technology. What are the global benefits and risks of Chinese technologies?
  • Energy & environment. Is China helping or hindering the fight against climate change?


  • Ongoing, end of module short assessments (e.g. mix of online discussions and online quizzes) (20%)
  • Foreign policy memo (1000 words, 35%)
  • Blogpost with choice of topic and format (1500 words, 45%)

Well written assignments can be published online (with your consent, under your name or anonymously) on the Manchester China Institute's website.


UCIL units are designed to be accessible to undergraduate students from all disciplines.

UCIL units are credit-bearing and it is not possible to audit UCIL units or take them for additional/extra credits. You must enrol following the standard procedure for your School when adding units outside of your home School.

If you are not sure if you are able to enrol on UCIL units you should contact your School Undergraduate office. You may wish to contact your programme director if your programme does not currently allow you to take a UCIL unit.

You can also contact the UCIL office if you have any questions.

Teaching Staff

  • Prof. Peter Gries of the Manchester China Institute and leading scholars from across The University of Manchester

Teaching and Learning Methods

The unit is delivered entirely via Blackboard. It is made up of 10 x online modules, which are released weekly (usually). You choose when during the week to do the work.

The unit is highly interactive and adopts a blend of approaches including video inputs and case studies.

Please note that to understand China today, it is essential for us to engage with controversial and politically sensitive issues. Responding to views that may be radically different to your own in a meaningful and respectful way is a skill that this course unit will help you to develop. We will provide you with further guidance on whom to refer to (e.g. your tutor, the unit lead) if at any point you wish to discuss an issue further.


There are no timetabling constraints. Because the class is online and asynchronous, you do the work when it fits your schedule, no matter what you're studying.
Why China Matters is one of the most enjoyable, interesting, well designed and best executed modules I have taken at university and stands as a stellar example as to what can be achieved by online learning.Joe Hindley, Mathematics

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