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Topics in Modern Chinese History (ResMA)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (research) or another relevant Research MA. Students from other programmes are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.


China’s economic growth in recent decades has taken a toll on its population and environment, prompting the Chinese Communist party-state undertake drastic anti-pollution measures in its 14th Five-Year Plan. Efforts to secure continued economic growth, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, have complicated China’s relations with developing and developed countries. This course aims to put these contemporary developments in the context of China’s long history of interactions between humans and the environment. We will read recent scholarship and relevant primary sources on these themes: Chinese ideas of nature, imperialism and resource extraction, politics of water, famines in agrarian and revolutionary societies, energy transitions, diseases and migration, animals and agriculture, and environmental conservation.

Course objectives

Participants in this course will acquire the following:

  • A critical understanding of environmental processes in shaping patterns in modern Chinese history

  • Ability to critically evaluate historical and historiographical arguments in the fields of Chinese environmental history and modern Chinese history

  • Improved research skills, presentation skills, and composition skills


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Attendance is compulsory for all sessions. Students must prepare well and contribute to in-class discussion. If a student cannot attend because of illness or misadventure, they should promptly inform the convener. Extra assignments may be set to make up for missed class time, at the convener’s discretion. Absence without notification may result in lower grades or exclusion from assessment components and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students should familiarize themselves with the notion of academic integrity and the ways in which this plays out in their own work. A good place to start is this page. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students may not substantially reuse texts they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Assignments and participation 50%
Final paper 50%

The final grade consists of the weighted average of all course components. In order to pass the course, students need a pass mark (“voldoende”, i.e. “5.50” or higher) for the course as a whole.

All categories of assessment must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Only if the total weighted average is 5.49 or lower and this is the result of a paper graded 5.49 or lower, a re-sit of the paper is possible (50%). In that case the convener of the course may decide to assign a (new) topic. The deadline for this version will be determined by the course convener, after consultation with the student.
A re-sit for other course components is not possible.

Inspection and feedback

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list


For the Research MA students additional reading will be determined by the convener at a later stage taking into account the students’ fields of interest. Extra sessions will be organized to discuss this extra literature.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof