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Topical Readings in Modern Chinese


Admission requirements

There are no official entry requirements for Master students wishing to take this module. Experience with political philosophy and social science concepts will be helpful, however students with no previous exposure to these fields will be able to acquire the necessary knowledge throughout the course. Students are encouraged to also take the fall-semester state-of-the-field seminar “China in the 21st Century”.


Whereas language training in the fall semester is concerned with the broad, practical application of linguistic competence, this course is topically defined, and provides thematic and disciplinary angles for the study of China. Students make a close reading of a coherent series of Chinese-language materials in the fields of political philosophy and contemporary social science, thus combining advanced linguistic training with the chance to develop awareness of disciplinary thinking, and concomitant types of textual analysis and interpretation. The questions that will guide this course include: how do Chinese authors conceptualize issues of governance? How does contemporary Chinese political thought draw from both traditional Chinese concepts and Western ideas? Is China developing distinctive theories in politics and international relations? Students will cover a broad range of philosophical topics, including the “Confucian Revival” debate, neo-authoritarian as well as neo-conservative ideas of governing, Chinese conceptualizations of democracy, and realist as well as cosmopolitan interpretations of globalization and international politics.

This course involves two contact hours per week, conducted in English, and requiring about twelve hours of preparation per week (covering 50-60 pages of Chinese-language reading materials per week), not counting preparation for the final assessment.

Course objectives

Further increase the students-abilities in:

  • Reading articles on China’s position in the world (political, cultural, economic, strategic, etc.), written in modern academic Chinese (both simplified and traditional characters);

  • Expanding the relevant academic vocabulary;

  • Analyzing complex academic arguments and recognizing various rhetorical strategies;

  • Comparing different academic positions on the same issue;

  • Presenting oral and written summaries in English of (parts) of articles in class;

  • Actively participating in group discussions in English;

  • Gradually building up reading speed.


To be announced.

Mode of instruction


The work-load for this course will roughly be as follows: – Seminar time: 24 hours – Course Reading and preparation: 120 hours – Reading for the final paper: 83 hours – Writing the final paper: 53 hours
Total: 280 hours

Assessment method

In order to pass this module, students will have to write a short paper in English language (3000 words, +/- 5%, including footnotes and references). The paper will be a summary and discussion of one Chinese-language monograph, which students may chose themselves (it is recommended that this volume or set of articles relates to the MA research proposal). The paper’s grade will constitute 70% of the final course mark will be based on the paper’s grade.
The additional 30% of the final course mark will be based on an oral presentation. Students will be required to each participate in a group presentation of one of the weekly topics (groups will be assigned in during the introductory session).
Attendance and participation are obligatory, as is punctuality.


The module will make use of blackboard for course communication, general course proceedings, and information on reading material as well as assessment criteria.

Reading list

The course literature will be announced during the course introduction and will be available at the Sinology library.


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

For questions or additional information please contact your study coordinator, or the lecturer:
Dr. Florian Schneider
Office Location: Arsenaal 009


This is one out of three topical readings courses from which students are required to chose and pass one module. Students with a clear disciplinary orientation may, in consultation with their thesis supervisor, substitute — pure — disciplinary training (10 ECTS) for the topical readings in Chinese elsewhere in the Faculty of Arts or in other Faculties, such as the Faculty of Social & Behavioral Sciences and the Faculty of Law; or even at another university.