In the five years that have passed since we first established the Made in China Journal, we have published over three hundred essays on different facets of Chinese politics and society. This represents the collective expertise of hundreds of people in both academia and civil society who have graciously agreed to share their insights with us and our readers. Instead of letting this vast trove of material rest in our archive, we have now decided to draw from it to offer some basic syllabi on topics that fall within the purview of our publication. We begin with two syllabi on Chinese labour and Chinese development consisting of five modules each, followed by a shared module that covers some topics that we believe to be of fundamental importance for how we think and talk about China today. As we have written elsewhere, the Made in China Journal rests on two pillars: the conviction that today more than ever it is necessary to bridge the gap between the scholarly community and the general public, and the related belief that open access is necessary to ethically reappropriate academic research from commercial publishers who restrict the free circulation of ideas. As you will find, all essays in these syllabi are written with an informed general audience in mind—and are thus ideal for teaching—and completely free to peruse and download. All materials come from our publications, either the journal or the book Afterlives of Chinese Communism, and in those rare instances in which they do not, they are still freely available online.
This syllabus explores the world of Chinese labour in five modules. The first module attempts a genealogy of labour in China through an excavation of key political concepts that were at the core of the discourse of the Chinese Communist Party in the Maoist years and that still have significant reverberations in the post-reform era. The second shifts attention to the reality of labour in today’s China, with a particular focus on those who work at the margins, including migrant workers, laid-off workers, sanitation workers, and slaves in illegal brick kilns. The third accounts for how Chinese workers cope with the hardships they experience, with a particular focus on the role of the legal system in fostering both quiescence and resistance among Chinese workers, and on the shifting dynamics of worker unrest in China. The fourth deals with labour organising in both its top-down component through the activities of the official All-China Federation of Trade Unions and at the grassroots via the work of labour NGOs, feminist groups, and Marxist activists. As the situation for labour activism in China has immeasurably worsened under Xi Jinping, these essays unavoidably focus on repression, but the module also includes discussions about the possibility of campaigning for universal basic income in China and the role of trade unions in the recent wave of unrest in Hong Kong. Finally, the fifth module attempts to divine the future of labour in China between bullshit jobs, overtime fetishisation, robotisation, platform economies, and workplace surveillance.
This syllabus examines the dynamics of socioeconomic development in contemporary China in five modules. The first module explores the role of infrastructure and industry in Chinese development, starting by tracing the development of infrastructural and industrial concepts, before moving on to look at the varied history of mining and China’s ‘paradigmatic infrastructural state’. The second module covers urbanisation and migration, paying particular attention to the regimes of migrant work and the lived experience of migrant workers. The third digs into issues of poverty and underdevelopment, beginning with pieces that outline the core concepts underpinning the binaries that shape developmental thought in contemporary China, followed by analyses of discourses of poverty and the outcomes of government development interventions. The fourth module considers the impact that development has had on the environment, looking at the way in which mastery over nature has been framed in recent Chinese history and moving on to the various attempts the Chinese government has made to mitigate serious environmental problems emerging from its extractive development model. Finally, the fifth module delves into the complex issue of Chinese development overseas—particularly in the ‘Third World’—examining the diverse manifestations of Chinese capitalist development in countries of the Global South, as well as local responses.
This shared module covers a number of topics of fundamental importance for how we think and talk about China today. It begins with a number of readings on conceptual and methodological framing, calling for China to be understood in a global and comparative perspective and for increased awareness of our own ideological positioning. This is followed by a forum on fieldwork penned by early career researchers reflecting on the challenges and epiphanies they experienced in the field. The module concludes with readings delving into issues related to censorship and the vital importance of committing ourselves to open scholarship in the study of today’s China.
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