• Offered by School of Culture History and Language
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Course subject Asian Studies
  • Areas of interest Anthropology, Non Language Asian Studies, Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, Sociology More...
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Thomas Cliff
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2020
    See Future Offerings

A large body of scholarship now addresses a range of questions about social relatedness in China: What does kinship consist of in China and how is it changing?  How have patrilineal kinship imaginaries shaped the place of women in Chinese families?  What is the relationship of love and practicality in romantic relationships?  How are relationships formed outside of the family in business and politics and how do these types of relationships draw on the form and content of kin relations?  How have urbanization and new communication technologies shaped practices of relationship formation?  China is an important reference point for the study of social relationships both because of scholarly debates about the uniqueness of the practices used to form social relationships there and because Chinese society is changing so rapidly. This course will introduce sociological and anthropological methods and analytics for the study of social relationships while examining the cultural forms of relatedness in Chinese social worlds.  The place of kinship imaginaries in everyday ethics and social practice will be emphasized.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the skills and knowledge to:
1. Comprehend the cultural and practical logics of patrilineal kinship in Chinese settings including the social variability of that practice.
2. Summarize debates about the place of social connections (guanxi) in Chinese society.
3. Summarize debates about how Chinese kinship is changing and the causes of that change.
4. Show how cultural modes of practice and understanding in one realm of society (kinship) are applied in other settings.
5. Utilize case studies when arguing analytical points in writing.
6. Present the contents of readings for a wider audience.

Other Information

This is a co-taught course. Any cap on enrolments in one course applies to both courses combined.

Indicative Assessment

Tutorial Participation: 10%  (Learning outcomes 1,2,3,4,6)
Tutorial Presentation and Essay 15% 1500 words (LOs 1,2,3,4,6)
Midterm Exam (to be taken and assessed in week 6) 15% (LOs 1,2,3,4)
Final Essay 35% 3000 words (LOs 1,2,3,4,5,6)
Final Exam 25% (LOs 1,2,3,4)

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


The course will be run in a 2 hour lecture one hour tutorial format for a standard 12 week semester.  Depending on course numbers and percentage of undergraduate/MAPS students, separate tutorials or additional office hours will be offered to the MAPS students.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course students must have completed at least 36 units of university courses.

Preliminary Reading

Some of the book length works lectures and student readings will draw be drawn from include:


Ba, Jin

1972. Family {a novel}. New York: Cheng and Tsui.


Boretz, Avron 2011 Gods, Ghosts and Gangsters: Ritual Violence, Martial Arts and Masculinity on the Margins of Chinese Society. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.


Brandtstadter, Susanne and Goncalo dos Santos eds. 2009. Chinese Kinship: Contemporary Anthropological Perspectives. New York: Routledge.


Dickson, Bruce J. 2008 Wealth Into Power: The Communist Party's Embrace of China's Private Sector. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Evans, Harriet 2012 The Intimate Individual: Perspectives from the Mother-Daughter Relationship in Urban China. In Chinese Modernity and the Individual Psyche. A.B. Kipnis, ed. Pp. 119-148. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


Fei, Xiaotong 1992. From the Soil: The Foundations of Chinese Society, A Translation of Fei Xiaotong's Xiangtu Zhongguo, trans. Gary Hamilton and Wang Zheng (Berkeley: University of California Press).


Fong, Vanessa L., et al. 2012 Gender Role Expectations and Chinese Mothers' Aspirations for their Toddler Daughters' Future Independence and Excellence. In Chinese Modernity and the Individual Psyche. A.B. Kipnis, ed. Pp. 89-118. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


Freedman, Maurice 1958 Lineage organization in southeastern China. London: Athlone Press.


Freedman, Maurice 1966 Chinese Lineage and Society. London: Athlone Press.


Gold, Thomas 1985 After Comradeship: Personal Relations in China since the Cultural Revolution. China Quarterly (104):657-675.


Gold, Thomas, Doug Guthrie and David L. Wank (eds)

2002. Social Connections in China: Institutions, Culture and the Changing Nature of Guanxi (New York: Cambridge University Press).


Guthrie, Doug 1998 The Declining Significance of Guanxi in China's Economic Transition. China Quarterly (154):254-282.


Hillman, Ben 2014. Patronage and Power: Local State Networks and Party-State Resilience in rural China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press).


Judd, Ellen R. 1994 Gender and Power in Rural North China. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.


Kipnis, Andrew B. 1997. Producing Guanxi: Sentiment, Self, and Subculture in a North China village (Durham, NC: Duke University Press).


Lee, Hyeon Jung 2012 Modernization and Women's Fatalistic Suicide in Post-Mao Rural China: A Critique of Durkheim. In Chinese Modernity and the Individual Psyche. A.B. Kipnis, ed. Pp. 149-165. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


McDonald, Tom 2016. Social Media in Rural China. London: UCL Press.


Nathan, Andrew 1973 A Factionalism Model for CCP Politics. The China Quarterly (53):33-66.


Osborg, John 2013. Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality Among China's New Rich (Stanford University Press).


Ownby, David 1996 Brotherhoods and Secret Societies in Early and Mid-Qing China: The Formation of a Tradition. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.


Santos, Goncalo D. 2006 The Anthropology of Chinese Kinship: A Critical Overview. European Journal of East Asian Studies 5:275-333.


Santos, Goncalo D. 2008 On 'Same-year Siblings' in Rural South China. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (14):535-553.


Vogel, Ezra F. 1965 From Friendship to Comradeship: The Change in Personal Relations in Communist China. China Quarterly (21):46-60.


Wang, Xinyuan 2016. Social Media in Industrial China. London: UCL Press.


Wank, David L. 1999 Commodifying Communism: Business, Trust, and Politics in a Chinese City. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Wolf, Margery 1968. The House of Lim: a study of a Chinese farm family (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall).


Wolf, Margery 1972. Women and the Family in Rural Taiwan (Stanford: Stanford University Press).


Yan, Yunxiang 2003. Private Life Under Socialism: Love, Intimacy and Family Change in a Chinese Village 1949-1999 (Stanford: Stanford University Press).


Yang, Guobin 2009.  The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online. (New York: Columbia University Press).


Yang, Mayfair Mei-hui 1994. Gifts, Favors, and Banquets: The Art of Social Relationships in China. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.


Zheng, Tiantian 2009. Red Lights: The Lives of Sex Workers in Postsocialist China (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).

Areas of Interest

  • Anthropology
  • Non Language Asian Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology
  • Asian Studies


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $3120
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $4800
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4386 24 Feb 2020 02 Mar 2020 08 May 2020 05 Jun 2020 In Person View

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions