• Class Number 3675
  • Term Code 3230
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In-Person and Online
    • Dr Tom Cliff
    • Dr Tom Cliff
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 21/02/2022
  • Class End Date 27/05/2022
  • Census Date 31/03/2022
  • Last Date to Enrol 28/02/2022
SELT Survey Results

This course explores family and social connections (guanxi) as the basic structures of power and authority, resistance and survival, through history and in modern Chinese society. Key concepts from social and political theory are built into the course structure. Family relationships act as models for other forms of relationship, including for those in business and politics. The course traces these connections, showing how relationships are powerfully shaped by—and also shape—Chinese laws, social norms, and cultural practices. Business, family, and local government case studies illustrate the structures of the past as well as the current trajectory of Chinese society.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Analyse the logic and comprehend the variability of patrilineal kinship practices in Chinese societies.
  2. Critically examine the production and usage of social connections (guanxi) in Chinese societies.
  3. Understand and apply important concepts in social and political theory, including: power and authority; social networks; institutions and institutional theory; ritual; social, economic, and cultural capital.
  4. Read deeply for form and content, to extract maximum inspiration from academic texts.
  5. Articulate the strengths of different research methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  6. Structure written work and oral arguments clearly.

Research-Led Teaching

Research-led teaching: The convener of this course conducts long-term fieldwork in China as a primary research methodology. Each lecture will draw on years of active study and unique personal experience, and work these experiences in with the pre-eminent pieces of published research on the given topic and current debates in the topic sub-area.

Explicate a conceptual understanding of Chinese society based on key social actors and their attributed roles, as well as likely divergences from those roles.

Required Resources

The House of Lim, by Margery Wolf (see week one, other information).

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

·     written comments (on written assignments)

·     verbal comments (on group work, in-class presentations, and class participation)

·     verbal feedback, and/or feedback via Wattle to the whole class (on group work, in-class presentations, class participation, and written assignments)


Written feedback on the written critical summaries will be provided before the following week's class.

Oral feedback on presentations will be given in class, and will be geared towards improving students' oral presentation, explication, and argumentation techniques.

This prompt feedback will enable students to improve their next oral presentation/critical summary, and will mean that at least 40% of the total course assessment will be graded, and feedback provided, before the midsemester break.

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Week 1 Chinese Kinship in Comparative Context An Introduction to Anthropological Notions of Kinship, and to Chinese Kinship This week, we will explore the question “What is kinship?” through comparative study of both Chinese and non-Chinese systems and practices. We will first look at some of the many different ways of thinking about kinship and relatedness in different societies across the world, in order to be able to better situate Chinese cases in a comparative context. We will then begin to examine the traditional form of Chinese kinship—patrilineal and patriarchal—in order to give a basis to understanding how this has both changed and has been remarkably persistent through the reforms and revolutions of the 20th century. We will go over course requirements, including readings, class activities, assessment tasks, and expected outcomes. Reading Wolf, Margery 1968 The House of Lim: A Study of a Chinese Farm Family. New York, Appleton-Century-Crofts. NO TUTORIAL PRESENTATION
2 Week 2 Lineage and Governance ASSESSMENT: Critical Summary This week's lecture, readings, and discussion explore the Chinese lineage through history and in the present. We look closely at the forms of lineage, their construction and reconstruction, lineage practices, and the way that lineages are and have been used to wield and maintain power and make money. Readings Szonyi, Michael 2017 “Introduction” and “Ch1” in The Art of Being Governed: Everyday Politics in Late Imperial China, Princeton University Press. pp1–63. Postgraduate and Tutorial Presenter Readings North, Douglass 1990. Ch1, in Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance. Cambridge University Press. pp3-10.
3 Week 3 Rituals Familial and Bureaucratic ASSESSMENT: Critical Summary This week we look closely at familial and bureaucratic rituals in Chinese society, past and present. The readings explore ritual as contract, ritual’s role in the maintenance of social order, and ritual power in a comparative/conceptual sense. The lecture shows some rituals related to marriage and the affirmation and renegotiation of social relationships. Readings Bell, Catherine 2009 [1992]. Ch7 “Ritual Control,” in Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. New York, Oxford University Press, pp171–181. Faure, David 2007. Ch1, in Emperor and Ancestor: State and Lineage in South China. Stanford, Stanford University Press. Postgraduate and Tutorial Presenter Readings Bell, Catherine 2009 [1992]. Ch8 “Ritual, Belief, and Ideology,” in Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. New York, Oxford University Press, pp182–196.
4 Week 4 Women and Alternative Visions of the Family Beautiful Reading, Beautiful Writing (BRBW): Boretz themes Bell on Ritual (The importance of ritual, and the references that religious and social rituals make to the family.) ASSESSMENT: Critical Summary This week’s lecture will discuss alternative realities of the Chinese family—those exceptions to the patriarchal and patrilineal rules,or those (often gendered) realities that exist in parallel. We will refer to the intricate family politics described in The House of Lim to get an idea of the situation of women in traditional Chinese patriliny. We will discuss the unique and essential contributions that women and men make to the family, to social and sexual reproduction, and how these are associated with all sorts of substances and symbols that, from the outside, may not be naturally identified as important in creating and affirming bonds of kinship. The Boretz reading explores ritualised violence and masculinity in contemporary Taiwanese temple cults and "brotherhoods." Readings Boretz, Avron 2011. Ch1 “Introduction” and Ch2 “Violence, Honor, and Manhood,” in Gods, Ghosts and Gangsters: Ritual Violence, Martial Arts and Masculinity on the Margins of Chinese Society. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, pp1–57. Postgraduate and Tutorial Presenter Readings Bell, Catherine 2009 [1992]. Ch9 “The Power of Ritualization,” in Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. New York, Oxford University Press, pp197–223.
5 Week 5 Socialism, Modernity, and Kinship ASSESSMENT: Group Work Find all the examples you can of patrilineal or familial thinking/practice in wider contemporary Chinese society, discuss in groups, and present your findings to the class. This lecture outlines the transformations undergone by the Chinese family through the 20th century and the early years of the 21st-century, and the causes and effects of those changes. The focus is especially on the past three decades. The group work assessment task brings our attention around to various ways in which ideas from kinship patterns are applied to relationships outside of the family. Readings Hershatter, Gail 2011 The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past. Berkeley, University of California Press, pp1-31, 267-288. “Introduction” Ch1 “Frames” Ch10 “Narrator” Postgraduate and Tutorial Presenter Readings Fong, Vanessa L. 2002. China's One-Child Policy and the Empowerment of Urban Daughters. American Anthropologist 104(4): 1098-1109.
6 Week 6 Film & Discussion We will watch a film together and discuss, focusing especially on the themes of the course. Students are expected to proactively engage in class discussion to demonstrate knowledge of concepts and the analytical capacity to apply them. The film is “I Am Not Madame Bovary” (2016 drama, 2hr 8min). Reading Chen, Ruoxi [trans. Howard Goldblatt, and Perry Link]. 2004. “Residency Check,” in The Execution of Mayor Yin and Other Stories from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Revised Edition (Indiana University Press: Bloomington, US). NO TUTORIAL PRESENTATION
7 Week 7 Guanxi and Social Capital Note: April 6 and April 13, 2022 are off for mid-semester break. ASSESSMENT: Critical Summary This lecture explores the idea and the practice of “guanxi”—social relationships that are at once affective and instrumental, disdained and desired, universal and specifically “Chinese.” We begin by disaggregating “guanxi,” to provide a clearer picture of the many and varied ways in which the term is used and the practice has been deployed from the mid-20th century to the present. Readings Gold, Thomas, Doug Guthrie and David L. Wank (eds). 2002. “An Introduction to the Study of Guanxi,” in Social Connections in China: Institutions, Culture and the Changing Nature of Guanxi (New York: Cambridge University Press): 3–20. Kipnis, Andrew B. 1996. "Managing Guanxi in a North China Village." Modern China 22(3): 285-314. Postgraduate and Tutorial Presenter Readings Bourdieu, Pierre 1986 “The Forms of Capital.” In The Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. J. Richardson. New York, Greenwood Press: 241–258.
8 Week 8 Gender Networks and Power Networks ASSESSMENT: Critical Summary Is guanxi a male thing? This lecture says “no, but it can be a gendered thing.” Is guanxi a way of getting around formal rules and opposing powerful rulers? This lecture says “not necessarily—although it can be.” The lecture also explains how ostensibly non-kin guanxi adopts and modifies kin terms and structures, while also being shaped by them. Readings Tsai, Kellee S. 2000. "Banquet Banking: Gender and Rotating Savings and Credit Associations in South China." The China Quarterly (161):142-170. Mann, Michael. 1986. Ch1 in The Sources of Social Power: Volume 1. A History of Power from the Beginning to A.D. 1760 (Cambridge University Press: New York), pp1-33.
9 Week 9 Guanxi in Government and Business Book Talk by ANG Yuenyuen This week we look at the central role of specific guanxi practices to local politics and governance in rural China. The lecture is a book talk and discussion featuring Ang Yuenyuen, author of China's Gilded Age. In discussion, we explore the complex guanxi practices—deal-making, factional competition and cooperation, rent distribution—that are an integral part of the state and party structure, and touch on the ongoing debate over the role that informal politics and fragmented interest groups play in perpetuating Chinese Communist Party (CCP) power. A common aphorism is that you can’t do business in China without having good guanxi—especially with government officials—and we also explore that legend. Readings Osburg, John 2013. Ch3 “Relationships Are The Law: Elite Networks and Corruption in Contemporary China,” in Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality Among China's New Rich. Stanford University Press, pp76–112. Hillman, Ben. 2010. "Factions and Spoils: Examining Political Behavior within the Local State in China." The China Journal(64): 1-18. MA Reads: Ang, Yuen Yuen 2020. Ch1 “Introduction: China’s Gilded Age,” in China's Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp1 – 22. Ang, Yuen Yuen 2020. Ch4 “Profit-Sharing, Chinese-Style,” in China's Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp85–118.
10 Week 10 The Chinese Corporate Group: Lineage, Village, and Native-Place This week we look at the corporate group in recent Chinese history, up to the present. We examine the potential of the corporate group to act as: a bulwark against excessive state exactions, and/or as itself a conduit of state power; a provider of welfare and public goods, and; the locus of a sense of community for otherwise dislocated individuals. Readings Goodman, Bryna. 1995. “Introduction: The Moral Excellence of Loving the Group,” in Native Place, City, and Nation: Regional Networks and Identities in Shanghai, 1853-1937. Berkeley: University of California Press. Goodman, Bryna. 1995. Ch4 “Expansive Practices” in Native Place, City, and Nation: Regional Networks and Identities in Shanghai, 1853-1937. Berkeley: University of California Press. Postgraduate and Tutorial Presenter Readings Granovetter, Mark 2005 "The Impact of Social Structure on Economic Outcomes." Journal of Economic Perspectives 19(1): 33-50.
11 Week 11 Social Relations and Social Control This week we focus on how family and lineage organisations, and social ties, provide both a template for centralised structures of authority and a structure from which to resist that central authority. Readings Deng, Yanhua, and Kevin J. O'Brien. 2013. "Relational Repression in China: Using Social Ties to Demobilize Protesters." The China Quarterly 215: 533-552. doi:10.1017/S0305741013000714. Kuhn, Philip A. 1970 Rebellion and Its Enemies in Late Imperial China; Militarisation and Social Structure, 1796-1864. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, pp24–28, 76–92.
12 Week 12 Student Presentations & Course Recap Major Essay topic presentations. Each student will make a presentation about his or her final essay topic. The presentation is mandatory; non-presenting students will lose 10% on the overall essay grade. It is not assessed, but aims to improve the essay. NO TUTORIAL PRESENTATION

Tutorial Registration

There is no separate tutorial. The tutorial is integrated with the lecture in a seminar style arrangement totalling three hours per week, 0900 – 1200 on Wednesdays in semester.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Learning Outcomes
Class Participation 10 % 1,2,3,4,5,7
Tutorial Leadership 10 % 1,2,3,4,5,6,7
Critical Summaries 25 % 1,2,3,4,5,7
Group Research Presentation and Annotated Bibliography 15 % 1,2,3,4,5,6,7
Final Essay (40%) 40 % 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using 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. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website Students may choose not to submit assessment items through Turnitin. In this instance you will be required to submit, alongside the assessment item itself, hard copies of all references included in the assessment item.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


Students are expected to participate in the in-class discussion.


There will be no examinations in this course.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,7

Class Participation

Class Participation 10%

It is possible to get full marks (10/10) for this assessment item. Students must attend (online or in person) 10 of the 12 class sessions and actively participate in discussion.

Effective participation will require preparation: students will need to have read and thought about the set readings. The six Critical Summaries (weeks 2–4, 7, 8) require exactly the same homework.

Students are encouraged to use their Critical Summary writings to pose questions or make comments in class. It’s okay to repeat or rephrase what you have written in the critical summary—other students might benefit from your analysis. Remember to put forward your comments or questions according to how the in-class discussion evolves on the day.

1.    Demonstrate that you have read and thought about the readings, through your in-class discussion.

2.    Explicit reference to particular readings and terminology used in the course, as well as your questions arising from the readings, would help to demonstrate this.

3.    Particular attention will be paid to your participation in weeks 8–12, when there are no Critical Summaries due.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Tutorial Leadership

Tutorial Leadership 10%

Week of presentation to be selected by students from among Weeks 2–11 (NOT 6).

ALL students will select one week to lead the tutorial and present their synthesis of important aspects of the readings.

Student tutorial leadership will be spread more or less evenly across the available weeks.

Students’ tutorial leadership will begin with a 5 minute oral presentation on the mandatory readings. The presenting student/s must attempt to explicate connections between the theoretical/conceptual reading and the primarily empirical reading/s.

Presenting students, including undergraduate students, will read all readings for that week, including the postgraduate readings, and incorporate those into their discussion and tutorial leadership. In their presentations, students may refer to additional literature on the topic more broadly (but the inclusion of additional literature is not a requirement).

Feedback on the oral presentations and the student's leading of class discussion will be provided in class.

It is recommended that presenters on the same week liaise to co-ordinate their presentations. You may choose to focus on different readings or (even bettter) different aspects that run across all of the readings.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 25 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,7

Critical Summaries

Critical Summaries 25%

For Weeks 2, 3, 4, 7, 8 students will submit a 300–400 word critical summary of the mandatory readings. MS Word docx, please.

Note that you do not necessarily need to summarise everything in the book or article; in some cases, that may be impossible. Try to talk in terms of themes, and what the book or article illustrates.


Each critical summary is worth 5% of the final grade; critical summaries thus total 25% of the final grade.

Critical summaries are to be submitted by midday Tuesday before class on Wednesday.


Feedback on the written critical summaries will be provided before the following week's class.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 15 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Group Research Presentation and Annotated Bibliography

Group Research Presentation and Annotated Bibliography 15%


Week 5


Students, working in groups of 3–4, find sources on family and kinship structures and ideals in wider society.


Student groups present their findings to the class (five minutes), and hand in an annotated bibliography.

The presentation (10%: 5 clarity/communication; 5 content/argument) and bibliography (5%) are together worth 15% of the course mark.


It is expected that each and every student in the group will make a strong contribution.

Assessment Task 5

Value: 40 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Final Essay (40%)

Final Essay 40%

DUE Week 12 + 14 days via Wattle/Turnitin, 23:00, June 8, 2022.

Students will write a 2500 [postgrad 3500] word essay on a topic of their choice that is approved by the lecturer.

In Week 12 students will make an in class oral presentation about their final essay topic.

The presentation is mandatory; non-presenting students will lose 10% on the overall essay grade. The presentation is not assessed, but aims to improve the essay.

Feedback on the presentation will be given in class, and will be geared towards improving all students' presentation technique and improving the individual student's final essay.

Feedback on the final essay after semester ends will be available on request.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

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.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Returning Assignments

Weekly critical summaries/analyses of the set readings are to be submitted via Wattle. (Weeks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7)

The group work bibliography is to be submitted via Wattle. (Week 5)

The final essay is to be submitted through Turnitin. (Week 12 + 14 days)

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

Assignments may not be re-submitted.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information. In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service — including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy. If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes. Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).
Dr Tom Cliff
6125 0152

Research Interests

China. Entrepreneurs and private enterprise. Family and lineage. 

Institutions of production, market, and social order.

Charity. State structures and mobilisation. Non-state welfare and public goods. 

Dr Tom Cliff

Wednesday 13:00 14:00
Wednesday 13:00 14:00
Dr Tom Cliff
6125 0152

Research Interests

Dr Tom Cliff

Wednesday 13:00 14:00
Wednesday 13:00 14:00

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