• Offered by School of Culture History and Language
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Asian Studies
  • Areas of interest Anthropology, Non Language Asian Studies, Gender Studies, Sociology, Political Economy
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Tom Cliff
  • Mode of delivery Online or In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2022
    See Future Offerings

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. Analyse how social actors try to appropriate or resist the rules, cultural assumptions, and power relations of patrilineal kinship in other settings.
  4. 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.
  5. Read deeply for form and content, to extract maximum inspiration from academic texts.
  6. Articulate the strengths of different research methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  7. Structure written work and oral presentations for explication and argument.

Other Information

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

Indicative Assessment

  1. Role-Play House of Lim (Group) (10) [LO 1,2,3,5,7]
  2. Critical Summaries (25) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]
  3. Tutorial Presentation (10) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]
  4. Group Research, Presentation, Bibliography (15) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,7]
  5. Impromptu Film Critique (5) [LO 1,2,3,4,7]
  6. Final Essay (PG 3500 Words) (35) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]

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 structured around 30-36 hours of contact time (the equivalent of three hours a week for 12 weeks). Reading loads will average roughly 50-70 pages per three hours of contact time.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Prescribed Texts

All texts for this course are available on the course page or in the library.

Preliminary Reading

Readings for Postgraduate students include the following books and journal articles:

Ang, Yuen Yuen 2020. China's Gilded Age Cambridge

Bell, Catherine 2009 [1992]. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. Oxford

Boretz, Avron 2011. Gods, Ghosts and Gangsters. University of Hawai'i Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre 1986 “The Forms of Capital.”

Clegg, Stewart 2011 “Power, Legitimacy, and Authority.”

Deng, Yanhua, and Kevin J. O'Brien. 2013. "Relational Repression in China: Using Social Ties to Demobilize Protesters." China Quarterly

Fong, Vanessa L. 2002. China's One-Child Policy and the Empowerment of Urban Daughters. American Anthropologist

Gold, Thomas, et al (eds). 2002. Social Connections in China: Institutions, Culture and the Changing Nature of Guanxi. Cambridge

Goodman, Bryna. 1995. Native Place, City, and Nation: Regional Networks and Identities in Shanghai, 1853-1937. University of California Press.

Granovetter, Mark 2005 "The Impact of Social Structure on Economic Outcomes."

Hershatter, Gail 2011 The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past. University of California Press

Hillman, Ben. 2010. "Factions and Spoils"The China Journal

Kipnis, Andrew B. 1996. "Managing Guanxi in a North China Village." Modern China

Kipnis, Andrew B. 2002. "Zouping Christianity as Gendered Critique?" Anthropology and Humanism

Kuhn, Philip A. 1970 Rebellion and Its Enemies in Late Imperial China. Harvard

North, Douglass 1990. Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance. Cambridge

Oksala, Johanna 2016 "Microphysics of Power."

Osburg, John 2013. Anxious Wealth. Stanford.

Sangren, P. Steven 2017 Filial Obsessions: Chinese Patriliny and Its Discontents. Palgrave

Szonyi, Michael 2017 The Art of Being Governed. Princeton

Tsai, Kellee S. 2000. "Banquet Banking" China Quarterly

Wolf, Margery 1968 The House of Lim. Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Zito, Angela 1987 "City Gods, Filiality, and Hegemony in Late Imperial China." Modern China

Assumed Knowledge

Not applicable


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

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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
2022 $3840
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $5700
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
4210 21 Feb 2022 28 Feb 2022 31 Mar 2022 27 May 2022 Online or In Person View

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