• Offered by School of Culture History and Language
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Asian Studies
  • Areas of interest Non Language Asian Studies

This multidisciplinary course examines language, discourse and political culture in China since 1949. It assumes no prior knowledge of China or the Chinese language, and it has two interrelated parts. In the first, we examine the most colossal programme of centrally-directed 'mind control' in human history – the Chinese Communist Party's attempt between 1949 and 1978 to create new, revolutionary human beings through the control of language and discourse. What were the origins of this attempt? How did it affect people's behaviour? How did it affect Chinese culture? And how successful was it in changing people’s ideas and values? In the second part of the course we will explore the enormous changes that have occurred since the beginning of the Reform Era in 1978. Why did Deng Xiaoping and his successors relax centralised controls over language and discourse? What social and economic changes have encouraged the emergence of new discourses and cultural forms? What opportunities have been created by the explosive growth of the internet? How does the government continue to regulate the media, monitor the internet, and manipulate public debate? How have people sought to evade these controls? What critical discourses still manage to flourish? And why, when so many things have changed in China, does the Chinese Communist Party still use the traditional language of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought? The answers to questions like these offer many insights into continuity and change in China since 1949. 

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Explain continuity and change in the expressive, persuasive, and coercive use of discourse in China since 1949, demonstrating a superior understanding of why some things have changed and other things have remained the same.
  2. Appraise the purpose and function of Chinese official discourse, and have an enhanced ability to decode.
  3. Analyse examples of Chinese discourse, linking them to their political, economic, and social contexts.
  4. Locate and use critically examples of official discourse published in English by official sources in China. (Students with sufficient understanding of Chinese will also be able to locate and use Chinese language sources, both official and unofficial).
  5. Evaluate this primary sources material (published in English in China) to construct an argument that contributes to a wider understanding of China.
  6. Critically assess the expressive, persuasive, and coercive functions of language and discourse, and the ways in which language and discourse are linked to political, economic, and social contexts.

Other Information

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

Indicative Assessment

  1. Tutorial contribution (Five reading summaries as evidence of having read the assigned materials (10%), active participation in tutorial discussions (5%)) (15) [LO 1,2,3,6]
  2. Oral presentation (15 mins presentation + 5 mins questions based on course readings assigned. It will be conducted at tutorials) (15) [LO 1,2,3,6]
  3. Essay (3,000 words - Essay topics will be available on Wattle.) (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
  4. Final exam (30) [LO 1,2,3,6]

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 total workload for the course is 130 hours including independent study.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

This course is incompatible with ASIA2014.

Prescribed Texts

There is no textbook for this course. Reading materials for tutorials will be made available on Wattle.

Assumed Knowledge

This course is taught in English. Students enrolled in this course do not have to have knowledge of China or of the Chinese language.


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
2023 $3960
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $5820
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
4298 19 Feb 2024 26 Feb 2024 05 Apr 2024 24 May 2024 In Person View

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