Summer 2020 - SA 359 D100

Special Topics in Anthropology (A) (4)

China in Transition

Class Number: 2166

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM

  • Instructor:

    Zed Gao
    Office: AQ 5069
    Office Hours: Tu 11:30-12:30
  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or 150 or 201W.



Explores a topic in Anthropology not regularly offered by the department.


China has recently attracted international attention for several converging events, including its tension with Canada, the trade war, and the outbreak of coronavirus. How to understand this country at this critical juncture? This course offers an opportunity to explore the remaking of China’s contemporary society and culture. It foregrounds the person by examining Chinese citizens’ emotion, reasoning, belief, morality, interpersonal relations, media usage, relationship with the state, and more. Further, it contextualizes the person in China’s sociocultural landscape, which is characterized by urban-rural division, economic polarization, the co-existence of socialist ideology and market economy, and the one-party system. While focusing on contemporary China (since the economic reform in 1978), this course extends to several significant historical themes including the long-standing Confucian tradition, China’s confrontation with Western countries since the mid-19th century, and the socialist movement between 1949 and 1976.

Given the complexity of China and the controversies surrounding this country, this course encourages open discussion without necessarily arbitrating an ultimate answer. To facilitate scholarly exchange of opinions, this course contains two methodological components. First, situated in the history of area studies and postcolonialism, this course encourages each student to critically reflect on how they intellectually and experientially relate to China as an academic topic and as a social entity. Second, by juxtaposing Chinese phenomena with counterparts in other societies, this course guides students to explore the application of comparative study as a research method.


  • Critical journals (3 x 5%) 15%
  • Presentation and discussion leadership (China news) 5%
  • Presentation and discussion leadership (reading materials) 10%
  • Discussion participation 20%
  • Midterm exam 10%
  • Final exam (non-cumulative) 15%
  • Essay proposal 5%
  • Final essay 20%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and the student does not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, an N grade will be assigned. Unless otherwise specified on the course syllabus, all graded assignments for this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned. An N is considered as an F for the purposes of scholastic standing.

Grading System: The Undergraduate Course Grading System is as follows:

A+ (95-100) | A (90-94) | A- (85-89) | B+ (80-84) | B (75-79) | B- (70-74) | C+ (65-69) | C (60-64) | C- (55-59) | D (50-54) | F (0-49) | N*
*N standing to indicate the student did not complete course requirements

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy: The Department of Sociology & Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style.  It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website.



Universal Access Remote learning for this semester requires a computer or tablet, camera, and internet access. Most laptops and desktops are running OSX and Windows. Tablets may be Android, iOS or Windows based. Headsets are advised but not necessary. Note that students have access to free Office 365 or Adobe Creative Cloud found here.


All required readings will be available through Canvas and/or the SFU Library.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.


Please note that all teaching at SFU in summer term 2020 will be conducted through remote methods. Enrollment in this course acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning ( or 778-782-3112) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.