Syllabus Winter 2013

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The Fall 2013 version of this course will be based on this syllabus.

Econ 274 Fall 2013 MWF 11:15 am – 12:10 pm Early-Fielding Room 200

Broad topics and structure will be similar – with different texts, readings, and assignments.

(Example: the research paper will be due in Week X).

I will post books for the fall by July 15th.

China’s Modern Economy (Econ 274) Winter 2013

Section 1 MWF 1:25 pm – 2:20 pm Early-Fielding 205

Section 2 MWF 2:30 pm – 3:25 pm Early-Fielding 205

Prerequisites: Economics 101 and 102 (the “Principles” sequence)


China’s economy is now the second largest in the world with a GDP (current PPP) of $11 trillion, helped by a population of 1.3 billion but driven by 30 years of strong growth, growth that averaged 10% per annum the past decade. GDP is abstract; rapid growth transforms lives. In less than a generation a third of the population left the farm; China has 100+ cities with population over a million. Twenty years ago there were virtually no private cars in China; today it is the world’s largest motor vehicle market, nearly 50% larger than that of the US. Other changes are visible in stores in the US: during this period the economy went from near-autarky to being the workshop of the world, exporting more than the US or Germany. Meanwhile market mechanisms now drive the economy, which the government labors to keep on the road – for China remains a developing country.

We divide our study into four segments, using books by journalists and economists, feature films and documentaries, and academic research. One segment will look at the rural sector; another will look at the overall growth process and the role of migration as both a microeconomic and a macroeconomic phenomenon. We will also read about manufacturing, both the small-scale export-oriented side and “modern” production by firms set up through foreign direct investment by global multinationals. Despite images of a strong state, most of the time Beijing remains remote; the Chinese political economy is dominated by centrifugal forces. We will see this in our examination of policy areas tied to the provision of public goods such as infrastructure and education, and the treatment of externalities such as pollution and the rule of law.


While I devote part of each week to lectures, particularly for the presentation of theory and basic background, part will be devoted to discussion of the readings. Rather than midterms, you will be responsible for a series of short papers on the books used this term, and a paper on migration. You will also write a short research paper on a policy area of your choice, (tentatively) in lieu of a final exam.

Complementing this will be blogging. I will make each of you an “author” for this W&L-hosted WordPress site, which will enable you to post and comment. You should be posting at least every other week (=6) and commenting at least once a week (=12). To prevent a mad rush of end-of-term posts, I will track participation on a weekly basis, but will discount those made the last week of classes.

Written Work:

I ask that all written work be submitted in printed form, in a standard colored binder to make keeping track easier. However, you should also submit all work as pdf files on Sakai, which provides a time-stamp for when work was submitted. Papers should be (i) double-spaced with standard margins in 11pt Times Roman, (ii) use in-line citations and a final bibliography, (iii) be proofread and (iv) at your discretion, taken to the Williams School CommCenter. Papers should have a (single) clear introductory paragraph, should avoid the passive voice and indefinite modifiers (“some” “very”), should utilize economic jargon and concrete examples (ideally, statistical data), should indicate relevant models (including, as appropriate, graphs/equations), and should have a conclusion that is not a mere repetition of the introduction. All work is presumed pledged.

Office Hours:

I will post office hours once the term commences and I know my schedule for various regular meetings. Tentatively I will aim for Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon.


One text is by a journalist, one by a historian, one an edited volume with entries by economists, one by an industry consultant. These will provide different snapshops of modern China, including the evolving rhythm of daily life in the countryside and the city, the changing structure of manufacturing, from low-end workshop to high-end joint venture, and (a challenge for Americans!) what until recently was the dominant economic and social structure for most Chinese, the village.

  • Brandt, Loren and Rawski, Thomas G. (eds.). China’s Great Economic Transformation. Cambridge, 2008. ISBN 9780521712903
  • Hessler, Peter. Country Driving. HarperCollins, 2010. ISBN 9780061804090
  • Li, Huaiyin. Village China. Stanford, 2009. ISBN 9780804776578
  • Dunne, Michael. American Wheels, Chinese Roads: The Story of General Motors in China. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 9780470828618


See the schedule for the dates for two feature films and two documentaries. These are tentative as I must be able to reserve a room of sufficient size.


Very Tentatively:

Final Paper 25%
Agriculture Paper 15%
Migration Paper 15%
Factory Paper 15%
Homework & Pop Quizzes 15%
Blogs 10%
Participation 5%
Total 100%

Class conduct:

Please note that our classroom is at the far end of campus (well, not as far as Wilson Hall). Move it! Once there, please have cell phones silenced and laptops put away. The room is shallow and wide. Space permitting, no sitting in the back row or the far inside columns, to facilitate discussion and to keep the podium from obstructing your view of the blackboard (and my view of you).

Honor Code:

All work is governed by the honor code; please acknowledge assistance (editors, communications center).

Special Accommodations

As per university policy, please contact me in private regarding special accommodations.

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