LSE’s China related studies since 1920s

The China in Comparative Perspective Network (CCPN) has developed out of an early 80-year-long history of anthropological study of China at LSE, it also carried LSE traditions from other disciplines. 


One of the most distinguished of LSE Chinese alumni, LSE Honorary Fellow, Professor Fei Xiaotong (Fei Hsiao-t'ung 1910-2005), obtained his PhD from the Department of Anthropology. His doctoral thesis, entitled Kaihsienkung: Economic Life in a Chinese Village, was supervised by Professor Bronislaw Malinowski and Sir Raymond Firth. Fei was the first research student at the Department of Anthropology to conduct a study of China. He was also the only Chinese to be awarded the Huxley Memorial Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI 1981).

From 1921 to 2007 there have been a total of 23 research theses (including Masters' before 1970) on China and Taiwan in the Department. Anthropology ranks second at LSE (after International relations, see Titles of research students' dissertations since 1921) in terms of the number of research student thesis completions. The chart below shows that there were two waves of China related studies: in the 1960s, and from 2000 onwards. Professor Maurice Freedman's Malinowski Memorial Lecture in 1962, 'A Chinese Phase in Social Anthropology', suggested that the time had come for sino-anthropologists' to be asking what the study of China might contribute conceptually to more general studies of culture, political economy, politics, or society. Unfortunately the Cultural Revolution intervened four years later, and it became impossible to study Chinese society itself for nearly two decades.

If you go to the page 'Titles of research students' dissertations since 1921' you will find that the dissertations' titles related to China and Taiwan in LSE Anthropology department is on the 2nd place of the total at LSE, which might explain in part why the CCPN started from there.

In 2003 Professor Yunxiang Yan gave the Malinowski memorial lecture on 'Individualism and the Transformation of Bridewealth in Rural China', Yan being the only Chinese to receive this honour. At a related event, Yan and his PhD supervisor Professor James Watson, the John King and Wilma Cannon Fairbank Professor of Chinese Society at Harvard University, and Dr Christopher Hughes from LSE, held a panel discussion 'Is Globalization Good for China', chaired by Professor Charles Stafford. 

In addition in the LSE Department of Anthropology there are a number of MPhil and PhD current studies on China (see MPhil/PhD Anthropology students [current] ). Apart from the Malinowski memorial lectures, the occasional public lecture, e.g. Logic and emotion in Chinese economic life and occasional Anthropology of East and Inner Asia Seminar largely involves China in comparative perspective.

The LSE MSc China in Comparative Perspective was established as a 5 year Programme by Professor Stephan Feuchtwang in 2006.  It was a programme which exploited the School's multidisciplinary expertise to very good effect, asking students to study China's modern economic history, politics, international relations, society and culture in a comparative framework; using India, that other important and fast-growing economy, as well as the history of China itself, and European modernising projects, as comparators.

It covers courses run by the Departments of Anthropology,  Government, Economic History, Social Policy, International Relations, History of International Relations, Sociology, Law, European Institute and so on. In supporting and promoting the MSc Programme on China in comparative Perspective the China in Comparative Perspective Network (CCPN) was launched in 2008.

From 2010 the 5 year MSc programme became Anthropology’s permanent programme. After Professor Stephan Feuchtwang, the founding Director of the School's MSc CCP and the founding Director of CCPN, retired, Dr Hans Steinmuller became the convener of the MSc programme 'China in Comparative Perspective' in the Anthropology Department in 2011; Dr Kent Deng, Reader of Economic History, became CCPN Director and its website had been moved to Economic history.   

International relations

The above chart shows the LSE Department of International Relations holds the first place of the China related 'Titles of research students' dissertations since 1921. If you add International relations and International history's dissertations' titles related to China together it amounts to 35% of the total. This might explain why there is the interdisciplinary institute IDEAS at LSE. 

Professor Michael Yahuda of International Relations provided full details about it. 'Every year from 1973 to 1979 the LSE hosted about half a dozen Chinese students. This began at a time when the Cultural Revolution was still raging in China, when China was largely cut off from the outside world and when Western culture and education, let alone the social sciences, were regarded as anathema, being the embodiment of precisely the counter revolutionary ideas to which the new China was opposed.

Since then those students have gone on to achieve great distinction in China, especially in the institutions and ministries engaged in foreign affairs. Among them is the current foreign minister, two vice foreign ministers and numerous ambassadors, including those to the United Nations and to the United States. Another was in charge of the complex and highly charged negotiations for China's entry into the World Trade Organization. Collectively these former students have been among those responsible for what has been called in China "the golden age" of China's diplomacy. To be sure the School cannot claim credit for their accomplishments, but they all feel proud of their year's stay at the LSE and they regard it as an important step in their development. The former president of China, Jiang Zemin, used to tease them as the "English wing" of the Foreign Ministry'. For more details go to China's 'Golden ages' at the LSE.

Asia Research Centre 

The Asia Research Centre’s tradition on China studies can be traced back to 1978 when Professor Athar Hussain worked at STICERD (Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines). It has been drawing together research on contemporary China in various teaching and research units of the School and filling in gaps.

CCPN was initially forested at ARC and had been working with ARC closely for co-organising academic events and developing research projects from 2004 to 2013. 

LSE China

LSE's China strategy has not yet been formed according to Professor Craig Calhoun, the new Director, in his Open Town Hall meeting in October 2012. However, there are two sharp points on China which are co-existence at LSE. On the one hand, as a discipline-oriented institution LSE doesn't focus on area studies, thus, China studies, as such, does not exist at LSE. On the other hand, China is the only country for which LSE's representation is explicitly managed by the External Relations Division. Apart from running different kinds of collaborative programmes between LSE and China's universities, it also includes MSc China in Comparative Perspective Programme and associate with the Confucius Institute for Business London (CIBL), see LSE China.

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