Course Syllabus gog160x china: people and place

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Course Syllabus
Spring, 2015

Professor: Youqin Huang

Class Hours & Location:

TTH 10:15AM - 11:35AM, SS 256

Contact & Office hours:, TTh 2:45–3:45 (AS 215) and by appointment

Librarian: Lorre Smith,, by appointment

TA: Witchuda Pollack (, MW 3-4 (AS 213)

This course satisfies the ‘Information Literacy’, ‘International Perspectives’ and ‘Social Sciences’ categories of the General Education requirements at UAlbany

This course provides a systematic introduction of China as an emerging political and economic power in the context of globalization. This course aims to help students better understand China. Main topics include historical evolution, uneven physical and social geography, economic reform, rapid urbanization, population growth and family planning, environmental change, tradition and culture change, and persisting and emerging problems. This course also teaches students how to search, use and evaluate information for their research in an increasingly digital and information-oriented world.

Gregory Veeck, Clifton W. Pannell, Christopher J. Smith, and Youqin Huang, 2011. China’s Geography: Globalization and the Dynamics of Political, Economic, and Social Change (2nd Edition). Roman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN-10: 0742567834; ISBN-13: 978-0742567832 (required).
Plus: articles and several films that will be provided to you.


Three examinations


Class participation/reading quizzes


Film quizzes


One mapping project


Three position papers


Two information literacy projects

Library-based tutorials


Annotated bibliography assignment



4.1 This course fulfills the “Information Literacy” category of the General Education requirements. An important component of the course will be the integration of library research methods and information evaluation of the course contents and assignments. After taking the course, students should be able to:

  • find, evaluate and cite multiple sources of information, using the University Libraries, the Internet, electronic databases, and other sources;

  • understand questions concerning the ethical use of information, privacy, plagiarism, copyright and other related issues that promote critical reflection;

  • apply knowledge of the MLA (Modern Language Association) style by compiling bibliographies for research papers and projects.

4.2 This course satisfies the “International Perspectives” category of the General Education requirements. After taking the course, students should be able to:

  • describe the most significant events and patterns in the recent history of China, especially the socialist revolution in 1949 and its current transition toward a market economy.

  • identify important geographical features on a map of China, describe the spatial pattern of resource distribution and how they affect uneven regional development;

  • describe the nature and ramifications of China’s transition away from socialism; interpret the need for modernization (reform) policies; and evaluate positive and negative political, economic, and social outcomes of China’s modernization project;

  • identify the causes and consequences of massive internal migration and the rapid urbanization that has occurred in China in reform era;

  • evaluate the pressure of a large and growing population, and the need for family planning; and be able to evaluate the social and economic impact of the one-child policy;

  • assess the environmental implications and global consequences of China’s development policies;

  • illustrate some of the ways in which Chinese cultural values and practices differ from our own, and to identify the major cultural changes during the reform era;

  • describe the history of Hong Kong as a British colony and the economic, political, and social changes since its handover to China; evaluate the nature of the China/Taiwan relationship and its importance to the USA and the rest of the world;

  • assess critically the information you read and receive about China

4.3 This course satisfies the “Social Sciences” category of the General Education requirements. After taking the course, students should be able to:

  • describe various social and political institutions in China and critically evaluate their impact on the society and people

  • evaluate the interactions between economic, social, geographic and political forces, and how they shape the society

  • read graphic presentation of information commonly used in social sciences

5.1 Three Examinations worth 45% in total

All examinations will consist of multiple-choice questions and they are not cumulative. The questions will be based on the textbook, readings, and lectures. You will not be allowed to do make-ups of any of the exams unless you receive specific permission from the Instructor, in advance. Only major illnesses, personal or family emergencies, sporting or military commitments, and having three or more exams on the same day are acceptable as excuses. In all cases appropriate documentation is required.

5.2 Class Attendance and Reading Quizzes, worth 10% of the total grade

You need to attend class frequently in order to do well in this class. Attendance will be taken at ten randomly selected dates throughout the semester. Sometimes attendance will be taken in the form of a mini-quiz, based on the reading for that day or the previous lecture. In those cases, you will be assigned half of the credit for being in class, and the other half for completing the quiz correctly. In addition, you are expected to read news on China and share it with the class, and actively participate in class discussion. Participation in class discussion accounts for half of the credit for class attendance.

5.3 Film Quizzes (10%)

Five feature films will be watched outside of the class. Each film is accompanied by a film quiz, which should be submitted a week later after the film quiz is assigned.

5.4 Mapping Exercise (5%)

All students will produce a map of China, which includes:

a) the names and correct locations of all the Provinces, Autonomous Regions, and Special

Administrative Regions;

b) major cities (those with populations in excess of 5 million);

c) major rivers and mountain ranges;

d) surrounding seas and oceans; and

e) the names of the countries that are directly bordering China.

Blank maps for this project will be provided to you, but the information must be collected on your own, using atlases, books, encyclopedias, and the Internet. You must build a bibliography (on a separate typed page) of all of the sources you have used, using the MLA style. For information on how to cite using MLA style, see There will be exam questions that come directly from the map. The geographic facts and mapping material will not be covered systematically in class.
5.5 Position papers (15%)

Three position papers on three controversial issues are required. You are expected to conduct your own research on the issue, and write about your position in a 2 page (double space) paper. In addition to clearly stating your position, you need to provide reasons and evidences for your position. You can use all forms of references for your research, such as books, journal articles, news, and the Internet.

You need to list all references you used for your paper at the end of the paper, using MLA style.

Papers are due one week after they are assigned. Grades are assigned not based on your position, but on the quality of your research and how well you reason and support your position. In other words, there is no wrong/correct position/answer, but the emphasis is to explain your position well -- “why” or “why not”.

The issues include:

1) Should Tibet be an independent state or continue to be an autonomous region of China? (or

Does Diaoyu Island belong to China or Japan? You can choose one of these two questions)

2) If you were the leader of China, would you adopt the one-child policy? Why?

3) Should Chinese cities preserve or redevelop ancient neighborhoods near their city centers?

5.5 Two Information Literacy Related Projects (in total 15%)

(Note: You have to pass the following information literacy components in order to get credit for Information Literacy requirement.)

a. Tutorials (3%)

As part of information literacy component, you are required to complete three interactive tutorials, which can be accessed at Please choose “Credit” option. At the end of each tutorial there is an option for you to identify yourself and your Instructor (Youqin Huang). You must enter this information correctly to be given credit for completing the tutorials. You will then automatically be sent an email confirming your completion of each tutorial, and you should save the email and forward to the Teaching Assistant to receive credit for the tutorials. The three tutorials are:

Researching 101: a guide to information formats, searching the library's online catalogs, and effectively searching article databases;

Evaluating Internet Sites 101: developed to help users evaluate Internet sites

Plagiarism 101: a tutorial designed to help students identify and avoid plagiarism in their work
b. Annotated Bibliography Assignment (12%)

Select a topic from the following list to be covered in the course: economic reform; urbanization; migration; housing and land reform; tradition and cultural change; social inequality; poverty; environmental degradation; health care challenges; and China-Taiwan/Hong Kong relation. Create an annotated bibliography on your topic. Provide full documentation plus a description and critique (max 500 words) for each entry.

The annotated bibliography should contain ten items, including:

•  At least two books

•  An article from a popular magazine or newspaper

•  Two articles from scholarly journals

•  A popular Internet resource

•  A scholarly Internet resource

•  Three additional resources of your choosing, which may be from the above list or include other types of materials, such as government documents, media, dissertations, electronic reference sources, conference proceedings, etc.
The ten items should not include the textbook and assigned readings for this class. The bibliography must be written in MLA style, and the annotations should be in the critical style, rather than being merely descriptive.  For information on annotations, see Organize the entries in alphabetical order.

  1. Chan, Kam Wing, 2004. Internal Migration, in Changing China: A Geographic Appraisal, ed. By Chiao-min Hsieh and Max Lu. Boulder, CO: Westview. pp. 229-242.

  2. Liu, J. and Diamond, J., 2005. China’s Environment in a Globalizing World. Nature 435, 1179-1186 (30 June 2005)

Late submission: Homework assignments turned in on the due date are eligible for 100 point. If you choose to turn it in after the due date, but within 48 hours, it will be eligible for 80 points. Assignments turned in after 48 hours will be eligible for 50 points. Assignments turned in after 72 hours receive no points, but I will give feedback.
Make-ups: there are no make-ups for in-class quizzes. General there is no make-ups for exams as well, except under extreme conditions or emergencies beyond your control, in which case a written request must be submitted together with documentation (e.g. Physician's note) as early as possible
Plagiarism and cheating: the instructor is required to report any student behavior that has the appearance of cheating or plagiarism to the graduate dean. Penalties can be quite severe, and can include 1) failure of course; 2) suspension from the university; 3) expulsion from the university; 4) a notation in your permanent transcripts. You cannot afford to enter professional life with any of these stains on your permanent record.

  • In individual test/quiz situations, please keep your eyes on your own work

  • In individual assignments, make sure you do your own work

  • In papers, makes sure you properly cite and document any sources from which you have borrowed ideas or language, including books, journal articles, magazines, and the internet. Any information cited from these sources should be acknowledged with both in-text citation and full reference at the end of the paper.







Important Dates

I: China in Time and Space




Chapter 1



Natural Environments

Chapter 2

Map exercise assigned


Video: China’s Mega Dam



Historical Context

Chapter 3; Film: Hero

Film quiz #1 assigned


Video: Secrets of the 1st Emperor



Historical Context

Film: To Live

Film quiz #2 assigned


Information literacy I

Map due; Tutorials assigned



Political Geography

Chapter 4

Paper #1 assigned


Join the world community

Tutorials due



Exam #1

Exam #1

II: Modernizing China


Population and family planning

Chapter 5

Paper #2 assigned



Video: China rises: food is heaven

Paper #1 due


Economic reform

Chapter 7, 8, 9



Economic reform


Information literacy II

Paper #2 due Bibliography assigned


Break (No class)



Urbanization and Migration

Film: The Last Train Home

Chapter 10, Chan, 2004


Chinese cities in transition

Chapter 10; Film: Shower

Film quiz #3 assigned



Chinese cities in transition

Paper #3 assigned


Exam #2

Exam #2

III: Traditions, Changes and Concerns



Traditions and culture changes

Chapter 6; Film: Eat, Drink, Man and Woman

Film Quiz #4 assigned


Traditions and culture changes

Film: China Blue



Environmental problems

Liu & Diamond, 2005


Video: The Warriors of Qiugang

Paper #3 due



Social inequalities, poverty


Video: China rises: city of dreams

Film: Not One Less

Film Quiz #5 assigned



China beyond the heartland

Chapter 11, 12, 13


No Class



China beyond the heartland

Bibliography due


exam schedule

Exam #3

Exam #3

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