BA Modern Language and Business & Management (Chinese)

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Mass Media in Modern China

Course unit fact file
Unit code CHIN35221
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course examines the modern history of mass media, especially print media, in China between the 1870s and the 1940s. While printing was invented in China as early as the ninth century, the introduction of new mechanised technologies and modern corporate business practices revolutionised the culture of print and drove the use of print for mass communication in modern China. Chronologically structured, the course unit addresses four main concerns: (1) the relationship between science and technology on the one hand, and the development of new modes of media communication on the other; (2) the transmission of new technologies and media practices internationally and within China; (3) the use of mass media to portray important historical events and broader processes of cultural and social change; and (4) the impact that mass media has had on the development of culture in modern China. Students will investigate not just what was transmitted via modern media, but how, by whom, for whom, for what purposes, and with what long-term effects, by exploring the history of print technologies, radio broadcasts, sound recordings, major publishing houses, printers, and newspapers. The aim is to provide students a broad introduction to the vibrant and dynamic landscape of mass media that characterized this period of Chinese history. 



  • Provide students with a sound understanding of the history of mass media in modern China, including publishing, print culture, reading practices, broadcast radio, audio media, and print media
  • Foster greater awareness of the scope and diversity of primary source material from this period, and of the conditions under which it was produced
  • Provide students with an opportunity to engage with primary Chinese-language source material in conjunction with English-language secondary sources
  • Teach students how to approach understanding media and material history, offering the opportunity to reflect on its role in other places and periods
  • Improve students’ ability to express complex ideas in oral and written form 



An indicative list of topics that may be covered over the semester is as follows:

Book History and Print Culture Studies

The History and Development of Xylographic Printing

Modern Print Technologies

Radio in Modern China

Print Capitalism


Audio Media

Knowledge Exchange and Transmission

Printing and Cultural Change

Religious Publishing

Visual Culture and Depicting the Nation 

Teaching and learning methods

All required readings and materials will be provided to enrolled students via the university VLE

Knowledge and understanding

  • Show familiarity with key figures and institutions in mass media in modern China, and be able to identify how these elements developed over time
  • Demonstrate how advances in technology and modes of social organization made possible the production and distribution of different types of mass media
  • Illustrate how thinking through mass media changes our perspective on important aspects of history 

Intellectual skills

  • Read, discuss, and critically analyse materials relating to mass media history
  • Apply independent critical thinking skills when making use of historical sources
  • Make connections between different figures and institutions, and between mass media history and the larger picture of modern Chinese history
  • Express ideas about this history in the form of well-structured and well-research written essays 

Practical skills

  • Think independently and analytically about writing
  • Express ideas clearly in speech and writing
  • Read effectively (both primary and secondary texts)
  • Collaborate well in groups

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Manage time effectively, self-motivate and work to deadlines
  • Communicate a coherent and critical argument of depth and complexity in written form
  • Use information and communication technology (ICT)
  • Assess the relevance and importance of the ideas of others
  • Demonstrate powers of analysis
  • Display good literacy skills in English
  • Show awareness of and responsiveness to the nature and extent of intercultural diversity.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students taking this unit will be able to analyse and evaluate both existing literature on the material studied and the primary set materials themselves. Above all, committed students will emerge from this course unit with an advanced capacity to think critically, i.e. knowledgeably, rigorously, confidently and independently.
On this unit students are encouraged to respond imaginatively and independently to the questions and ideas raised by existing literature on the topic and the materials studied.
Project management
Students taking this unit will be able to work towards deadlines, work independently and to manage their time effectively.
Students on this unit will be required to digest, summarise, and present large amounts of information. They are encouraged to enrich their responses and arguments with a wide range of further reading.
Written communication
Students on this unit will develop their ability to communicate a coherent and critical argument of depth and complexity in written form and to write in a way that is lucid, precise and compelling.

Assessment methods

Assessment task Formative or SummativeWeighting within unit (if summative)
Article Review Formative  
Final ExamSummative60%

Re-sit Assessement:


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Regular oral feedback on contributions to class discussion


Feedback on essay plan, due in week 5


Feedback on Essay


Feedback on Exam



Recommended reading

  • Brokaw, Cynthia J., and Kai-wing Chow, eds. Printing and Book Culture in Late Imperial China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.
  • Clart, Philip, and Gregory Adam Scott, eds. Religious Publishing and Print Culture in Modern China, 1800-2012. Boston; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015.
  • Judge, Joan. Print and Politics: 'Shibao' and the Culture of Reform in Late Qing China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.
  • Reed, Christopher A. Gutenberg in Shanghai: Chinese Print Capitalism, 1876-1937. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Gregory Scott Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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