Enroll in History 346: The Transformation of Urban and Rural China and earn 4 credits which can count as a regional focus core course! The field study component for this course takes place in China, over summer break (May - June, 2023).

Program Description

China is now undergoing one of the fastest rates of urbanization in world history. Just thirty years ago about 80% of the Chinese population lived in the countryside, mostly working in agriculture. Today China’s population is over 60% urban. Furthermore, well over 100 million migrants travel back and forth between the countryside and the city each year. While these numbers are impressive in and of themselves, it can be hard to understand what they mean for individuals, for particular social groups, and for the changing rural and urban landscapes. Nonetheless, this shift from a predominantly rural population to an urban focused society is both ambitious and fraught with problems.

This class aims to give an in-depth and up-close look at this amazing social transformation through readings, class lectures, film, research projects, and, most importantly, in country experience. This course begins with a short semester on campus at Oxy and continues with a three-week trip to China, including a homestay with a rural household.

Course Outcomes

Investigating the rural-urban relationship and urbanization in China, forces one to think broadly across a number of areas of knowledge, social science, history, the humanities, politics, the arts, issues of the environment, and economics. Being able to synthesize across these different ways of thinking is an important goal of a liberal arts education and of the History Department, and this will be a key skill emphasized in the course. In this course, students will gain a strong understanding of the shifting relationship between social change and geographic, spatial, and even architectural organization in China, with a focus on the rapid changes across the twentieth century.

Faculty Leader 

Professor Alexander F. Day, Department of History and Chair of East Asian Studies, has a PhD in Chinese History from UCSC (2007). His research centers on the history of the rural-urban relationship in China, as does his first book (The Peasant in Postsocialist China [Cambridge University Press, 2013]). Professor Day has spent five years total in China and speaks Mandarin Chinese. All field work for his book was conducted in China, and he continues to do research there. Professor Day has travelled throughout China, both in cities and the countryside, including spending a lot of time in rural southwest China (where his second book project is based). Professor Day teaches many courses on China at Oxy. 


We will spend three weeks in China, from May 21 to June 9, 2021. We will be in the capital, Beijing, for the first week, gaining a new understanding of the Chinese city through direct experience. This will include visits to the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, a Hutong (a traditional style of Beijing housing), a danwei (a socialist style of housing and work unit), and new housing developments. We will then travel to a village near the Great Wall for a two-night homestay in countryside. During the day, you can either investigate the village or take a hike up to the Great Wall. Then we will depart Beijing by train for the beautiful province of Yunnan. There we will visit the smaller provincial capital, Kunming, and then to stay a couple of nights in a small village to get firsthand experience of rural lifeways. We will then travel back to Kunming and fly to Beijing before we leave for the US. In Beijing and Yunnan, we will focus in detail on the changing rural-urban relationship. We will visit village industries, farmers’ markets, a village-within-the-city, a migrant school, a factory, development NGOs, and an urban farm attempting to change urban residents’ relationship to agriculture. The China component will include local guest speakers.


12-16 students, 1 faculty instructor (Professor Day, History), and support services from CET. CET Academic Programs is a study abroad organization that has been developing and operating innovative educational programs abroad since 1982. Originally “China Educational Tours,” CET began operations in Beijing, and today offers a varied portfolio of semester, summer, and customized programs for college, high school, pre-college, and gap year students around the world. Known for strong academics, professional program management, and supportive student services, CET strives to integrate students into their host communities, adopt environmentally conscientious practices, and promote diversity and inclusion across all programs. CET will handle all the in-country logistics and expenses (lodging, transportation, educational excursions, classroom access at their centers), releasing the instructor to focus attention on teaching and the student learning experience. As students will be living in situations dramatically different from their past experience, a flexible and open attitude is crucial. Rural Yunnan is relatively poor, and the facilities are limited. There will also a lot of walking in potentially hot and sometimes polluted circumstances.


There are no prerequisites for the course, although it is a 300 level course. Professor Day will interview students who apply for this course, and they will need his permission to enroll.

Information Session

Come to an info session to talk to the Professor & the IPO staff about the program:


Estimated Cost


Financial Aid

 A Financial Aid officer will to determine how your package may be adjusted depending upon your need. Please contact the Financial Aid Office with further questions.


Application will open in summer 2022.


Contact International Programs
McKinnon Center for Global Affairs, Johnson 102