The TL;DR
  • Global China Studies majors examine the country through myriad lenses, including history, politics, literature, and art.
  • Many classes in the major include field trips and experiential learning opportunities that take students out of the classroom and into the city and country.
  • Program graduates go on to careers in diplomacy, politics, academia, research, business, law, medicine, and more.
A bustling street in Shanghai.

These days China’s place in and relationship to the world seems to change by the hour. At NYU Shanghai, Global China Studies (GCS) majors deepen their global understanding of the country where they live and study. “GCS allows me to study a culture that interests me without spoon-feeding me facts from a textbook. I get to do interactive activities and have thought-provoking conversations during my classes every day,” says Cindy Li, a GCS major. “And ultimately, what better place is there to study China through a global lens than China itself?”

A student ordering food from a vendor at an outdoor stall.

China from Every Angle

With over 55 course offerings over the past two years, GCS explores China from a variety of perspectives. The Concept of China, which provides a foundation for the major, encourages students to think critically about the country’s history and identity. Additionally, students are required to take courses focused on China’s relationship with the rest of the world. Current options include Tianxia: Traditional China and the World as well as Chinese Migrant and Diasporic Networks. Finally, they can take a range of electives in Chinese history, literature, politics, the arts, and more.

For instance, Fenglin Serena Ju, a GCS major, discovered the department when she took Shanghai Stories, which explores changing trends in Chinese literature by Shanghai authors. “That wonderful experience changed how I thought about Chinese literature,” she shares. “Indeed, the course inspired me to explore GCS as a major. From then on I started my journey exploring many different areas in Chinese studies.” And while all students take The Concept of China, there’s also China in 10 Soundtracks: The Sonic World of Modern Chinese Culture, which traces the development of popular music in China, and Queer China, which explores queerness through a Chinese lens.

A walkway above a highway in Shanghai at night.

From the Classroom to the City

Shanghai itself, which grew from a fishing village into a global metropolis, is a microcosm of China. “Shanghai is the cultural center of China. And, as a living museum, the city has provided its past as our textbook,” says Fenglin. “In fact, I believe both GCS and Shanghai share similar missions. Both the major and the city interpret China in a global context and shed new light on the power and influence of China and Chinese cultures worldwide.”

In addition to providing daily practical learning, many Global China Studies classes include field trips. “I recommend many GCS courses to students outside of our major as well because we get to fully immerse ourselves in China and the city,” says Cindy. Besides being a GCS major, she minors in Business of Entertainment, Media, and Technology; Producing; and Creativity and Innovation. “For instance, the Global Connections: Shanghai course took us around Shanghai to understand the city’s history and architecture.” What’s more, GCS faculty lead additional outings. In fact, three faculty members will take students to the Fujian province in late November to learn about the region’s history, architecture, and religion. During this immersive long weekend, the group will visit shrines, temples, museums, and monasteries.

Students walking through Shanghai.

Skills for a Changing World

“GCS is the gateway for all NYU Shanghai students to learn about China,” concludes Lala Zuo. She’s the area head of Global China Studies and an associate professor of art history at NYU Shanghai. “Although we are relatively small, our alumni do great things. For example, some go on to enroll in prestigious PhD programs, while others have already played an essential role in China, the United States, and international organizations. Some go to law school or medical school. And we even have an alum who’s a representative in Hawaii.”

Furthermore, GCS doesn’t only prepare students for a changing world—it provides them with a community of support for years to come. “GCS students have access to a wealth of resources and opportunities,” affirms Fenglin. “We can connect with prominent scholars and get in touch with alumni in diverse fields. In addition, GCS students benefit from small class sizes and a supportive atmosphere. I feel a sense of belonging whenever I am with my GCS family.”