21st Century City

In the last century Shanghai has experienced exponential growth from its origins as a colonial trading hub to a bustling international metropolis and global financial center. Our Shanghai: 21st Century City program examines this process of rapid urbanization, China’s encounter with the world, energy and water issues, and green technology initiatives in this dynamic Asian megalopolis.

Program Terms Fall Semester, Spring Semester
Credit Hours 15
Subjects Offered Anthropology, Architecture, Chinese, Economics, International Affairs, Political Science, Sociology, Urban Planning
Language Pre-Requisites None
Field Components Capstone Research
Housing Shared Apartments with Chinese Roommates
Excursions Week-Long Field Study Trip
Application Deadlines April 15 (Fall), November 1 (Spring)

All students are encouraged to consider studying abroad for an academic year in China, whether continuing in their current program to deepen their knowledge of Shanghai, or at a different Alliance program to broaden their understanding of China’s regional diversity.

The 21st Century City program examines the history of Shanghai, its process of rapid urbanization, and China’s interface with the West in this dynamic Asian center. The 15-credit semester is comprised of a required core course and Chinese language plus two electives.

Required Courses

SOCI 260 Chinese Society in the 21st Century (3 credits)

This course examines the transformation in Chinese society since the founding of the People's Republic of China, with emphasis on the changes brought about in the wake of the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s. Topics include urban and rural social transformation, the changing relationship between individual and society, and population control and the one child policy. Students explore the social consequences of China's rapid integration into the global economy. All students complete a capstone research project as part of this course.

Chinese Language (6 credits)

No prior language study is required. A placement exam during on-site orientation determines each student's appropriate language level. 

CHIN 100 Beginning Chinese I
CHIN 101 Beginning Chinese II
CHIN 200 Intermediate Chinese I
CHIN 201 Intermediate Chinese II
CHIN 300 Advanced Chinese I
CHIN 301 Advanced Chinese II
CHIN 400 Advanced Chinese III
CHIN 401 Advanced Chinese IV
CHIN 600 Advanced Readings in Chinese

Elective Courses

All elective courses are taught in English. Not all electives may be offered in a given semester depending on enrollment and faculty availability.

ANTH 325 Food and Culture in Shanghai: Feeding a 21st Century City (3 credits)

Beneath the story of Shanghai as glittering metropolis is the story of something far more fundamental—food. For a city embracing globalization as a means of socioeconomic development, it is important to consider the roles of cuisines from various parts of China, ethnic cuisines, and corporations in this process. In studying intersections of food and culture, students gain an understanding of the role that food plays in cities, who has access to which foods, the supply chain necessary to feed a city this size, and its environmental consequences.

ARCH 392 / URBN 392 Architecture and Urban Design (3 credits) 

Shanghai’s unparalleled history of melding Chinese and international architecture begins with its birth as a site of colonial encounter. An exploration of concession period architecture and city planning is followed by review of the Mao-era industrial socialist city and the repurposing of architectural heritage. The course concludes by considering the impact of the marketizing reform era as well as Shanghai’s newest internationally designed landmark buildings and its branding as a ‘green’ city. Students argue whether Shanghai’s approach will enable it to escape its possible 'generic' future.

ECON 360 China: Economic Giant (3 credits)

The course provides an interpretative survey of China's emergence as a global economic power. The phenomenal changes in the Chinese economy over recent decades are highlighted, and aspects of quantitative development are related to the radical reforms adopted since 1978. Students discuss major policy issues encountered by the Chinese government in sustaining high-speed economic growth without instability. Students also explore China’s pursuit of full integration into the global free trade system.

ENVI 385 City and Environment (3 credits) 

With a rapidly growing population, rising lifestyle expectations, and continuing industrial production, urban China’s usage of water and energy resources is a key question for those concerned with a sustainable future. This class will localize these issues by investigating Shanghai as a case study of urban environmental issues in China. How does Shanghai face the challenges of resource use and waste that its sprawling urban footprint creates? How sustainable can Shanghai become?

IAFF 340 Sino-U.S. Relations: Superpower and Realignment (3 credits)

The U.S.-China relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. This course examines their intricate relationship, focusing on the period after 1949, when the People's Republic of China was proclaimed. What roles have trade and human rights played in the relationship? How have recent incidents, such as the American bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999 and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, influenced the strategic Beijing-Washington relationship? What lies in the future, as China rises?

POLS 350 Contemporary Chinese Politics: State, Party, People (3 credits)

This course examines the current political leadership of China, urban and rural relations, nationalism and foreign policy, mass participation, and the emergence of the rule of law. How has the communist political system evolved? What are the challenges when the society is under massive change as a result of economic reform and globalization? How is political stability maintained? And most importantly, the million-dollar question: when will China democratize?

A distinctive component of the Alliance's programs in China is the capstone research project embedded in the required core course. Students are challenged to engage with Chinese people and deepen their own understanding of one aspect of Chinese policy, society, culture, or business practice through their research. While utilizing academic research and articles as a foundation, students are encouraged to use local resources, such as interviews, participant observation and surveys, to craft their final paper and presentation. Graded project work includes a project abstract with a problem statement and research methodology outline, a PowerPoint presentation, and a final paper.

Featured Capstone

Julie Ho (St. Michael's College)

"One of the most interesting social phenomena exists in Shanghai every weekend, the Marriage Market in People’s Square. My research was conducted in order to figure out how urbanization has affected the functionality of the marriage market and the availability of social resources has changed dating platforms as well in Shanghai. There have been many scholarly articles about significant changes in traditional marriage customs throughout China, and reporters going to People’s Square asking parents’ opinions about their children’s future, but my research focuses on a specific audience which are the most heavily affected by marriage customs and dating culture; college students and the younger generation who will soon be pressured by their families to marry. Through a survey of college students, an interview with a speed-dating promoter and ethnographic observation of the marriage market phenomena has led to my conclusion that there are significant obstacles between individual’s expectations and what their parents want for their children."

Examples of Student Capstones

  • Chinese Pop Music: The Quest for Modernization
  • Scientific Labels on Healthy Food
  • Using English as a Fashion Statement
  • Concept of Self and Other in the Wake of Chinese State Socialism
  • Global Climate Change in China
  • Why I Won't Ever Really Fit in: No Place for a Female Jock in China
  • The Place of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Modern China
  • Obesity in China: As China's Wallets Grow… So Does Its People
  • Video Game Culture in China: The Past, Present, Future and Everything
  • China - Japan Relations (and the Nanjing Massacre)
  • The History of Homosexuality and Where Equality Is Today
  • China’s Hukou System: Residual Effects on Housing and Education; and the Pressing Question of Household Registration Today
  • 你叫什么名字: Traditional Name Calling and Modern Individualism in China
  • A Study of Chinese Tourists in Shanghai: Expectations and Behaviors
  • An Effort to be Legitimate: The Effects of Internet and Media Censorship in Contemporary China

For more capstone project ideas from Alliance students in all our China programs, click here. To read more abstracts of Alliance students' capstones, click here.

Language classes taught by full-time language faculty selected and trained by the Alliance. All courses conducted in English are taught by faculty from various universities in Shanghai.

Dr. ZHU Jianfeng
SOCI 260 Chinese Society in the 21st Century

Dr. TANG Min
IAFF 340 Sino-U.S. Relations: Superpower and Realignment

Dr. KENG Shu
ECON 360 China: Economic Giant 

Prof. Non Arkaraprasertkul
ARCH 392 / URBN 392 Architecture and Urban Design

Prof. Harry den Hartog
ENVI 385 City and Environment

Dr. CHIA Chen
POLS 350 Contemporary Chinese Politics: State, Party, People

A study abroad experience is first and foremost an academic experience. All Alliance for Global Education courses have undergone a faculty review and approval process, and are transcripted by Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. While in most cases students who have received approval from their home institution to study on an Alliance program can be assured of credits transferring, it is each student’s responsibility to work with the home school study abroad advisor and faculty or academic departments to ensure credit transfer for specific courses.  

Credits and Accreditation

Credits granted for Alliance courses are identified in course listings on the Curriculum page for each program, and appear on the official transcript issued at the completion of a student's term. Credit is issued in U.S. semester hours, ensuring that students continue to make progress toward their degrees and verifying the full-time course load they completed while abroad.

All Alliance courses have been reviewed and approved by Butler University’s Undergraduate Academic Programs Committee. Butler University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Programs approved by the Butler University College of Business—which include the Alliance’s International Business in China Program—are accredited by AACSB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.


Students receive a letter grade on a scale from A to F for every course taken while enrolled on an Alliance program. Withdrawals may be granted due to exceptional circumstances. Although policies at students' home institutions may differ, the Alliance does not permit students to take courses on a credit/no credit or pass/fail basis. Student grades are determined by criteria set forth in course syllabi. The grading scale used in determining letter grades is as follows:

Excellent      A 93-100% Acceptable C+ 77-79%
A- 90-92% C 73-76%
C- 70-72%
Good    B+ 87-89% Unsatisfactory D+ 67-69%
B 83-86% D 63-66%
B- 80-82% D- 60-62%
Failing F < 60%


At the conclusion of a program, an official transcript is sent to the participant's home school, with an unofficial copy forwarded to the participant. Please use this form if Alliance has accepted you into a program and you have changed your home, school, or billing address. Federal regulations require official documentation and a signature for address changes.

Because timelines for final evaluation may vary due to respective program calendars or administrative structures of partner universities abroad, transcripts may take longer to issue than they do at U.S. institutions. While the timeline varies by program, a general timeline for issuing transcripts is:

  • Fall programs - transcript issued in late February
  • Spring and Summer programs - transcript issued in late September

Transcripts are not released for students with an outstanding balance of program fees or other charge incurred while on the program. Students enrolling in consecutive terms with the Alliance do not receive their first term transcript until their second term fees are paid in full.

Students in Alliance programs from Summer 2014 and beyond can request additional transcripts of their transcripts online at any time from Butler University's online transcript ordering service provided by the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit organization serving the higher education community. 

For all Alliance programs through Spring 2014, transcripts were issued by Arcadia University. Students enrolled during that time can request additional copies of transcripts online or in writing from the Arcadia University Registrar's Office.

If you have a question about the transcripting process or timeline, please contact your Academic Records Coordinator.

Academic Calendar

  • Spring 2016 term: February 12 - June 4
  • Fall 2016 term: August 24 - December 17

The Alliance orientation is mandatory. You should make your travel plans accordingly. More details can be found in the Pre-Departure Information section.

Given the program’s busy academic schedule, weekly local activities and excursions, and field study trips, the Alliance strongly discourages students from hosting visitors until the end of the semester. Please encourage family and/or friends to visit after the program has ended.

2016 Fall Shanghai Program Calendar

  • Suggested flight departure: August 23
  • Arrival in Shanghai: August 24
  • Orientation: August 25-27
  • Classes begin: August 29
  • Independent Travel*: TBD
  • Field Study Trip*: TBD
  • Final exams: December 12-16
  • Program ends (students must depart by 12:00pm): December 17

* Organized trip dates are subject to change at any time.


  • Suggested flight departure: February 11
  • Arrival in Shanghai: February 12
  • Orientation: February 13-15
  • Classes begin: February 16
  • Independent Travel*: March 16-20
  • Field Study Trip*: April 16-23
  • Final exams: May 30 - June 3
  • Program ends (students must depart by 12:00pm): June 4

* Organized trip dates are subject to change at any time.

Students are housed in Tonghe International Apartments adjacent to the Alliance program center and university and a 10-15 minute walk from area studies course classrooms. The two bedroom apartments are shared by one Alliance student and one local university student, while three bedroom apartments are shared by two Alliance students and one local university student.

The apartments include a bathroom, kitchen, and a furnished bedroom with desk, desk lamp, closet space, and a remote control heating/air-conditioning unit. The bedrooms also include sheets, pillows, and a comforter. Towels are not provided. The furnished common areas include a TV, filtered water dispenser, refrigerator, and stove-top gas burners or a hotplate in the kitchen. Some apartments also have a small washing machine. Filtered water is replenished at student expense (12 RMB/$1.80 per tank) with the help of the Tonghe front desk staff. No kitchen utensils or other supplies are provided. During orientation all students are required to pay a 500 RMB (approximately $74 US dollars) housing deposit. If there is no damage to the room at the end of the program, this deposit will be refunded in full. Internet is available in each apartment for purchase (89 RMB/$14 per month) via the Tonghe front desk.

A distinct feature of the 21st Century City program is the opportunity to share an apartment with a Chinese university student. Each apartment will house one or two Alliance students in single rooms and one Chinese student, also in a single room. This offers the opportunity for Alliance students to get to know Chinese students on campus quickly and to engage in language and cultural exchange with their new friends. Chinese roommates are invited to attend many of the organized activities. Former Alliance students consistently rate this experience as one of their favorite program features.

Meals are not included in the Alliance program fee.  Students should budget approximately $10 per day for meals. Students may cook in their apartment kitchen or may take their meals at one of the cafeterias on campus. There are also numerous casual restaurants nearby.

Vegetarians will find that good food is available in China. Most restaurants serve lots of vegetables, tofu dishes, and staples such as rice, noodles, or dumplings. Note that some restaurants may use animal fat in preparing dishes.

Throughout the term, students are invited to take part in a full schedule of excursions, events and lectures designed to enhance their understanding of China and the historical and modern influences that impact its culture and people. Students explore the famous sites of Shanghai including Yuyuan Park, the historic Bund along the Huangpu River, and the former French concession. Field visits may include cultural performances, museum visits, special lectures, visits to artists' studios, architectural walking tours, and many opportunities to meet locals, including students from other campuses. Below is a sampling of activities from previous semesters. Specific activities for future terms are subject to change.

Lantern Festival

The Chinese Lantern Festival marks the end of Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). Students celebrated in the traditional Chinese fashion with colorful lanterns, dumplings (tang yuan) and riddles.  

Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center

The art center exhibits selected propaganda posters displayed across China from 1949 to 1979. Students were given a tour of the facilities and poster collection by founder and owner Mr. Yang Peiming. For more information on the Propaganda Poster Art Centre, please visit http://www.shanghaipropagandaart.com/

Visit Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center

To grasp Shanghai’s history and development, as well as its ambitious plans for the future, students visit the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center.

Yueju (Shaoxing) Opera Performance

Students were treated to a special performance of Yueju, a type of opera with a history of about 800 years and derived from a kind of story-singing. At first, it was performed with a small drum and hardwood clappers for rhythm, and choral and orchestral accompaniment was later added.

Visit to Xintiandi and the Chinese Communist Party Museum

The excursion to Xintiandi and the Chinese Communist Party Museum was led by the instructors of the "Issues in Contemporary Society and Culture" and "Contemporary Chinese Politics" courses. Students were encouraged to consider questions about tradition, modernization, and history and to pay attention to the ironies of their setting. Students are also asked to situate "Chinese culture" into a historical context of encountering the west.

World AIDS Day Discussion

Shao Jing, author of a very powerful academic article on the politics of HIV / AIDS and the value of bodies under a neoliberal regime, spoke to the Society and Culture class on World Aids Day. Shao Jing completed his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago and is now a professor at Nanjing University. Simon Tang, Office Director of the Chi Heng Foundation, also spoke about the Foundation’s work with children affected by AIDS in China.

"My Shanghai," Migrant Students’ Photography Exhibit

Students viewed “My Shanghai,” an exhibit showcasing photographs taken by sixth grade students from Jin Hu Primary School.

Acrobatics Show: Pu Jiang Qing

During orientation, students have the opportunity to see the breathtaking stunts of an acrobatics show, a form of performing arts that has existed in China for more than two thousand years.

Visit to the Shouchun Migrant School in Pudong

Students visited classrooms in small groups and communicate with migrant students in Chinese to understand their experiences in Shanghai--- and to teach them some basic English words.

Visit to Shanghai Roots and Shoots

Participants of this activity got a detailed picture of how an environmental NGO works in Shanghai. Student interested in environmental studies may have the opportunity to volunteer for Roots and Shoots programs. 

The Alliance arranges extra-curricular classes which may include Chinese painting, calligraphy, cooking, taiji or other martial arts, pottery, seal carving, or paper cutting. These classes offer a wonderful opportunity to learn more about traditional Chinese culture.

Program Fees

Total Tuition Housing
Fall 2016 Program $14,990 $12,700 $2,290
Spring 2016 Program $14,950

What's Included

The program price includes tuition and fees, housing, pre-departure materials and advising, student visa authorization documents, orientation, organized activities, field study trips, course materials and basic stationary supplies, phone and internet set-up assistance, the services of a full-time resident staff, and medical/evacuation insurance.


The program price does not include airfare to China, the cost of your student visa, meals, transportation, phone and internet, deposits required for local services, independent travel, and other items not mentioned as included.

Out of Pocket Expenses

When making your budget, think about your spending habits – are you a “Just the Essentials” Traveler, happy to eat all meals at the campus canteen and exploring the city on foot? Or are you more of the “Everything Extra” Traveler, who wants to experience everything – nights out at the clubs, shopping at boutiques, and traveling every weekend?

Estimated Out of Pocket Expenses for One Semester

Roundtrip airfare to China $ 1,300-1,800
Visa processing and shipping $ 260
Meals $ 1,000-1,200
Local transportation (varies by distance) $ 700-1,000
Phone usage (varies with data plan) $ 80
Internet usage $ 80
Incidentals and personal care items $ 50
Independent travel week $ 300-500
Entertainment $ 100-500
Weekend travel $ 100-500
Estimated Total $ 3,970-5,970

*Estimated in-country expenses based on 1.00 US Dollar = 6.36 Yuan Renminbi

Funding and Scholarships

Remember to check in with your home university and visit our Finances pages to learn more about financial aid and study abroad scholarships.

Our Shanghai program center sits just around the corner from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE), within the center of Shanghai’s university district. Meet our on-site staff!


The Shanghai programs are located just outside of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics’ (SUFE) main campus within the center of Shanghai’s university district. The neighborhood is lined with numerous small shops and restaurants to serve the transient student population. Within two blocks of student housing, you can find many small shops and cafes as well as the cuisines of Xinjiang, Hunan, Sichuan, Korea, Japan, Mexico, the U.S.A., and more. Several parks and recreational facilities located on campus just blocks from students’ dorms serve as great places for Chinese and international students alike to study, relax, or play frisbee.

Just a short distance from campus is Wujiaochang (五角场), a long-standing commercial node that has undergone a dramatic makeover in recent years. Today you will find two large shopping malls with scores of shops and restaurants of all kinds, including electronics, books, clothing, a movie theater, KTV, numerous bakeries, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Watson’s, and a Shanghai No. 1 Food Mart. You’ll also find H&M, Haagen Daz, and Sephora all in a row, as well as The Bank of China, ICBC, and ATM machines for China Construction Bank, Merchants Bank, and others. You can explore beyond this area’s student hangouts and cultural activities by easily catching metro line 10 downtown at Wujiaochang to experience the rest of what this exciting metropolis has to offer.

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics

The Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (上海财经大学), founded in 1917, is a multi-dimensional university with a core focus on applied economics and management and offering majors in law, philosophy, as well as humanities. SUFE, home to 24,000 students on two campuses, is administered by the Chinese Ministry of Education and has recently been selected as one of the "21st Century's Key Universities in China." It is the number one ranked finance and economics university in China. 

Check out this interactive map of the Alliance's resources across Shanghai:

View Alliance On Location: Shanghai in a larger map.

The Alliance organizes a one-week field study trip for students during the fall and spring semesters. Destinations may vary but usually include Yunnan or Qinghai province. Through exposure to China’s social, economic, and geographic diversity, as well as regional and ethnic inflections to the Chinese language that has been a focus of their studies, students gain a richly textured sense of the many realities that exist within China.

Yunnan Province

Yunnan province in southwestern China offers China's most diverse ethnic minority population, stunning scenery, and a rich history. Students gain deep insight into Yunnan's local culture and artistic heritage. They have the opportunity to experience urban life in Kunming, visit small Yi and Miao minority villages, and hike in the gorgeous, mountainous areas of this province. Participants of the trip may also explore the great natural beauty of the Stone Forest, the rain forest of Xishuangbanna, or participate in an extensive encounter with the Bai minority culture in the ancient town of Dali.

Alliance alumna Richelle shared her Field Study Trip experience on her blog in a six-part series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Qinghai Province

Located on the Tibetan Plateau, Qinghai is considered one of the most beautiful regions in China. Students may visit Ta'er Monastery, one of the six most famous Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world, travel to Qinghai Lake, the largest salt water lake in China and one of China’s best bird watching sites, or explore the ancient tombs of Liuwan. Students behold the breathtaking scenery, witness the contrast in development in the region versus the coast, and gain a deeper understanding of Qinghai’s minority nationalities.

Alliance alumna Rebecca shared her Field Study Trip experience on her blog in a two-part series: Part 1 and Part 2. You can also watch a past Qinghai trip video here.

Take the Next Step