Next week Global Studies is hosting a conference focussed on the role of Asia in the world, and several talks will look at China. The conference is dedicated to world-systems analysis, a largely Marxist view of the world economy developed by Immanuel Wallerstein, which I don't know much about. The emphasis of the theory seems to be on the importance of the transnational economy over individual states, and the way in which areas near the core of this system benefit at the expense of those in the periphery. The rise of this system is pegged around 1500.
Regardless of the ideology of the conference as a whole, it looks like it will contain interesting individual talks. One talk that looks promising is by Elizabeth Perry from Harvard, “Chinese Conceptions of ‘Rights’: From Mencius to Mao—and Now.” Another potentially good one: “Land Rights Protests in Mainland China: A Preliminary Analysis of Their Meanings and Political Significance” Yin-wah Chu, University of Hong Kong.