How to do fieldwork in China?

12 October 2017

Is there a right way to do fieldwork in China? What things do we have to consider when planning research in China?


This event presents examples from experienced fieldworkers, to research students and early-career researchers who plan to conduct fieldwork in China.


Doing fieldwork in China can be an eye-opening experience, but without sufficient consideration of the particular political social and cultural environment, it can also be a daunting task. Join us to hear from inspiring speakers with decades of experience and network with like-minded attendees, to feel more confident when you start to plan, prepare and carry out your fieldwork in China.


Speakers will discuss the topic from different perspectives, and share their personal experience during the phases of fieldwork (pre-fieldwork, fieldwork and post- fieldwork) - what challenges they encounter, what coping methods they adopt, and how the fieldwork experience contribute to their research on China.


The event will discuss the following:

  •  Is there a complete checklist for doing fieldwork in China?
  • Do I need affiliation with a local Chinese institution before I depart for China?
  • Do I need to adapt to local customs even when they are conflicting my core values
  • If I don’t speak Chinese, how can I develop a language strategy during my fieldwork in China?
  • How to find and connect with informants? And what to do when I can’t?
  • How to gain access to key written and oral sources?
  • What are the common mistakes? And how can I avoid them?
  • What is the advantage of the uncertain nature of fieldwork?


The audience will have the opportunity to ask questions during the Q&A session and meet with the speakers and fellow attendees.




Dr Minglu Chen

Senior Lecturer, Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney


Minglu Chen is a senior lecturer in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. Her research concentrates on social and political change in China, especially the interaction between entrepreneurs and the state. She is the author of Tiger Girls: Women and Enterprises in the People’s Republic of China (Routledge 2011).


Dr Benjamin Hillman

Senior Lecturer, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University


Ben Hillman studies political development in Asia, with a particular focus on China and Indonesia. Ben is especially interested in the role of informal institutions in public policy making, and in policies and mechanisms for promoting political inclusion and protect minority rights. He is author or editor of five books, the most recent of which is an edited volume (in Chinese) on Yunnan's Shangril-la. He is currently working on a new book about Tibet, which draws on many years of fieldwork in cities and villages in Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai Provinces.


Professor Luigi Tomba

Director, China Studies Centre, The University of Sydney


Before joining the Centre in 2017 Professor Luigi Tomba has been teaching and researching Chinese politics and society at the ANU for the last fifteen years, and most recently held the position of Associate Director of the Australian Centre on China in the World. His work has always been concerned with Cities and with urbanization. His most recent book The Government Next Door: Neighborhood Politics in Urban, was awarded the Association of Asian Studies 2016 Joseph Levenson Prize as best book on Post-1900 China.

Event details

  • When: 3.15pm - 5.00pm
  • Where: Education Seminar Room 325, Education Building, Manning Road, the University of Sydney (map)
  • Cost: Free
  • RSVP: Open to all with registration requested. Scroll down for form and register online now.
  • Contact:

    Wen Chen


    P: 9114 0838 

How to do fieldwork in China?

Where Education Seminar Room 325, Education Building, Manning Road, the University of Sydney (map) When

12 October 2017

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