Activities and Critical Analysis
By Lara Maupin
government/civics, economics, current events
Time: This lesson is intended to take one - two class periods.
will identify basic economic facts and indicators for the U.S. and China
in order to compare and contrast these two large economies.
will understand ways in which economic differences between the U.S.
and China impact the lives of American and Chinese citizens.
China is the world's most populous nation and one with an economy that
is growing at an amazing rate, lifting the Chinese out of poverty. Despite
economic reforms and rapid growth, however, China remains a poor nation.
One way to understand this fact is by comparing the Chinese economy to
the one with which your students are most familiar, namely, the U.S. In
this lesson, your students will examine the economies of the U.S. and
China. Doing so will help them understand some of the ways in which life
differs for American and Chinese people. This lesson is especially relevant
in a government or economics class but may be used in any social studies
class in which current events are discussed.
To make these lesson plans better
Correlation to National Standards
(provided in printer-friendly PDF format)
with Internet access or printed copies of articles from the Web sites
Ask your students to locate China on a classroom map if possible. Note
how large it is and ask your students if there is another country as big
as China. Look at the physical features of China (rivers, mountains, borders
with Russia and Southeast Asia) What influence might these features have
on the Chinese economy?
students the following background on Chinese history as it relates to
China's growing economy.
- When the
People's Republic of China was founded in 1949 it's political and economic
structure was modeled after that of the communist Soviet Union.
- In the
1950s China conducted a massive economic and social reconstruction program.
- In the
late 1950s Mao broke with the Soviet model and began the Great Leap
Forward with disastrous results such as widespread famine.
- In the
1960s and 1970s Deng Xiaoping and other leaders pushed for pragmatic
economic reforms. The Cultural Revolution was an ideological struggle
within the Communist Party resulting in chaos and anarchy.
reform policies resulted in a rise in the standard of living while political
dissent was suppressed. Special Economic Zones were established to phase
in reforms while the commune system was dismantled and failing state-owned
enterprises continued to be subsidized.
- In the
1990s Deng's push for market-oriented reforms received official sanction.
remains committed to economic reform and the creation of a socialist
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer special report on China
Background Note on China
PBS Wide Angle: To Have and Have Not
PBS Frontline's Teacher Background on China
PBS Commanding Heights: China - Economy http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/lo/countries/cn/cn_economic.html
Give your students the Handout and ask them to complete it. Provide them
with computers with Internet access and the Web sites listed below. Students
may work in pairs or small groups while conducting Internet research but
should complete their handouts individually. Alternatively, you may provide
printouts from the Web sites or assign Internet research as homework,
Background Note on China
Profile: U.S. http://stats.oecd.org/wbos/viewhtml.aspx?QueryName=29&QueryType=View&Lang=en
After your students have completed their handouts, ask them what they
can conclude. Discuss the similarities and differences they found between
these two economies. What can they deduct about how and why the daily
lives of American and Chinese people differ? How can they account for
the fact that so many Chinese remain poor while the Chinese economy is
so large and is growing so rapidly? What share of the world's wealth does
each country have, for example?
You may wish to have your students find out more about the daily lives
of the Chinese people and how their lives are improving as the Chinese
economy grows. Ask them to locate more relevant facts such as the following:
life expectancy, infant mortality, health coverage, literacy, and access
to clean water. They may then compare these statistics to those for the
U.S. and perhaps other countries as well. What surprised them as they researched
these facts? What can they find out about the kinds of jobs the Chinese
have access to and about how life differs in the rural and urban areas
of China? What impact are economic changes likely to have on the Chinese?
On the world? Have students write about, present, and/or discuss their
to National Standards
of K-12 Standards Addressed:
Standard 9: Understands how Gross Domestic Product and inflation and deflation
provide indications of the state of the economy
5: Understands that economic growth can alleviate poverty, raise standards
of living, create new employment and profit opportunities in some industries,
but can also reduce opportunities in other industries
23: Understands the impact of significant political and nonpolitical developments
on the United States and other nations
7: Understands the principal effects that economic conditions, technological
developments, and cultural developments in other nations have had on
American society and the lives of American citizens (e.g., economic
conditions such as multinational corporations, migration of labor; technological
developments such as fax machines, personal computers, television; cultural
developments such as religious movements, resurgence of ethnic consciousness)
Standard 44: Understands the search for community, stability, and peace
in an interdependent world
13: Understands how global political change has altered the world economy
(e.g., what participation in the world economy can mean for different
countries; the relationship between demands for democratic reform and
the trend toward privatization and economic liberalization in developing
economies and former communist states, and how multilateral aid organizations
and multinational corporations have supported or challenged these trends)
Standard 45: Understands major global trends since World War II
2: Understands causes of economic imbalances and social inequalities
among the world's peoples and efforts made to close these gaps
Council for the Social Studies Thematic Strands (http://www.socialstudies.org/standards/):
People, Places, and Environment
Power, Authority, and Governance
Production, Distribution, and Consumption
About the Author: Lara Maupin is a former social studies teacher and
student government adviser at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science
and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. She has a Masterís Degree in Secondary
Social Studies Education from George Washington University and a Bachelorís
Degree in Anthropology and Philosophy from Mount Holyoke College.
out more about opportunities to contribute to this site, contact Leah
Clapman at email@example.com.