Intro to Chinese Politics Syllabus—PLCP 3610

Revised January 22, 2012

Spring 2012


Description:           This course provides a general introduction at the undergraduate level to Chinese politics in its societal context.  A major task of the course will be to convey a concrete appreciation of a very different societal reality and how it interacts with an equally distinctive political system.  We will also present an overview of Chinese politics, and discuss China’s changing role in Asia and the world.  It is expected that this will be the first course that students have taken on contemporary China.


Program:     After a brief introduction to Chinese thinking about politics the course will consider developments in Chinese politics from the perspective of rural villages.  Students will be expected to read all of Chen Village, an account of a village from the 1950s to the 1980s, as well as other materials on China’s rural revolution (1927-1949) and the current situation of rural areas.  The second part of the course will be a general overview of Chinese politics.  In the last part of the course we will consider the dimensions of China’s external relations.


Requirements:       This is an introductory lecture class, but students are encouraged to participate actively in class and in the discussion sessions.  It is expected that assignments will be read on time and critically.   There will be an in-class exam and a final exam in the same format.  Both tests will have short answer questions as well as a choice of essay questions.  The tests will each count for 40% of the final grade and 20% will be based on class participation in both the lecture and the discussion sessions.  Explanations of the test structure and grading are posted on Toolkit.  Special exam times will be permitted only with prior permission, and unexcused absenteeism will  be penalized.

Books in the Bookstore (schedule acronym in parentheses)

Anita Chan, Jonathan Unger and Richard Madsen, Chen Village Revolution to Globalization.  Berkeley, 2009.  (CV)

Brantly Womack, ed., China’s Rise in Historical Perspective. Rowman & Littlefield, 2010 (W)

Melvin Goldstein, The Snow Lion and the Dragon. Berkeley (G)

David Kang (K) China Rising Columbia

Additional materials (all of these are available through the course website.  Additional materials may be assigned).

Week used 

2        Mao Zedong [Mao Tse-tung], “Oppose Book Worship;” “Be Concerned With the Well-Being of the Masses,” “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship.”

2        Brantly Womack, “From Urban Radical to Rural Revolutionary” in Timothy Cheek, ed., Cambridge Critical Introduction to Mao Zedong (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 61-86.

3        “Phases of Chinese politics” spreadsheet

3        Canton youth decision tree

4        Ethan Michelson, “Public Goods and State Society Relations”, Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business, Indiana University, Working Paper #4.

5        Amartya Sen, ” Quality of Life: India vs. China,” New York Review, May 12, 2011.

6        Organization charts

6        Kerry Dumbaugh, “Understanding China’s Political System”

6        Yu Keping, “Democracy is a Good Thing,” in Yu Keping, Democracy is a Good Thing (Washington: Brookings, 2009), pp. 3-5.

6        Brantly Womack, “Democracy and the Governing Party (执政党): A Theoretical Perspective,” Journal of Chinese Political Science 10:1 (April 2005), pp. 23-42.

7        Brantly Womack, “Political Reform and Sustainable Development in China,” Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences 3:1 (March 2010), pp. 32-54.*

9        Brantly Womack, Resolving Asymmetric Stalemate: The case of the Tibetan Question,” Journal of Contemporary China, no. 52 (August 2007), pp. 443-460.

10      Link to Economist, “Provinces as Countries.”

10      Brantly Womack, “China between Region and World,” China Journal no. 61 (January 2009), pp. 1-20.

11      Robert Sutter, “Taiwan’s Future: Narrowing Straits,” NBR Analysis, 2011.

11      Brantly Womack, “China and Southeast Asia: Asymmetry, Leadership and Normalcy,”  Pacific Affairs 76:3 (Winter 2003-4), pp. 529-48.

11      Brantly Womack, “The Spratlys: From Dangerous Ground to Apple of Discord,” Contemporary South East Asia 33:3 2011), pp. 370-387.

12      Yinan He, “National Mythmaking and the Problems of History in Sino-Japanese Relations,” in Lam, Peng Er, Japan‘s relations with China : facing a rising power. 2006

13      Major dates in US-China relations

13      Jeffrey Legro, “What China will Want,” Perspectives on Politics 5:3 (September 2007), pp. 515-534.

13      Brantly Womack, “United States and China’s Rise: Parity and the Accommodation of Civilizations,” in Brantly Womack, China among Unequals: Asymmetric Foreign Relations in Asia. Singapore: World Scientific Press, 2010, pp. 343-368.

14      Albert Keidel, China’s Economic Rise: Fact and Fiction,” Carnegie, 2008.

14      Theodore Moran, “Is Chinese Dominance Distorting Natural Resource Markets?” East Asia Forum, September 26, 2010.

14      David Pilling, “How Being Big Helps and Hurts China,” Financial Times, October 6, 2010.

14      Justin Lin, “China, the Leading Dragon of the World Economy,”

14      Brantly Womack, “Beyond Win-Win,” ms


3        Carma Hinton,  Small Happiness

7        Carma Hinton, Gate of Heavenly Peace

Schedule Overview

Week   Mon     Wed     Topic                                                   Reading

1                      1/18     Course intro                                        W Intro, 1-16.


2          /23                   Chinese ways of politics                      W Ch 1 Esherick, 9 Schoppa,

11 Qin

/25       Rural revolution in China                     Mao Zedong, Womack


3          /30                   rural life in transition                            Small Happiness (in class documentary)


2/1       From 1949 to Cultural Revolution       CV, -235 Phases, decision tree


4          /6                     Chen Village in reform            ChenV, 236-329


/8         The reform era                                   Michelson, ChenV 330-396


5          /13                   economic transformation of China     W Ch 5 Perkins, Ch 7 Elvin

/15       economic transformation continued    W Ch 6 Naughton, 8 Downs, Sen


6          /20                   Political system                                  Dumbaugh; org charts

W Ch 10 Fewsmith


/22       Political system continued                   Yu Keping: Womack


7          /27                   challenges of sustainability                 Womack

/29       Tiananmen (documentary)





8          3/12                 Test 1: Short Answer Questions

/14       Test 2: Essay Questions                                                                                                      

9          /19                   Tibet and diversity challenges Goldstein (G)

/21       Tibet continued                                   Womack


10        /26                   China betw Region and World            Womack; “Provs as Countries”

/28       China Rising:                                       Kang (K),1-75


11        4/2                   Taiwan                                                K 79-103; Sutter


/4         China and Southeast Asia                  K 126-152; Womack (2)


12        /9                     China Korea                                        K 104-125

/11      China Japan                                        K 153-182; Yinan He

13        /16                   China-US history                                Major dates


                        /18       China-US Challenges                         Legro, Womack


14        /23                   Structure of econ relations                  Keidel, Pilling, Moran

/25       China and global financial crisis          Womack

15        /30                   Summary