Course Meeting Times

Seminar: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


It is recommended that students have background knowledge of China and international relations.


China’s rise as a great power raises important questions about how that power might be used in its relations with other states. Nowhere are such questions more salient than in the future trajectory of China’s conflict behavior, including its approach to deterrence, crisis management and the use of force. To explore these important questions in China’s international relations, this seminar examines the evolution of Chinese strategic thought, in primary sources as well as its reflection in the interactions among Chinese states and between China and other states. To understand the degree of continuity between the past and the present, the majority of the course will explore the evolution of strategic thought in ancient and imperial China, while the role of strategy in modern and contemporary China will be examined in the final sessions. The seminar will focus on a close reading of classic Chinese texts on strategy, such as Sun Zi’s Art of War and Mao Zedong’s writings, along with relevant secondary literature on diplomatic, military and intellectual history.

The course has several goals. The first is to introduce students to the content of Chinese strategic thought in order to understand the degree of continuity and discontinuity reflected in subsequent theory and practice. The second goal is to consider the extent to which China may be described as possessing a unique strategic culture or approach to strategy.

The seminar will raise many questions, but few may be answered decisively. Students will be expected to read widely and wrestle with concepts, not just accumulate facts. The reading load is heavy and students must complete all the assignments for each session. Class meetings will emphasize discussion, not lectures.

Requirements and Grading

Class participation 50%
Research paper 50%

The first requirement is active participation in seminar discussion. A successful seminar requires attendance at every meeting, completion of all readings, and active and engaged participation in the class. To stimulate discussion, students may be assigned to give short presentations on assigned readings or to serve as “resident expert” for that week’s readings. The second requirement is a research paper on the topic of your choice.

Information for Undergraduates

This course is open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates with a background in China and international relations. Undergraduates will be evaluated along the same criteria; class participation (50%) and a research paper (50%). Undergraduates may choose a second grading option, substituting two take take-home essays, each roughly 15 pages in length, for the research paper. These essays must demonstrate a command of the readings in the course.