Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Objectives and Organization

This course is designed for undergraduates and graduate students as a comprehensive introduction to the politics of the People’s Republic of China. The course takes as its organizing theme China’s ongoing quest for modernity, a quest that has its roots in the 19th century and continues to shape Chinese politics today. The turbulent and often tragic history of the PRC can be viewed as a succession of efforts to answer a basic dilemma: how can China stand up, erase the shame of fallen empire, and recover the glory of a once-great civilization? The course is divided into four parts, each corresponding to a particular historical era and that era’s answer to the challenge of modernization. How did the political system evolve to accommodate frequently changing, and often radically divergent, definitions of national strength and modernity? Moreover, how should we understand the relationship between citizen and state in this context? What is the role of the citizen in a system structured to maximize national self-realization, and how has that role changed over time? How should we go about understanding the concept of governmental legitimacy in China?

The basic objective of this course is to provide students the means to come to their own conclusions regarding China’s political system. The ultimate hope is that by critically evaluating China’s system, we will be forced to reflect more deeply on the nature of our own.


First general meeting is of two-hour and another one is one-hour discussion section per week. Periodically through the semester, the discussion section will be used to view documentaries on Chinese politics and development. The films are critical for providing an additional perspective on China’s process of political development and modernization.

Attendance at all general meetings and sections, including the films, is mandatory. Unexcused absences will be penalized.


Grades are based on class participation (15%), midterm exam (20%), two quizzes (15%), and final take-home exam/essay (50%).

Discussion Sections and Films: Attendance is mandatory, and students will be expected to have completed the week’s reading assignments prior to section. Material in the film documentaries will be included on the quizzes and exams.

Mid-Term Exam: An in-class midterm exam consisting of identification and essay questions will be given on Lecture 7. The exam will be based on materials included in readings, films, and lecture.

Quizzes: Two short (15 minute) quizzes will be given. The quiz dates will be Lecture 5 and 10. Each quiz will consist of 3 brief identification questions.

Take-Home Final Exam: The take-home final will be distributed on Lecture 13. The exam will consist of a series of essay questions covering the scope of the course. Students are encouraged to discuss the questions with one another, but the essays MUST be written on an individual basis.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

grading Exams
assignment Written Assignments