Stern Center 107
Department of East Asian Studies
Department of Political Science
Office Hours: T 4:15-5:15; W 4:15-5:15 and by
Chinese Politics (POLSCI 255; EAS 206)
Generally speaking, China does not get good press.
Its government is often called a
“dictatorship”; many complain about its human rights abuses, repression of Tibetans,
journalists, Christians and intellectuals, missile sales to countries like North Korea and
Pakistan; its people are said to yearn for more freedom and democracy, but are stymied
by a stuck-in-the-mud Communist Party.
Americans may respect China for its recent
economic growth, but few have favorable opinions of its government.
In most people’s
minds, China is conceived in what might be called “aggregate” terms: “the government”
does “x” or “y”; “China” is booming; “Chinese are repressed.”
Many things are lost when
we use this sort of language:
the place of the individual in the political system, variations
in how people responded to political events, the divergence between what the
government wants to happen and what actually happens on the ground, resistance and
accommodation to the state and more.
Complexity and nuance are easily lost.
This course aims to provide students with an appreciation for complexity both within the
party/state and Chinese society.
It will cover some aspects of “traditional” China, but will
focus more intensely on the Maoist (1949-1976) and reform periods (1978- ). We will see
that it is very difficult to generalize about China, a country with 1.3 billion people, multiple
ethnic groups, classes, and regional variations.
Just like there are differences between
Los Angeles and San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Austin and Dallas, so too
are there differences between different Chinese cities, between city and countryside,
intellectuals and workers.
This was true both historically, when China was less populous
and open to the West, and it remains true today, as China is more engaged in the world
My goal for this course is to expose you to this complexity, while at the same
time providing the basic facts about government, historical events and figures to make
you “literate” about this particular region of the world.
This course is divided into two main sections. In the first, lasting roughly a month, we will
go over some of the basics about China: geography, economics, government, population
and historical events and personalities. We will focus on China’s basic dilemma after
1839-42, when it lost the “Opium Wars” to the British: how to confront the Western
challenge and how to change traditions and customs that were deemed to have held
We will do this largely though studying some literary masterpieces of the
time, and possibly film as well.
After we cover the basic historical timeline (if you feel
lost you can meet me during office hours or consult other sources), we will delve into