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Dr.LI Xiaoting 2015- Sino-US Relations Syllabus

Course name:           China’s Rise and Sino-American Relations

Course number(s):         To be assigned

Language of instruction:      English

Term:                        Fall 2015

Course meeting times:         Tuesdays 6:00-8:30 pm

Course meeting place:   Room 404,Science BuildingA, ECNU Zhongbei Campus

Professor:                 Xiaoting Li, Assistant Professor

Contact Information:      xtli@saias.ecnu.edu.cn

Office address:        Room 407, Science Building A, ECNU Zhongbei Campus

Office hours:                   Mondays 3:30-5:00 pm

Course Description

Nowadays, China’s rise and the future of Sino-American relations have become a subject of intense debate among academics and policymakers worldwide. Some believe that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) constitutes an inexorable threat to US security and interests in the world order. Others are more optimistic, on the grounds that China’s growing integration into the international system will likely increase Beijing’s affinity with the prevailing order. Still others follow a middle course, observing that the Sino-American relationship is a complex mixture of both cooperative and competitive elements, and that the pressing task today is to expand cooperation and limit competition.


The main objective of this course is to evaluate the issue in terms of competing propositions and evidence. Itwill cover the following topics:


—Perceptions of the “China threat”: Why do some analysts believe China to be a threat? On what assumptions or premises do they build their arguments? How do we evaluate these assumptions and premises?


—Responses to the “China threat” theory: Why do some scholars believe that China would not be a threat? What is the causal logic of their arguments? How do we evaluate their arguments?


—Various hot-spot issues related to China’s rise and Sino-American relations: Will an increasingly powerful China confront the United States and its allies forcefully, especially over Taiwan, Japan, the Korean peninsula, and the South China Sea? What are China’s perceptions of and responses to the US rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific?


—China’s attempts at “Peaceful Development”: What does the concept mean? How do we evaluate it theoretically and empirically? What can the United States do to encourage and assist China’s peaceful development?


—The making of Chinese foreign policy: What are the domestic and international determinants of Chinese behavior? How do these two types of determinants interact with each other? In which ways are they conducive or disruptive to China’s “peaceful development” as well as Sino-American relations?


Learning Objectives

This course seeks to introduce students to some important debates on the causes, dynamics, and future possibilities of Chinese foreign policy and Sino-American relations. In addition, the course is designed to teach several important practical skills to students, e.g., the ability to assess competing views or argumentscritically, to analyze a topic comprehensively and creatively, and to present one’s ideas in a cogent and straightforward way.


Course Prerequisites

No prerequisites are required for this course, except that students are expected to be interested in China’s rise and its impact on world politics.

Methods of Instruction

Instruction will be approximately 70% lecture and 30% class discussion.

Assessment and Final Grade

         A student’s final grade is based on the following three components:


  1. Seminar participation– 20%.
  2. Three short review essays (3-4 pages for each) – 45%.
  3.  One final research paper (12-15 pages) – 35%.
Course Requirements

Three Short Review Essays:

Each essay must provide a pithy summary of the main arguments about an interesting issue in previous weeks’ readings, and provide a thoughtful comment on the merits and defects of those arguments (e.g., do they make sense logically? Do the facts contradict each other?).

One Final Research Paper:

The topics of the research paper must be related to the course. A one-page summary of your research proposal must be submitted to and approved in advance by the instructor.

Attendance and Class Participation:

This class is a demanding one. To be successful, students need to attend every class. Occasionally, due to illness or other unavoidable circumstance, a student may need to miss a class.  ECNU policy requires a medical certificate to be excused. Any absence may impact on the student's grade. Moreover, ECNU policy is that a student who has more than 4 unexcused absences will fail the course.


Late papers will be marked down 5% after the first day and 1% every day afterwards, and no coursework will be accepted after the last day of class.

Weekly Schedule

Week 1           Orientation and Overview

09/15                     Introduction to class

            Nicholas D. Kristof. (1993) The Rise of China. Foreign Affairs 72(3): 59–74.


            Jeffrey W. Legro. (2007) What China will Want: The Future Intentions of a Rising Power.Perspectives on Politics 5(3): 515-534.


Week 2          

       09/22                   Is There a “China Threat”?

            Denny Roy. (1996)The “China Threat” Issue: Major Arguments. Asian Survey 36(8):758-771.


            Alastair Iain Johnston.(2003) Is China a Status Quo Power? International Security 27(4): 5-56.


Week 3          

       09/29                   The Aspirations ofa Rising China

            Randall Schweller and Xiaoyu Pu. (2011) After Unipolarity: China’s Visions of International Order in an Era of U.S. Decline. International Security36(1): 41-72.


            Michael Swaine. (2014) Xi Jinping’s Address to the Central Conference on Work

            Relating to Foreign Affairs: Assessing and Advancing Major-Power Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics. Chinese Leadership Monitor no. 46.


Week 4          

10/06                    No class – China’s National Day Holiday Week


Week 5

10/13                     China versus the United States, Part I

            Robert Sutter. (2012) Chinese Foreign Relations: Power and Policy since the Cold War. New York: Rowman and Littlefield. Read chapter 6.


            Denny Roy. (2003) China's Reaction to American Predominance.Survival34(3): 57-78.


Week 6


10/20             China versus the United States, Part II

Xiaoting Li. (2015) Dealing with the Ambivalent Dragon: Can Engagement Moderate China’s Strategic Competition with America? International Interactions 41(3): 480-50.


Xiaoting Li (2016) Applying Offensive Realism to the Rise of China: Structural Incentives and Chinese Diplomacy toward the Neighboring States. International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 16(2): forthcoming.


Attention: First review essay due in class



Week 7


10/27                   Potential Flashpoints I: Taiwan

            Susan Shirk. (2007) China: Fragile Superpower. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Read chapter 7.


            Jing Huang and Xiaoting Li. (2010) Inseparable Separation: The Making of China’s Taiwan Policy. Singapore: World Scientific Press. Read Chapter 7.


Week 8

11/03        Potential Flashpoints II: Japan and the East China Sea

            M. Taylor Fravel. (2010) Explaining Stability in the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands Dispute. In Gerald Curtis, RyoseiKokubun and Wang Jisi, eds., Getting the Triangle Straight: Managing China-Japan-US Relations (Washington, DC: The BrookingsInstitution Press).


Susan Shirk. (2007) China: Fragile Superpower. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Read chapter 6.


Week 9

11/10          Potential Flashpoints III: The Korean Peninsula

            Anne Wu. (2005) What China Whispers to North Korea. The Washington Quarterly 28 (2): 35-48.


            Bonnie Glaser and Wang Liang. (2008) North Korea: The Beginning of a China-U.S. Partnership? The Washington Quarterly 31 (3): 165-180.


            Christopher Twomey. (2008) Explaining Chinese Foreign Policy toward North Korea: Navigating between the Scylla and Charybdis of Proliferation and Instability. Journal of Contemporary China 17 (56): 401-423.


Week 10

11/17        Potential Flashpoints IV:the South China Sea


            David Shambaugh. (2004) China Engages Asia: Reshaping the Regional Order. International Security 29 (3): 64-99.


            Lyle Goldstein. (2011) Chinese Naval Strategy in the South China Sea: An Abundance of Noise and Smoke, but Little Fire. Contemporary Southeast Asia 33 (3): 320-347.


            Michael Swaine and M. Taylor Fravel. (2011) China’s Assertive Behavior, Part II: The Maritime Periphery. China Leadership Monitorno. 35.


Attention: Second review essay due in class



Week 11

11/24                  Reflections on China’s Recent Assertiveness

            Xiaoting Li. (2013) The Taming of the Red Dragon: The Militarized Worldview and China’s Use of Force, 1949-2001. Foreign Policy Analysis9(4): 387-407.


            Alastair Iain Johnston. (2013) How New and Assertive is China’s New Assertiveness? International Security 37 (4): 7-48.



Week 12

12/01           Domestic Determinants of Chinese Foreign Policy

Susan Shirk. (2007) China: Fragile Superpower. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Read chapters 1, 3, 4.


Week 13

12/08           Wrapping up on Sino-American Relations


Susan Shirk. (2007) China: Fragile Superpower. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press. ReadChapters 8-9.


Attention: Third review essay due in class


Week 14            

12/15          Student Presentations on Their Research Papers I


Week 15

12/22          Student Presentations on Their Research Papers II

                    Final research papers due on December 29, 2015.




There are no required textbooks for purchase for this course. One book, however, is recommended for your perusal, and will be used frequently in this class:


Shirk, Susan. (2007) China: Fragile Superpower. Oxford: Oxford University (I will email a scanned PDF version of the book to the class).


I will also make available to the class a few other book chapters authored by prominent China specialists. In addition, all assigned journal articles can be obtained at the course website (http://www.saias.ecnu.edu.cn/iv5000.htm).