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Regional Trends: The Rise of China




Admissions requirements

At least one 200-level course from the same track of the Major.


This course aims to provide a critical examination of key issues and processes related to the international relations of China. The focus of the course is on developments since the end of the Cold War, with a particular emphasis on the rise of China and its various implications for international politics.

As protestors in the summer of 1989 gathered in Tiananmen Square to demand greater political rights, it appeared as though the changes that swept Europe with the collapse of Soviet Union were being replicated in China. Nearly two decades on, the Chinese Communist Party remains in power, having successfully negotiated the end of the Cold War and built the foundations for China’s rise as a Great Power in the world. China is now integrated into the world economy and has played important political roles. Yet, China meanwhile seems to be vulnerable as well. Many Western observers have been expecting the collapse of People’s Republic of China, as they argue that the regime lacks legitimacy since it is not built upon an electoral/democratic system. The riots that took place in Tibet in 2008 and in Xingjian in 2009 to a certain degree reflect the fragility of the PRC. As Susan Shirk notes, China is a ‘fragile superpower’. In addition, China’s rise appears threatening to many people. Foreigners often worry that China’s rapid development will present a threat to the stability of the current world order. Military and political tensions between China and Japan could undermine the stability of the Northeast Asian region for instance.

As such, this course attempts to contemplate the following three questions by examining the rise of China, both in theoretical and empirical terms:

Is China’s rise a real phenomenon, and what are the characteristics of China’s rise, if any?
Is the rise of China an opportunity or a threat, and how should we analyse it?
How should the world manage China’s rise?
In short, this course draws considerable insight from international relations and comparative political theory to make sophisticated and nuanced analysis of China’s ascent. The course is organised around three parts, 14 sessions. Part 2 (Session 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) aims to deliberate questions such as whether China’s rise a real phenomenon and what the characteristics of China’s rise are? It will examine three faces of Chinese powers (i.e. might, money and minds) as well as three challenges facing contemporary China (i.e. stability, sustainable development, and territorial integrity). Part 3 (Session 9, 10, 11, 12, 13) is designed to consider China’s foreign relationships with different countries/regions around the world over various issues. The countries/regions being discussed include Japan, Taiwan, Africa, the EU, and the United States.

  1. China: A Fragile Superpower? An Introduction to China’s International Relations
    1. China’s Conceptions of World Order
      Part One: Inside China
    2. The 1st Face of Chinese Power: Might
    3. The 2nd Face of Chinese Power: Money
    4. The 3rd Face of Chinese Power: Minds
    5. Critical Issues in Contemporary China 1: Stability
    6. Critical Issues in Contemporary China 2: Sustainable Development
    7. Critical Issues in Contemporary China 3: China’s Territorial Unity
      Part Two: China and the World
    8. Shadows of the Past and Power Struggles ‘to be or not to be’ – Sino-Japan Relations
    9. The Birth of ‘Taiwanese’ and Its Future – China-Taiwan Relations
    10. ‘The Dragon’s Gift’? – China in Africa
    11. (Why) is Human Rights an Issue? – Sino-EU Relations
    12. The Coming Conflict with China? – Sino-U.S. Relations
    13. Concluding Session: How to Manage China’s Rise?

Course objectives

In this course, students will learn valuable theoretical, methodological and analytical skills enabling them to interpret key issues in the international relations of China. By the end of the course each student is expected to develop the following skills:

Understanding of China’s International Relations

  • Critically identify and discuss key issues surrounding the history and development of China’s international relations;

  • A critical awareness of the key debates concerning the rise of China;

  • Identify and critically evaluate key issues pertaining to China’s international relations.

Knowledge of International Relations Theories

  • Critically reflect upon key theories and concepts of IR theories using a variety of case studies related to China’s international relations;

  • Apply conceptual tools to analyse key events and processes in the international relations of China.

Intellectual Skills

  • Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills, develop the capacity for independent learning, critique major texts on China’s international relations, and participate in class debates;

  • Display the confidence to present their arguments in relevant academic contexts (seminars, workshops, conferences) for specialists in IR of China.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars. During the course of the seminar students are expected to take part in both large and small group discussions; participate in seminar discussions; present and defend their ideas within an academic setting; and take part in group projects. The role of the instructor is to ensure the efficient running of the discussion. Each seminar has a ‘required reading’ list that must be read in advance of each seminar. Students are also recommended to read some of the items listed under ‘suggested reading’ prior to each seminar and use the extended list as a starting point in their preparation for essay writing.


Participation, 15%
Presentations, 25%
Book review, 20%
Final research paper, 40%


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

The acquisition of the following book is required. Readings outside of this book will be provided electronically through blackboard.

Lampton, David M. (2008) The Three Faces of Chinese Power: Might, Money, and Minds (University of California)


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Yih-Jye Hwang,