729 Elm
Norman OK 73019-2105
(405) 325-3580
FAX: (405) 325-7738
uschina at ou dot edu

Spring 2008 IAS 3153-001:
Chinese Foreign Policy

Prof. Peter Hays Gries

Class meets Tuesday, Thursday 1:30-3:30 pm in Adams Hall Rm. 112
Office Hours: Tues., Thurs. 3:30-4:30 pm in 120 Hester Hall & by appointment.

Course Description

Many Americans have a very ambivalent image of China.  Is China a fearsome dragon out to upset the global balance of power?  Or is China a cuddly panda (here a cute dragon) that we can talk to? This course provides a comprehensive introduction to Chinese foreign policy, but may reveal as much about us as it does about China.  Why do we think and talk about China in the ways that we do?  Our assumptions about politics are derived from the American experience, so studying China should reveal quite a bit about who we are. But China is more than just a mirror.  With over a fifth of the world’s population (over 1.3 billion people), an enormous economy (a 2006 nominal GDP of over 2.68 trillion), and the world’s largest standing army, China is intrinsically important.  Anyone who wishes to understand 21st century world politics needs to engage the China question.

The course is divided into five sections. It begins with key issues and concepts.  It then reviews China’s external relations prior to “Liberation” in 1949.  The focus here will be twofold: interrogating the idea of a “Tributary System” with China at the center, and the narrative of a “Century of Humiliation.” The third section introduces basic concepts from international relations theory in general and theories of foreign policy decision making in particular. The fourth section turns to the history of the PRC’s foreign relations, with an emphasis on Sino-American relations. The fifth and final section explores vital foreign policy issues confronting China in the 21st century: China’s relations with south and southeast Asia, the Taiwan issue, Sino-Japanese relations, and forecasting China’s future global role.
2008 will be a busy year in US-China relations, and we will focus on three substantive current issues in our coursework this semester:

1. 30th anniversary of the 1/1/1979 normalization of US-China relations. Small group website design project. Building on the outline at, design a resource webpage for journalists and others who will be interested researching and writing about the events surrounding the normalization of US-China relations 30 years ago. What kind of primary and secondary resources should we gather and link to the page? The website we eventually create will also be used to publicize an international conference to be held here in Norman on the 30th anniversary next November. You will join a group of 3-4 classmates the second week of classes to work collaboratively on a .ppt or .html presentation that you will make in class to your classmates the sixth week of classes, February 19 & 21.

2. Taiwan presidential election and referendum on applying to the UN under the name of “Taiwan” rather than “Republic of China,” March 22. Two one page memos to the president. The first is due Thursday March 13 prior to the referenda, and addresses the question of what impact the referenda will likely have on the Taiwan Straits question and US-China relations. The second, due Thursday, April 3 after the referenda, assesses both what impact the referenda did have on the Taiwan Straits question and US-China relations, and what your earlier memo did and did not forecast.

3. The Beijing Olympics will be held this August. What impact will they have on US-China relations? Will the Olympic medal count become a surrogate for superpower rivalry? If China wins more medals than the US, will there be any impact on US-China relations? Address these questions in a five page paper due in class April 17.