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

Spring 2016 IAS 3583-025:
Managing U.S.-China Relations

Prof. Peter Hays Gries

Hester 230, Fridays 10:30-11:30 & Beijing, China, March 13-20, 2016
Office Hours: Hester 227 by appointment @

Course Description

US-China relations are arguably the most important state-to-state relationship of the 21st century. Yet they are plagued by mutual suspicion and mistrust. How then can our bilateral relations be managed to prevent yet another conflict between the two largest powers in the world today?

This course will introduce students to the history and current state of US-China relations. Its primary goal, however, is not to convey knowledge. To manage US-China relations, scholars and practitioners alike need to move beyond mere knowledge acquisition to seek understanding. That is, they must seek to see the world and themselves through the prism of the Other’s identities and ideologies.

Our focus, therefore, will be on understanding the Chinese perspective on US-China relations. We will engage Chinese constructions of their civilizational and national identities—and the role that America plays in those discourses. Do Chinese Occidentalist constructions of China as “harmonious” (和) require a “hegemonic” (霸) America? Does China’s anti-imperialist nationalism require that Chinese view America as the “Beautiful imperialist” (美帝)?  To address such questions, we will explore contemporary Chinese narratives about the imperial Chinese tributary system and the early modern “Century of Humiliation,” before turning to US-China relations under Mao, Deng, and today.

Studying the Chinese perspective on US-China relations will nonetheless reveal a great deal about who we are as Americans. Can we move beyond the Liberalism that powerfully shapes American worldviews to better understand China’s America policy in its own terms? If so, must we abandon our Liberal values?

While the subject matter of the class is US-China relations, with a focus on understanding the Chinese view of America and the world, my primary goal is to promote critical thinking, cultivating your ability to think rigorously and independently.

The majority of our class contact hours will be in Beijing over spring break, but we will also meet about ten times in Norman before and after the trip to both prepare and debrief.