China and International Politics

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Politics and International Studies

Module overview

This course is designed to provide students with a theoretically informed introduction to key traditional security issues in the international relations and foreign policy of China (People's Republic of China). China is an important actor in international relations, so understanding China's international politics is critical to the study of region and international relations in general. This course seeks to develop an understanding of the key driving forces in China's international relations. The key tuning points in Chinese foreign relations are critically analysed and linked with debates in international relations.

The course comprises three parts. The first part (I Introduction) provides an overview of the themes and intellectual approaches to the study of the international politics of China. The second part (II Early PRC onwards) examines nature of the China's foreign relations in key historical periods and links them with debates in international relations. The third part (III Foreign Policy Making) examines key issues in China's foreign policy. As a result, the students will enhance knowledge of the region as a whole (to go beyond a single country focus) and learn to relate disciplinary and empirical knowledge.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Understanding of the major forces in the international relations of China from the establishment of the PRC to the present.
  • Analysis of the traditional security issues in China's international relations and foreign policy.
  • Ability to critically evaluate the past, current and future challenges for China's international politics.
  • Familiarity with the existing theoretical approaches to analyse the international relations and foreign policy making of China.
  • Developed skills of oral and written communication.


1 hour Lecture per week

1 hour Tutorial per week

Scope and syllabus

  1. Introduction and Overview
  2. Chinese Conceptions of World Order (Tianxia)
  3. History and Memory - Century of Humiliation
  4. II Early PRC to the Cold War - Mao's Foreign Policy
  5. China during the Cold War - Korea and Vietnam Wars
  6. Post Cold War to Reformist era - Deng to Jiang Foreign Policy
  7. III Foreign Policy Making - Hu to Xi Foreign Policy
  8. Rise of China – status quo or revisionist power?
  9. Security and Modernisation of the PLA
  10. Taiwan’s International Relations – de jure and defacto states

Method of assessment

Assessment is 40% coursework (one essay), 50% unseen examination (2 hours) and 10% in-class presentation.

Suggested reading

  • G. John Ikenberry ‘The Rise of China: Power Institutions and the Western Order’, Foreign Affairs, 87:1, 2008, pp. 5-56.
  • Yan Xuetong ‘From Keeping a Low Profile to Striving for Achievement’, The Chinese Journal of International Politics, 7:2, Summer 2014, pp.153-184.
  • A. Carlson ‘Moving Beyond Sovereignty? A brief consideration of recent changes in China’s approach to international order and the emergence of the tianxia concept’, Journal of Contemporary China, 20:68, 2011.
  • Andrew Scobell ‘Learning to Rise Peacefully? China and the Security Dilemma’, Journal of Contemporary China, 21:76, 2012, pp. 713–721.
  • Zheng Bijian ‘China’s “Peaceful Rise” to Great Power Status’, Foreign Affairs, 84:5, 2005.
  • Wang Jisi ‘China’s search for a grand strategy: a rising great power finds its way’, Foreign Affairs, 90:2, 2011.
  • Alastair Iain Johnston and Robert Ross (eds) New Directions in the Study of China’s Foreign Policy (Stanford, 2006).
  • Foot and Walter China, the US and Global Order (OUP 2011).
  • David Shambaugh China Goes Global: the Partial Power (OUP 2013).
  • Marc Lantiegne Chinese Foreign Policy: an Introduction (Routledge 2015).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules