COURSE: Domestic political challenges and the development in Chinese foreign and security policy

Course content

What are the driving factors and dynamics behind the development in Chinese foreign and security policy? Which theoretical models and arguments are useful in the study of Chinese foreign and security policy? How to study China?

A growing number of International Relations scholars argue that Chinese foreign and security policy is developing in a more aggressive direction – Beijing is increasingly pushing for its own interests and demands and is more willing to actively use China’s stronger economic and military instruments in a kind of ‘carrot and stick’ approach. Several reasons behind this development are highlighted. Especially that the Chinese leadership after the global financial crisis, which China managed better than most other great powers, has become more self-confident. The ongoing modernization and transformation of the Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) – including the testing of new, more technologically advanced equipment and large-scale military exercises – also contribute to the ‘aggressive China’ argument and so does the current Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s call for China to move away from the traditional Chinese ‘keep a low profile’ foreign and security policy strategy and instead proactively seek to ‘shape’ developments in the international system.

However, the ‘aggressive China’ literature has several short-comings. A fundamental problem is that analyses of the development in Chinese foreign and security policy tend to downplay the importance of the domestic context in which Chinese foreign and security policy is discussed and decided. The overall argument behind this course is that in order to understand and explain the development in Chinese foreign and security policy it is necessary to ‘go domestic’.

The Chinese leadership today faces huge domestic challenges with a declining economic growth, a more dynamic, diversified and critical society and a more fragmented political system with strong vested interests working against reforms. The focus of the Chinese leadership is on managing these domestic challenges, and the critical point is that Chinese foreign and security policy is also directed towards and dictated by – Chinese domestic politics. This is because concerns about securing domestic control and the legitimacy of the Chinese leadership, e.g. the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), always rank first whether it is in Chinese domestic politics or in Chinese foreign and security policy. Therefore, the so-called ‘aggressive turn’ in Chinese foreign and security policy since 2008 has to be reexamined in the context of a Chinese leadership more preoccupied with and pressured by domestic challenges.

This course focuses on the nexus of Chinese domestic politics and Chinese foreign and security policy. What are the critical domestic changes and challenges in China today? How does the Chinese leadership respond to them and what are the implications for the development in Chinese foreign and security policy? Are certain domestic developments in China ‘pulling’ Chinese foreign and security policy in certain directions? These are some of the questions that the course analyzes and discusses.

Theoretically, the course presents, applies and assesses several theoretical models and arguments drawing on foreign policy analysis, where traditional theories such as Putnam and Allison are included as well as newer theoretical developments, e.g. neo-classical realism, constructivist foreign policy approaches stressing the importance of ideas and discourses as well as political psychology approaches.

 

Structure:

The course is divided into four parts. The first part constitutes a general presentation of the course with focus on the background, objectives and expectations as well as a general introduction to politics, economy and society in modern China and to China as an international actor. The first part also includes introduction to theoretical models and arguments in the study of Chinese foreign and security policy and to the on-going debate about ‘how to study China’. In the second part the focus is on specifying critical domestic changes and challenges in China today and further on discussing and assessing the implications of these for the development in Chinese foreign and security policy. In the third part several case studies are conducted examining China’s handling of recent challenges and crises in the area of international economy, politics and security. In the fourth and last part, focus returns to the overall question of the driving factors and dynamics behind the development in Chinese foreign and security policy also including discussions about the main implications and challenges related for Chinese leaders as well as for the region and the U.S. The discussion also returns to the question of useful theoretical models and arguments in the study of Chinese foreign and security policy and to the on-going debate about ‘how to study China’ assessing the main approaches and arguments.

Qualifications acquired:

Upon conclusion of the course, students will be able to conduct theoretically sophisticated and well-researched analyses and discussions related to the ongoing debate about the development in Chinese foreign and security policy. Furthermore, students will become highly knowledgeable of important developments in Chinese politics, economy and society.

The use:

Academically as well as professionally, the demand for students with comprehensive knowledge and understanding of developments in and around China and more generally speaking in Asia is growing. This is evident both within government institutions and private organizations and companies.

Education

SRM: Elective III

The Course is open to all students at the department.

Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS
Masterlevel: 7,5 ECTS

Learning outcome

 

More specifically regarding competence profile and goal description, the objective of the course is to enable the students to:

  • Describe the main characteristics of the development in Chinese foreign and security policy in these years

  • Present the key theoretical models and arguments within the study of Chinese foreign and security policy

  • Present the important changes and challenges in Chinese domestic politics and discuss the links of these to the development in Chinese foreign and security policy assessing the relative explanatory value of the key theoretical models and arguments within the study of Chinese foreign and security policy

  • Conduct theoretically structured analyses of Chinese foreign and security policy on specific issues and cases

  • Derive theory-based reflections on how to expect Chinese foreign and security policy to further develop

Reflect on the main approaches and arguments in the on-going debate about ‘how to study China’

The course consists of lectures, class discussion and group-work as well as guest lectures. Students must participate actively in all activities.

Large parts of the following books as well as selected articles, policy paper and speeches from the Chinese and Western debate – in total 1200 pages:  

  • Marc Lanteigne, Chinese Foreign Policy: An Introduction, New York: Routledge, 2015 (third edition)

  • Guo Sujian, Chinese Politics and Government: Power, Ideology and Organization, New York: Routledge, 2013

  • Andrew J. Nathan & Andrew Scobell, China’s Search for Security, New York: Columbia University Press, 2012,

  • Brantly Womack (ed.), China’s Rise in Historical Perspective, New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010

Students are expected to have knowledge and understanding of theoretical concepts, insights and approaches from International Relations and Comparative Politics. Strong knowledge of Chinese history, politics and security is not required.

ECTS
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Oral exam
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28