Chinese Politics


Political Reform in East Asia

Syllabus (pdf)

This course examines political reform in mainland China and Taiwan from a comparative perspective. Although there is a strong focus on contemporary politics, we will also spend considerable time and energy on understanding the previous century of change and upheaval of greater China, including the decline of the last imperial dynasty, the rise of the Nationalist and Communist party, and their respective rule over the mainland and Taiwan before the 1980s. Students do not need to have any previous knowledge about the PRC or the ROC.

The course is divided into three sections. The first section covers the period from the end of the last imperial dynasty to the end of the 1980s. The second section examines the last twenty years of reform in mainland China, looking at both how the reforms began and how they were sustained. We will consider changes in policy, in institutions, and in the evolution of the political rules of the game. A focus will be the political and social adaptations to economic reform. Finally, in the third section, we will examine the pattern of democratization in Taiwan, including the similarities and differences to the reform process on the mainland. Because of Taiwan’s unique international status we will also discuss PRC-ROC relations and how the question of (re-)unification with the mainland affects domestic politics in Taiwan.

The primary goal of the course is to introduce students to the major themes, debates, and puzzles in the study of political reform and democratization in East Asia. The second is to allow students to grow familiar with some of the methodological challenges of studying these political systems (through evaluation and critique of the text). The course is designed around engaged and lively debate on the issues; therefore, student participation is absolutely necessary.