SemesterFall Semester, 2023
DepartmentInternational Master's Program in Asia-Pacific Studies, First Year International Master's Program in Asia-Pacific Studies, Second Year
Course NamePolitical Development of Mainland China
Course TypeElective
Course Objective
Course Description
Course Schedule

Week 1: Introduction: layouts for the class.


Week 2: Chinese Political Tradition

*Dreyer, Chap. 1, “Introduction.”


Week 3: The CCP’s Rise to Power

Why did CCP under Mao Zedong score victory against Chiang Kai-shek? What does it mean for China and rest of the world?

*Dreyer, Chap. 2 “The Chinese Tradition.”

Jung Chang, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (London: Flamingo, 1991).


Week 4: Leadership and Ideology

What’s communism? What does it mean for the Chinese? What’s Maoism? Is ideology still relevant? Who are the five generations of leadership in China?

* Dreyer, Chapter 3 “Reformers, Warlords, Communists.”

Wang, “The Erosion of Chinese Communist Ideology,” chapter 3, pp. 37-68.

**Ian Johnson, “Xi’s China: The Illusion of Change,” NY Times (2015/11/24).

  David Shambaugh, “Rebuilding the Party: The Ideological Dimension,” in China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation (Wash. D.C.; Woodraw Wilson Center Press, 2008), pp. 103-127.


Week 5: Political Economy under Mao

Who is Chair Mao and what legacy did he leave behind?

*Dreyer, chapter 4, “PRC Politics under Mao”.

1st short paper due


Week 6: Film 1: China: A Century of Revolution, Part II.


Week 7: Political Economy in the Post-Mao Era

What are the reforms undertaken by Deng Xiaoping? Results?

* Dreyer, chapter 5, “Deng Xiaoping and His Proteges.”


Week 8: Xi’s Era

* Dreyer, chapter 6, “The Era of Xi Jinping.”

* Brown, “Xi the Man,” CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping, chap. 2, pp. 49-105.

Fewsmith, chap. 5, “Xi’s Concentration of Power,” pp. 131-156.

Brown, “Xi and the New Era, Xi: A Study in Power, pp. 135-160.


Week 9: Succession and Factionalism

Why is it so hard to build a stable and institutionalized succession in China?.

*Dreyer, Chap. 7, “Politics of the Economy”.

Fewsmith, chap. 6, “19th Party Congress and the Reinvigorating Leninism.”

Cheng Li, chap. 7, “Factions: One Party, Two Coalitions?” in Li Cheng, Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era (2016), pp. 249-300.

Wang, “Elites and the Cadre System: Leadership Style, Factionalism, Succession, and Recruitment,” chapter 5, pp. 105-138

Tang Tsou, “Chinese Politics at the Top: Factionalism or Informal Politics? Balance-of-Power Politics or a Game to Win All?” The China Journal, No. 34 (July 1995), pp. 95-156.


Week 10:  Power Structure and Decision-making

Find out the structure and functions of the CCP power apparatus

*Dreyer, Chap. 8, “The Legal System of the PRC.”

**Allice Miller, “Road to the 19th Party Congress,” China Leadership Monitor, no, 51 (Fall 2016).

**Allice Miller, “Politburo Processes under Xi Jinping,” China Leadership Monitor, no. 47 (Summer 2015).

Cheng Li, “From Selection to Election? Experiments in the Recruitment of Chinese Political Elites,” China Leadership Monitor, No. 26 (2008).


Week 11: Film 2: China: A Century of Revolution, Part III.


Week 12: Political System

What’s the nature of the Chinese party-state system?

*Dreyer, Chap. 9, “The Role of the Military.”

*Cheng Li, chap. 2, “Structure: China’s Party-State System,” pp. 41-76.

Pierre F. Landry, Decentralized Authoritarianism in China (Cambridge University Press, 2008), chap. 1, pp. 1-27.

The 2nd short paper due


Week 13:  the Chinese Model

Is there a Chinese model? Is it a viable substitute for Western democracy?

*Dreyer, Chap. 10, “Education.”

*“China as an Economic Superpower,” in Martin Jacques, When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World (London: Allen Lane, 2009), pp. 151-193.


Week 14:  Reforms and Dissent

Is the Chinese society stable? What are the possible causes? Find out the ways Chinese authorities have resorted to clamp down on the internet and how the Chinese have resisted.

*Dreyer, Chap. 11, “Health, Demography, and the Environment.”

*Brown, The Political Programme of Xi Jinping, pp. 146-184.

**Roderick MacFarquar, China: The Superpower of Mr. Xi, ChinaFile (August 13, 2015).


Week 15:  Corruption and Vulnerabilities

Find out why China has become one of the most corrupt countries in the world in such a short time span? What are the causes? Is there a cure?

*Dreyer, Chap. 12, “Conformity and Dissent.”

Susan L. Shirk, China: Fragile Superpower (Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 1-12.

Melanie Manion, Corruption by Design: Building Clean Government in Mainland China and HK (Harvard University Press, 2004), Cha. 3.

The third short paper due


Week 16: Emergence of Civil Society

Is there civil society in China now?

*Dreyer, Chap. 13, “Ethnic Minorities and National Integration.”

Guobin Yang, “Online Activism in an Age of Contention,” in The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online (NY: Columbia University Press, 2009), pp. 25-43.

Yang Zhong, Jie Chen, “To Vote or Not to Vote: An Analysis of Peasants’ Participation in Chinese Village Elections,” Comparative Political Studies, 35:6 (August 2002), pp. 686-712.


Week 17:  Future Prospects: Is Democracy an Option?

Is democracy on the way? Is it preferable? Is it possible to have democracy with Chinese characteristics”?

*Dreyer, Chap. 14, “Foreign Policy”.

**Douglas Heaven, “The Uncertain Future of Democracy,” BBC (2017/3/30)

**Andrew J. Nathan, “Authoritarian Resilience,” Journal of Democracy, 14:1 (January 2003), pp. 6-17.

Henry S. Rowen, “When Will the Chinese People Be Free?” Journal of Democracy, 18:3 (July 2007), pp. 38-52.

Minxin Pei, “How Will China Democratize?” Journal of Democracy, 18:3 (July 2007), pp. 53-57.

Week 18: Conclusion

*Dreyer, Chap. 15, “Conclusions.”


Interesting web sites for your reference:

China Leadership Monitor

Stanford Project for U.S.-China Dialogue

YaleGlobal online

China Brief,民主法治網,中國期刊網

Teaching Methods
Teaching Assistant



 Students are required to read the assignments with the * sign in front (**means recommended readings). 2-3 short reflection papers (2- pages each) are required, as is a term paper (with a length of 5,000-7,000 words) and an oral presentation. Group discussions and class participation are encouraged.

Textbook & Reference


June T. Dreyer, China’s Political System: Modernization and Tradition, 10th edition (NY: Routledge, 2019).



*Joseph Fewsmith, Rethinking Chinese Politics (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 2021).

*Kerry Brown, Xi: A Study in Power (London: Icon Books, 2022).

*Kerry Brown, CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping (London: I.B. Tauris, 2016).

Elizabeth C. Economy, The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State (Oxford University Press, 2018).

Nicholas R. Lardy, The State Strikes Back: The End of Economic Reform in China? (Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2019).

Chien-min Chao & Bruce J. Dickson, ed., Remaking the Chinese State: Strategies, Society, and Security (New York: Routledge, 2001).

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