Public Policy


Chinese Politics and Public Policy


Fall Semester

Type of Course




Aims and Objectives

This course seeks to introduce advanced undergraduate and master level students to the main issues in the study of Chinese politics, with a special focus on the policy making process in contemporary China.

Course Contents

In the first three sessions, the instructors will cover in a very brief manner the political development of China from late Qing to the Hu Jintao period, trying to help the students understand the main themes of the Chinese politics and background of the current political problems.

In sessions 4-5, the focus is the challenges faced now by the Chinese leadership, ranging from state capacity decline to the increasing social instabilities. Whether and how these problems can be handled will arguably define the political future of the Chinese nation.

In the next four sessions, we will analyze the institutional characteristics of the Chinese party-state, cover the main models to understand the Chinese policy making process, and we will use some examples to illustrate the power and shortcomings of the models. In the final session, the current debate about the Chinese political future will be reviewed. Hopefully, after taking the whole course, the students can have their own informed and well grounded arguments on this topic.

Textbook/Recommended Reading

Dates are relevant for 2012 ONLY

Lecture 1 (Sept. 20)

The Late Qing and Republican Legacies and the Rise of CCP

Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China, New York: W. W. Norton & Company 1st edition, 1990, pp. 137-513 (or, for a slightly updated 2nd edition, 1999, pp. 139-488,

available at

Kenneth Lieberthal, Governing China: From Revolution through Reform, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2nd edition, 2004, pp. 1-56

Lecture 2 (Sept. 27) Maoist China: from Consolidation to Chaos

Kenneth Lieberthal, Governing China: From Revolution through Reform, pp. 84-112.

Frederick C. Teiwes, “The Chinese State during the Maoist Era”, in David Shambaugh ed., The Modern Chinese State, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 105-160.

Barry Naughton, The Chinese Economy: Transitions and Growth, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007, pp. 55-84

Maurice Meisner, “China’s Communist Revolution: A Half-Century Perspective”, Current History, 98, 1999, pp. 243-248.

Jack Gray, “Mao in Perspective”, The China Quarterly, 187, 2006, pp. 659-679

Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, Mao’s Last Revolution, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2006

Lecture 3 (Oct. 11)

From Deng to Hu or Who: Economic Miracle? Political Stagnation?

Barry Naughton, The Chinese Economy, pp. 85-111.

Richard Baum, Burying Mao: Chinese Politics in the Age of Deng Xiaoping, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996, pp. 3-23.

Joseph Fewsmith, “China in 2007: The Politics of Transition” in Asian Survey, 48:1, 2008, pp. 82–96

Andrew Nathan and Perry Link, eds, The Tiananmen Papers, New York: Public Affairs, 2002, prefaces and introduction, scan the rest of the book.

Andrew Nathan and Bruce Gilley, China’s New Rulers: The Secret Files, New York: New York Review Books, 2nd Edition, 2003, pp. 39-76, 169-230. 

Nicolas Lardy, Integrating China into the Global Economy, Washington DC: The Brookings Institution, 2002, pp.63-133. (NET RESOURCES)

Lecture 4 (Oct. 18)

State and Society since 1989: Structural Change, Conflict and Contention

Pierre Landry, Debora Davis and Shiru Wang, “Rural Elections in China: Competition with Parties” in Comparative Political Studies, 43:6, 2008, pp. 763-790

Lianjiang Li, MingxingLiu and Kevin O’Brien, “Petitioning Beijing: The High Tide of 2003-2006”, in The China Quarterly, 210, 2012, pp. 1-22

Fu Hualing and Richard Cullen, “Climbing the Weiquan ladder: A Radicalizing Process for Rights-Protection Lawyers”, in The China Quarterly, 205, 2011, pp. 40-59

Linda Wong, “Chinese Migrant Workers: Rights Attainment Deficits, Rights Consciousness and Personal Strategies Right Consciousness”, in The China Quarterly, 208, 2011, pp. 870-892

Xi Chen, “The Power of ‘Troublemaking’: Protest Tactics and Their Efficacy in China”, in Comparative Politics, July 2009, pp. 451-471.

Timothy Hildebrandt, “The Political Economy of Social Organization Registration in China”, in The China Quarterly, 208, 2001, pp. 970-989

Jie Chen and Bruce Dickson, “Allies of the State: Democratic Support and Regime

Support among China’s Private Entrepreneurs”, in The China Quarterly, 196, 2008, pp. 1-25

Wright, “State-Society Relations in Reform-Era China: A Unique Case of Postsocialist State-Led Late Development?”, in Comparative Politics, April 2008, pp. 353-374

Lecture 5 (Oct. 25)

State and Society since 1989: Ideology, Intellectual Trends and Popular Ethos

Joseph Fewsmith, China since Tiananmen, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2nd Edition, 2008, pp. 83-163, 231-284

Daniela Stockmann and Mary E. Gallagher, “Remote Control: How the Media Sustain Authoritarian Rule in China”, in Comparative Political Studies, 44:4, 2011, pp. 436-467

Nyiri, Pal et al. 2010. “China’s Cosmopolitan Nationalists: ‘Heroes’ and ‘Traitors’ of the 2008 Olympics”, The China Journal, 63, pp. 25-55

Yang Guobin, The Power of Internet in China, New York: Columbia University Press, 2009, Chaps. 1, 2, 6 and 7

Vivienne Shue, “Legitimacy Crisis in China?” in Peter Hays Gries and Stanley Rosen eds., State and Society in 21st-century China: Crisis contention, and legitimation, New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004, pp. 24-49

Peter Hays Gries, “Popular Nationalism and State Legitimation in China,” in Peter Hays Gries and Stanley Rosen eds., State and Society in 21st-century China: Crisis contention, and legitimation, pp. 180-194 

Class Discussion: Chinese Miracle? History and Reality (Nov. 1)

(Students should have their essay topics approved by the instructor now.)

Lecture 6 (Nov. 8)

CCP Party-State: Institutional Characteristics and Trajectory

Susan V. Lawrence and Michael F. Martin, Understanding China’s Political System, Washington D.C.: Congress Research Service, 2012

Yongnian Zheng, “Explaining the Sources of de facto Federalism in Reform China”, in Japanese Journal of Political Science,7:2, 2006, pp. 101–126

Hon S. Chan, “Cadre Personnel Management in China: The Nomenklutura System 1990-1998”, in The China Quarterly, 179, 2004, pp. 703-734

L. P. Burns and Wang Xiaoqi, “Civil Service Reform in China: Impacts on Civil Servants’ Behaviour”, in The China Quarterly, 201, 2010, pp. 58-78

Xiaobo Lu, “Booty Socialism, Bureau-preneurs, and the State in Transition:

Organizational Corruption in China”, in Comparative Politics, 32:3, 2000, pp. 273-295

Yan Xiaojun, “Regime Inclusion and the Resilience of Authoritarianism”, in The China Journal, 66, 2011, pp. 53-75

Graeme Smith, “The Hollow State in Rural China” in The China Quarterly, 203, 2010, pp. 601-618

Bruce Gilley, “Legitimacy and Institutional Change”, in Comparative Political Studies, 41:3, 2008, pp. 259-284

Lecture 7 (Nov. 15)

Decision Making in an Authoritarian Regime: Models and Examples

Kenneth Lieberthal, “The ‘Fragmented Authoritarianism’ Model and its Limitations”, in Kenneth Lieberthal and David Lampton eds., Bureaucracy, Politics, and Decision Making in Post-Mao China, Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 1992, pp. 1–30 (NET RESOURCES)

Andrew Mertha, “‘Fragmented Authoritarianism 2.0’: Political Pluralization in the Chinese Policy Process”, in The China Quarterly, 200, 2009, pp. 995-1012

Sebastian Heilmann, “From Local Experiment to National Policy: The Origin of China’s Distinctive Policy Process”, in The China Journal, 59, 2008, pp. 1-30

Susan Greenhalgh, “Missile Science, Population Science: The Origins of China's One-Child Policy”, in The China Quarterly, 182, 2005, pp. 253-276

Heike Holbig, “The Emergence of the Campaign to Open Up the West: Ideological Formation, Central Decision-Making and the Role of the Provinces”, in The China Quarterly, 178, 2004, pp. 335–357

Hongbin Cai and Daniel Treisman, “Did Government Decentralization Cause China’s Economic Miracle?”, in World Politics, 58:4, 2006, pp. 505–535

Victor Shih, Factions and Finance in China: Elite Conflict and Inflation, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009, Chaps. 4-5 (REFERENCE)

Lecture 8 (Nov. 22)

Population Governance: Politics, Science, and Economics (Lifecycle of Policy I)

Wang Feng, “Can China Afford to Continue its One-Child Policy?” in Asia Pacific Issues, 77, 2005, pp. 1-12

Susan Greenhalgh and Edwin A. Winckler, Governing China’s Population: From Leninist to Neoliberal Biopolitics, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005, pp. 1-54, 205-244

Chan and Buckingham, “Is China Abolishing the Hukou System?”, in The China Quarterly, 195, 2008, pp. 582-606

Tamara Jacka, “Population Governance in the PRC: Political, Historical and Anthropological Perspectives”, in The China Journal, 58, 2007, pp. 111-126

Hong Zhang, “From Resisting to ‘Embracing’ the One Child Rule”, in The China Quarterly, 192, 2007, pp. 855-875

Lecture 9 (Nov. 29)

Governing the “Un-Chinese” China: Ethnic Regime and Identity Regulation (Life- cycle of Policy II)

Information Office of the State Council of the PRC, China's Ethnic Policy and Common Prosperity and Development of All Ethnic Groups, Sept., 2009, available at:

James Townsend, “Chinese Nationalism” in The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, 27, 1992, pp. 97-130

Fiskesjö, Magnus, “Rescuing the Empire: Chinese Nation-building in the Twentieth Century”, in European Journal of East Asian Studies, 5:1, 2006, pp. 15-44

Thomas Mullaney, “Ethnic Classification Writ Large”, in China Information, 18:2, 2004, pp. 20-241

Nimrod Baranovitch, “From Resistance to Adaptation: Uighur Popular Music and Changing Attitudes among Uighur Youth”, in The China Journal, 58, 2007, pp. 59-82.

Stevan Harrell, Ways of Being Ethnic in Southwest China, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001, Chaps. 3 and conclusion (REFERENCE ROOM)

Class Discussion: The Chinese State and Policy Output (Dec. 6)

Lecture 10 (Dec. 13)

Civil Society, State Capacity and the Future of Chinese Politics

Andrew J. Nathan, “Authoritarian Resilience,” in Journal in Democracy, 14, 2003, pp. 6-17 

Minxin Pei, China’s Trapped Transition, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006, pp. 96-166. (REFERENCE ROOM)

Bruce Gilley, China’s Democratic Future: How It Will Happen and Where It Will Lead, New York: Columbia University Press, 2004, pp. 27-94. (NET RESOURCE)

Elizabeth J. Perry, “Studying Chinese Politics: Farewell to Revolution?”, in The China Journal, 57, 2007, pp. 1-22

Andrew J. Nathan and Kellee S. Tsai, “Factionalism: A New Institutionalist Restatement”, in The China Journal, 34, 1995, pp.157–92.

Li Cheng, “China’s Team of Rivals”, in Foreign Policy, March/April 2009

Jian Zhang, “Nationalisms, Democracy and the Trajectory of Chinese Politics”, paper presented at the Symposium on Democracy in Divided Societies, University of Sydney, April, 2010

Course Evaluation

Students will be required to write a 12-15 pages essay by the end of the course on a topic relevant to Chinese politics and policy. Also, there will be a closed book final exam with 3-4 essay style questions. The essay and the final exam will each account for 50% of the final grade.

Plagiarism is not tolerated, and will be punished by the instructors to the fullest extent. There are no limits to the number of A’s that can be granted to the students, i.e. the students are not going to be competing with each other. At the same time, the instructors will follow a very strict guideline in grading exams and essays.

Reading Week, No Class on Dec 20

Final Exam: Dec 27, 2012

(Student should also turn in their essays after the exam)