HY4A9      Half Unit
China and the United States Since 1949

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Elizabeth Ingleson


This course is available on the MA in Asian and International History (LSE and NUS), MA in Modern History, MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and Asian History, MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

Trade wars. The end of engagement. Racial violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. A new Cold War? This course addresses some of the major questions and issues facing the United States and China today through a deep historical analysis of their shared past. It explores the decisions of a range of people in both countries—including policymakers, immigrants, businesspeople, and workers—as they navigated and helped shape the bilateral relationship since 1949. Throughout the course, we focus on three core themes: globalisation, geopolitics, and race. Together we will ask, how did both countries shape, and become shaped by, the post-World War Two era of globalisation? How have both nations’ understanding of their roles in Asia affected the geopolitical architecture of the region? And how have the relationships between foreign policy and race affected the lives of ordinary people in both nations? We will explore topics including how Mao used the history of American imperialism to support his political agenda in the Third World; how African Americans understood their own history of oppression in relation to Mao Zedong Thought; how Chinese Americans navigated and influenced the changing social and political terrain within the United States; and how trade ties have been shaped, and limited by, the two nations' diplomatic relationship.


20 hours of seminars in the MT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6 of the MT. 

The School aims to run in-person seminars, subject to circumstances, with some online provision as and where necessary.

Formative coursework

One source analysis and one essay (2000-2500 words) in the Michaelmas Term.

Indicative reading

  • David Arkush and Leo Lee, Land Without Ghosts: Chinese Impressions of America from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the Present (1989)
  • Harry Harding, A Fragile Relationship: The United States and China Since 1972 (1992)
  • Gordon Chang, Fateful Ties: A History of America’s Preoccupation with China (2015)
  • Odd Arne Westad, Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1850 (2012)
  • Mae Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (2004)
  • Robeson Taj Frazier, The East Is Black: Cold War China in the Black Radical Imagination
  • Jane Hong, Opening the Gates to Asia: A Transpacific History of How America Repealed Asian Exclusion (2019)
  • Kristen Hopewell, Clash of Powers: U.S.-China Rivalry in Global Trade Governance (2020)
  • Yuen Yuen Ang, How China Escaped the Poverty Trap (2016)
  • Graham Allison, Destined For War: Can America and China Escape the Thucydides Trap? (2017)


Essay (70%, 5000 words) in January.
Class participation (15%) and source analysis (15%) in the MT.

The summative essay will be submitted in week 0 of the Lent Term.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills