PP412      Half Unit
Cold War II? Public Policy Implications of US-China Relations in the 2020s

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Niall Ferguson


This course is available on the Double Master of Public Administration (LSE-Columbia), Double Master of Public Administration (LSE-Sciences Po), Double Master of Public Administration (LSE-University of Toronto), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Hertie), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and NUS), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Tokyo), MPA in Data Science for Public Policy, Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). Priority is given to students from the School of Public Policy, students from other programmes will be considered if places remain.

Course content

Relations between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China have been deteriorating since at least 2017.  This course will consider how far this deterioration should be characterized as a new cold war (“Cold War II”), and what it means for policymaking in the U.S., China and the rest of the world. It will take as its starting point a comparison of the current character of the Sino-American relationship with the superpower rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union from the late 1940s until the Soviet collapse.  Key areas covered include: ideological differences, trade policy and tariffs, technological competition, export controls, limits on technology transfer, overseas aid and capital flows, infrastructure and energy investment, arms races, and diplomacy.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum of 30 hours across Winter Term.  There will be no lectures or seminars in Reading Week.

Formative coursework

Two graded essays (2000 words), one to be submitted halfway through Winter Term and one at the end.

Indicative reading

There is no single textbook that includes all the material covered in this course.  Lectures and readings will primarily draw from journal articles.  Six books that will be used during the course are:

  • Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? (New York: HarperCollins, 2017)
  • Rush Doshi, The Long Game: China's Grand Strategy to Displace American Order (Oxford: OUP, 2021)
  • Eyck Freymann, One Belt, One Road: Chinese Power Meets the World (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2020)
  • Keyu Jin, The New China Playbook: Beyond Socialism and Capitalism (New York: Viking, 2023)
  • Henry Kissinger, On China (New York: Penguin, 2011)
  • Michael Pillsbury, The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower (New York: St Martin’s Griffin, 2015)


Exam (70%, duration: 2 hours) in the spring exam period.
In-class assessment (30%) in the WT.

  • A timed 1 hour essay (30%), which students complete in class.
  • A 2 hour in-person exam (70%).

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 19.2
Merit 68.5
Pass 9.6
Fail 2.7

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: Unavailable

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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