Opening the Black Box: Understanding Chinese Foreign Policy Making

  • Summer schools
  • Global Academic Engagement
  • Application code LPS-IR206
  • Starting 2021
  • Short course: Open from October
  • Location: Beijing

An economically more powerful and confident China is exerting unprecedented influence on global affairs with its proactive diplomacy.

In order to predict and respond to China’s international behaviour, it is essential to understand the causes behind such conduct. But the very nature of the structure of Chinese society and government has made this a difficult, if not impossible, task, albeit appealing. The saying that foreign policy making is a black box is more accurate in China than in many other countries. Aiming to open the black box of Chinese foreign policy-making, this course tries to bridge foreign decision-making theories and Chinese foreign policy-making practice to understand the major factors that shape Chinese foreign policy and how they exert their influences.

These include: the impact of historical legacies; systematic constraints; personality and the decision-making style of principal leaders; evolving foreign policy-making structure and changing bureaucratic process; fluid domestic politics; and the impact of the military, nationalism and public opinion on Chinese foreign policy. It will unveil how leaders coordinate domestic and international situations in foreign affairs as they always emphasize today. It intends to inform students of China’s international behavior and provide an analytical understanding of the dynamics of China’s foreign policy decision-making.

Click here to see the full course outline

Programme details


Professor Zhang Qingmin

Zhang Qingmin is Professor and Chair of the Department of Diplomacy, the School of International Studies Peking University. He is the author of more than 100 academic journal articles, book chapters, and books in Chinese Foreign Policy, Diplomatic Studies, and Foreign Policy Analysis, which he has been teaching and studying for more than twenty years. With rich international working and teaching experiences, including a Senior Fulbright Visiting Scholar at George Washington University (2004-2005) , a visiting professor at University Paris Sud (2007), Niigata University, Japan (2008), University of Palermo, Italy (2009), Tokyo University (2013) , National Chengchi University of Taiwan (2013), Yale University (2016) and has taught at the LSE-PKU Summer School for eight years. In addition to several leading Academic Journals in China, he is also an associate editor of Oxford University’s Foreign Policy and Diplomacy, a founding editorial board member of Foreign Policy Analysis, and an editorial board member of The Hague Journal of Diplomatic Studies. He received his M.A. from Brigham Young University in Utah, USA and his Ph.D. from China Foreign Affairs University.

Student feedback

"It is a great course. This course includes some information that you won't find on public channels and it really gave me a deep understanding of Chinese policy." Yuwei Zheng, University of Warwick, UK

"The best part was the professor's insights on Chinese domestic politics and foreign policy." Yinzheng Liu, Wesleyan University, USA

"The course provides a great balance between lectures, practice and sharing in a very high quality environment: excellent teacher, talented and committed students leading naturally to a great work." Thomas Fedusac, Engineer, Safran, France

Click here to read more of our alumni testimonials.


There are no prerequisites for this course, however some background knowledge on China or international relations would be helpful.


Assessment will be based on a mid-term essay (worth 50% of the final mark) and a final exam (worth 50% of the final mark).

Preparatory reading list

The list below provides an indication of some of the main recommended texts for the course, but a full reading list and electronic course pack will be provided to registered students approximately six weeks before the beginning of the programme.

  • Lu Ning, The Dynamics of Foreign - Policy Decision - making in China, (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1998).
  • David M. Lampton, ed. The Making of Chinese Foreign and Security Policy in the Era of Reform, (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001).
  • Phillip Saunders and Andrew Scobell eds. PLA Influence on China’s National Security Decision-making, (Stanford, CA: California, Stanford University Press, 2015). 

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