Course: POL 362
Instructor: Rory Truex
Description of Course Goals and CurriculumThe goals of the course are to familiarize students with the modern history of China (in order to facilitate background understanding) and then intensively study the structure of Chinese government and politics. The course has a constant theme: contestation from below, and contestation from within; i.e. thinking about how leaders stay in power, and what happened when they don't stay in power. This theme is applicable to the entire course and is the central takeaway from the class.
Learning From Classroom InstructionThe course is a lecture with precepts. Each lecture begins with an overview of what will be covered, and then launch into the material for the day. Although there is a lot of material written on the slides, it is unnecessary to copy it verbatim, as the slides are posted at the end of lecture. Instead, use them to contextualize what the professor is saying; this will always be the most important subject material. Summarize the salient points of what the professor says rather than copying the slide. The function of precepts is to go over readings, or to do an exercise that clarifies some aspect of an issue brought up in lecture. Examples include giving a mock briefing of a current event or having a debate in precept. To make the most of precept, try to start a discussion in the classroom rather than simply answering a preceptor’s question. Responding to what your classmates say and beginning a dialogue is a more interactive and stimulating way to discuss the material, and allows for ideas to be fleshed out in a more nuanced manner.
Learning For and From AssignmentsThere are three 2-page (single spaced) papers to be written throughout the course of the class. You may submit only one per week, and all must be submitted before the end of the class (so you have to submit the first one a minimum of 3 weeks before the end of the class). These require creativity and a good topic, because there are no prompts. Successful submissions may be quite varied; the only requirement is that they engage in some way with the course material. Examples include (but are not limited to) briefing memos, a short prospectus for research design, and essays discussing recent events in the news. The midterm tests facts about the structure of Chinese government, politics, and history. To succeed, you must pay attention to the lectures and have a good understanding of the causal flows of Chinese politics (i.e. what event caused what other event) as well as the terminology. The final exam consists of three essays that can be chosen from a list of candidate essays. These essays must demonstrate good understanding of the material and engage with it, bringing in your own ideas.
External ResourcesYour most valuable resource is your fellow classmates. I recommend getting together with a group to go over lectures in preparation for the midterm and final. Getting big ideas laid out, quizzing each other, and diagramming political structures are all helpful ways of reviewing.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionYou need an interest in China, and a little background knowledge on China or Chinese won’t hurt. This is a good general knowledge course that every major can benefit from and do well in, and complements any interest in American government because of the fascinating contrast with Chinese government. You’ll learn why the Chinese Communist Party is in power, how they maintain it and how institutions in China function overall. If you have any interest in China, even tangentially, this is a class you’ll benefit from. This counts for a Comparative Politics class for those in the Politics major, and should count as a content course for those pursing a certificate in Chinese culture.