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Unit information: Sino-US Relations in Global Politics in 2020/21

Unit name Sino-US Relations in Global Politics
Unit code POLIM3033
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Zhang
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The relationship between the United State and China is arguably the most important bilateral relations that shapes global politics in the 21st century. It is perhaps also the most turbulent great power relations in the last sixty years. This unit examines first this troubled relationship in history. Through different theoretical and interpretive lenses, it looks at the conflict and cooperation between these two great powers and its strategic implications for regional and global security and the emerging global order. To provoke students' thinking about how the dynamics of this set of great power relations is likely to affect global political economy in the future, it will also discuss a number of paradoxes and puzzles in the current engagement between the two largest economies in the world.


  • To introduce to students a special dimension of great power politics and global political economy;
  • To enable students to apply a variety of theoretical perspectives of International Relations in their understanding of contemporary issues;
  • To help students to identify a key set of dynamics in global politics of the 21st century.

Intended learning outcomes

Upon completion of this unit, students are expected to acquire:

  • A body of analytical knowledge about Sino-US relations in both its historical and contemporary manifestations;
  • A deepened understanding of dynamics of great power politics for the evolving global political economy;
  • Enhanced ability for critical thinking;
  • Improved skills to use theoretical tools in conducting independent enquiry.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Details

Formative assessment in the form of 10 minute seminar presentation with one-page handout, which provides opportunity to evaluate students' acquisition of knowledge and to monitor their skill development with written feedback;

Summative assessment: a 4,000 word essay (100%), which tests students' analytical knowledge acquired through the unit and their ability for critical thinking and their skills for independent enquiry.

Reading and References

  • Cohen, Stephen D., ‘Superpower as Super-Debtor: Implications of Economic Disequilibria for U.S.-Asia Relations’, in Ashley J. Tellis and Michael Wills, eds., Strategic Asia 2006-07: Military Modernization in an Era of Uncertainty (Seattle: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2006), pp. 29-64.
  • Kirby, William C., Gong Li, and Robert Ross, eds. The Normalization of U.S.-China Relations: An International History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006.
  • Lampton, David M., Same Bed, Different Dreams: Managing U. S.-China Relations, 1989–2000. Berkeley, LA: University of California Press, 2001.
  • Mann, James, About Face: A History of America's Curious Relationship with China, from Nixon to Clinton. New York: Vantage, 2000.
  • Vogel, Ezra F., ed. Living with China: U.S.-China Relations in the Twenty-First Century. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997.
  • Zhu, Zhiqun, US-China Relations in the 21st Century Power Transition and Peace. New York and London: Routledge, 2009.