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Fall 2020 Course B. Chinese Politics

Alumnae Continuing Education
Tuesday, Oct 13, 2020 at 1:00 PM (CT)

Course B. Chinese Politics

Tuesdays, 1:00-2:15 p.m.

Instructor:  William Hurst, Professor, Political Science

This course meets on Tuesday afternoon beginning on September 22nd. 

China is the world’s largest country by population. It is the largest and most important authoritarian regime of the early 21st Century, the oldest continuous state in world history, and in the minds of many, America’s most important global competitor. Yet, too few study or think about Chinese politics systematically. This course offers an introduction to the contemporary politics in the People’s Republic. Topics will include: an overview of China’s political history (especially since 1949); a discussion to how the state and Communist Party are organized and interface with each other; and in-depth analysis of critical social, economic, and political changes and challenges since 1989. In particular, we will focus on issues of land, labor, law, and China’s troubled borderland regions--Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Macau, and Tibet. In our last session, we will talk about where Chinese politics might go from here and China’s evolving role in the region and the world.

Sep. 22 Historical Overview I
We’ll begin with a review of the history of Dynastic/Imperial China, the Republican Period, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s rise to power. A more detailed analysis of the Mao era, from 1949 through to the Cultural Revolution, will follow.

Sep. 29 Historical Overview II
We’ll pick up with a summation of the Cultural Revolution endgame and succession politics, before moving on to talk about Hua Guofeng’s interregnum and the rise to power of Deng Xiaoping. We’ll then move to a discussion of politics in the Reform Era and of the 1989 student movement, ending up with an overview of the 1990s and 2000s, through to the present day.

Oct. 6 Structures, Ideas, Leaders, and Debates
This lecture will focus in on the institutional structures of the CCP and Chinese states, but will move pretty quickly to an analysis of ideological debates, specific leaders’ styles and strengths, and several ongoing debates that I believe have permeated Chinese politics across multiple time periods.

Oct. 13 Political Economy from Mao to Now
This class will examine how the planned economy actually worked, who won and who lost from collectivization and state-led industrialization. We’ll then turn to just how Deng and others sought to reform the system and what effects this had – successes as well as unintended consequences. We’ll conclude by looking at the two most recent rounds of serious change in China’s political economy, in the mid-1990s and after the 2008 financial crisis.

Oct. 20 Land and Rural Politics
What has become of the largest class in Chinese society? How have farmers fared in the reform era? Land and the state’s control over it have been key to China’s development model since the 1950s, but this has kept hundreds of millions in relative (and sometimes absolute) poverty. We’ll review how rural residents have related to the state, how they have petitioned for redress of their grievances and seen their political lives change, and how the state and Party try to manage their expectations and participation.

Oct. 27 Labor and Workers Politics
This class will focus on two key groups of workers: those in urban state owned enterprises and those migrating from rural areas into cities to work in the informal and private sectors. These two groups have faced distinct challenges and at time have even been pitted against each other in competition for scarce employment. But together they form the majority of the largest urban workforce in the world and probably the most critical social group the state feels it needs to control and assist.

Nov. 3 Law and Legal Institutions
China’s legal system changed dramatically after 1949 and again after 1978. But it was in the 1990s that we clearly see a semblance of today’s order come into focus. We’ll explore how and why China’s criminal apparatus operates in one manner, while its civil dispute resolution system works very differently, as well as the implications of this hybrid model for political, social, and economic life.

Nov. 10 Troubled Borderlands: Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Tibet, & Xinjiang
These four regions present extreme challenges to the CCP, which it still struggles to meet. We’ll review and discuss each area’s unique history and institutional arrangements and examine why their governance problems are so intractable.

Nov. 17 Whither the CCP? China’s Political Future and Role in the World
In this final session, I’ll begin by thinking about where China might go from here in terms of its own internal political, economic, and social development. We’ll conclude with a discussion of what China’s changing role in the world has been and what it might look like–in relation both to the United States (by this class we’ll know who our president for the next four years will be) and to other key regions (e.g. other parts of Asia, Europe, Africa, etc.).

Biographical information about Professor William Hurst and additional information about the course are available on our website:


• Each 9-week online course is $125.00.  Registration pays for access to a live webinar and limited-time access to a recording of each week’s 75-minute session.

• There are no multi-course discounts.

Per Diem pricing is not available for these courses.


• Registrations can only be purchased online at  A payment card is required.  No other forms of payment can be accepted.  Neither the Norris Box Office nor the Alumnae Continuing Education group will process any other type of registration.  There are no exceptions.

• After registering for a course, you should receive a registration confirmation message from the Norris Box Office.  It will be sent to the email address associated with your profile.  Though it is not your entry to the ZOOM class, it is important that you locate the confirmation as soon as possible. If you don't receive an email, it could mean that there is a problem with how the email address is listed in our system.  A typo in your email address could result in the Zoom link being lost.  You can correct your information by logging in at, clicking on your name in the purple bar at the top, and then on Edit Profile.

• To access the first webinar on September 22, your online registration must be completed by midnight, Friday, September 18, 2020. If you register on September 19 or later, we cannot guarantee timely entry to the course on September 22, the first day.

• All presentations will be recorded and will be available for six days following that week’s session. The same link can be used to access that week’s live webinar and the recorded session.

• Given the limitations presented by the pandemic, support from customer service will be limited to email correspondence. Please contact with any service issues.

Linking to Sessions

• At least 24 hours (but not more than 48 hours) before the start of each of the nine sessions, you will be emailed a Zoom link for the session by Norris Technical Services from You will also receive an email reminder with the link one hour prior to the start of each session. Please check your spam or junk folder if you don't see the email in your inbox.

• Plan on clicking on the Zoom link and joining the online session at least 10 minutes before the session begins.

Your Zoom link is specific to your email address and may not be shared.

For a detailed guide on using Zoom, please click on the Alumnae Continuing Education Zoom Information Sheet here

Limited Access to Recorded Sessions

• If you cannot attend the live-streaming of the session, you may still view the recorded session for a limited time.

• You will be sent a separate link with a pass code to give you access to the recording of the session for six days, ending when the next session begins.

This Zoom link and pass code are specific to your email and may not be shared.

• Recordings CANNOT be downloaded.

Refund Policy

• If you intend to withdraw from a course, you must purchase a $10.00 cancellation fee by Sunday, September 20, 2020.  A full refund will be processed to the payment card used for the initial purchase.

• Registrations  purchased after the start of the first session cannot be refunded.

• No refunds will be given once the first webinar begins.

• Credits are not given for future classes.

• Contact the if you would like to transfer to another class offered during the same quarter.  There is no additional cost.  But you will not have access to the new course links until the following week.

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Online ticket sales ended on 9/28/2020 at 11:59 PM (CT)

Event Location
Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive Evanston, IL 60208

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