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NUS: US-China Relations: Past, Present and Future

This course will provide an overview of the economic, military, political and cultural dimensions of the rising United States-China geopolitical contest. It will examine the strategic perspectives and mistakes of both countries, and suggest what can be done to prevent further escalation of the contest.

4 weeks
2–3 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
This course is archived

About this course

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A major geopolitical contest has broken out between the US and China. It will be the main driving force of global geopolitics for the next decade or two. The main goal of “US-China Relations: Past, Present and Future” is to provide a deeper understanding of the historical roots and the structural forces driving the contest. It will elucidate the major misunderstandings between the two countries, and discuss possible alternative approaches that could result in win-win outcomes for America and China.

A major source of misunderstanding between the United States and China arises from the very different historical experiences their people have lived through in recent centuries: a century of humiliation is meeting a century of triumphalism. In this course, you’ll learn how a country’s historical past influences deeply its understanding of international relations and national security and plays a critical role in the formulation of its foreign policies.

This course will discuss in depth the US-China bilateral relationship from 1949 to 2020, covering issues ranging from climate change and foreign affairs, to economic and trade relations. Part of this programme will also consider more recent issues like the Trump Administration and China’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the US-China trade and technology wars. We will explore in depth the fundamental misunderstandings that have developed between the two powers over the years. The goal is to develop a more objective and accurate understanding of the strategic perspectives and behavioural patterns of the United States and China in the global order.

Join us as we seek to understand how this US-China geopolitical contest is, paradoxically, both inevitable and avoidable.

At a glance

  • Institution: NUS
  • Subject: Social Sciences
  • Level: Introductory
  • Prerequisites:

    Basic knowledge of international relations

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated skills:International Relations, Trade Relations

What you'll learn

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Week One:

The clashing histories of US and China that provide the backdrop to this contest – an American Century of Triumphalism vs a Chinese Century of Humiliation

Week Two:

The modern history of US-China relations, including its three phases: hostility; cooperation and ambiguity; and the recent triggers of their contest

Week Three:

The strategic, political and ideological misunderstandings underpinning the US-China geopolitical contest

Week Four:

The reactions of the global community to the contest, and some areas of possible cooperation between the two great powers that may help to mitigate the tensions - and prevent this geopolitical rivalry from escalating to more dangerous levels. They include issues such as Covid-19 and climate change.

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