General Education 1136. Power and Civilization: China

course poster for general education 1136 picture of the great wall of China

photo of Professor Peter Bol a caucasian male
Prof. Peter Bol      

photo of Professor William Kirby a caucasian male
Prof. William Kirby

In China today we see a new country built on the bedrock of an ancient civilization. China’s re-emergence as a global economic power and political model has deep roots. From Rome to the Romanovs, from Byzantium to the Ottomans, on to the global empires of the West, all the great multiethnic empires of the world have come and gone, while a unitary, multi-national, Chinese empire has endured. The ancient Chinese ideal of a single, unified civilized world has had consequences. It was, and still is, a grand vision: all peoples unified under a single ruler and an integrated social order that finds a place for every person in security and harmony. It created the first centralized bureaucratic state; it institutionalized meritocracy; its economy became the world’s greatest market; its philosophies provided models of humane governance; its inventions spread across the globe. And yet in practice it has also been a story of conflict and control, of warring states and competing peoples. We will discuss how the choices China has made in the past bear on the challenges it faces today, when a modern “China model,” with ancient roots, competes with the United States for global leadership.

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