It appears that twenty-first century history will be shaped to a large extent by the interactions between two economic and military superpowers—China and the US. Of course, these two nations have a long history of both working together and against each other. As America expanded its territory and become industrialized in the nineteenth century, the once-great Chinese empire found itself wracked by internal conflict and foreign imperialism. China struggled to modernize and remain a unified nation in the early twentieth century, while the US was caught up in a world war and a global economic crisis. During the Second World War, in which the fighting in China began earlier than in Europe and then lasted several years after the surrender of Germany and Japan, China and the US were allies. Shortly thereafter, when the Chinese Communists defeated the Nationalists, the two countries became rivals, and then bitter enemies. Normal diplomatic relations were reestablished in the 1970s, followed by astonishing Chinese economic developments that brought the two nations closer as trading partners, but also heightened wariness and emphasized cultural differences. More than at any time in the past, however, Chinese and Americans are getting to know each other through travel, business, and study. This course will be part of that development.
In this course, we will study not only the official relationships between the two governments, but also the cross-cultural interactions that came about through trade, missionary work, immigration, and tourism. We will examine popular attitudes in both China and the US toward the other country—attitudes that range from admiration to suspicion to fear—and see examples of cultural influences from architecture, art, and technology as well as food, pop music, and cinema. As with other courses in the Semester at Sea, our textbooks, lectures, and classroom discussions will be supplemented by on-site visits to two of the most dynamic centers of East-West interactions in the last century: Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Field WorkCountry: China
Day: 1 - Shanghai - 6 February
We will spend the day on the Bund in Shanghai. The trip will include several site visits, a Chinese lunch, and meetings with a retired U.S. Consulate Officer who was stationed in Shanghai as well as Ms. Ling Zeng, a young entrepreneur and University of Virginia alumna who recently opened her own hotel on the Bund called 8 On The Bund. Our local hosts will be able to provide first-hand accounts of the intricacies of Sino-American relations and beyond. Academic Objectives:
- Visit key sites of Sino-American historical interactions.
- Observe the evidence of cultural interactions, particularly in architecture.
- Talk to someone with U.S. State Department experience in China.