China and the Third World: Foreign Relations and Nation Building in China in the Cold War Era (MLM3011)

StaffDr Thomas Burnham - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to:

  • Provide you with an overview of the development of Chinese foreign policy in the Cold War.
  • Explain and explore concepts like “third world”, internationalism, and anti-imperialism in the context of Chinese history and politics.
  • Provide you with the opportunity to analyse key primary materials and academic literature pertaining to China’s role in the Cold War world and beyond.
  • Give you the opportunity to become familiar with the key political and diplomatic writings of Mao Zedong.
  • Explore the political and foreign policy significance of the Chinese Communist Party’s revolutionary experience.
  • Offer you comparative and interdisciplinary insights into understanding China’s role in the global politics and history.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a general understanding of the roots of China’s unique foreign policy in the Cold War and its particular conceptualization of “the third world”
  • 2. Articulate a position on debates surrounding China’s role in both the Cold War and the contemporary global south

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Formulate a written argument using select primary sources and engaging with secondary analysis
  • 4. Demonstrate a cross-cultural awareness in understanding and contextualizing Chinese politics and history

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. Select, organise, and synthesise primary materials and secondary analysis in order to produce a cogent written or oral argument on a complex and globally relevant topic
  • 6. Link course content to the student’s particular research and professional interests

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:


  1. Introduction – An Overview of China’s Cold War
  2. Imperialism – What is it, and Why is it Important in Chinese Foreign Policy?
  3. World Revolution and National Defense Part 1 – China’s Wars in Asia
  4. World Revolution and National Defense Part 2 – The Afro-Asian Movement and the Sino-Soviet Split
  5. Exporting Self-Reliance Part 1 – Chinese Commerce and Economic Assistance in the Post-Colonial World
  6. Exporting Self-Reliance Part 2 – Chinese Media and Propaganda for and About the Third World
  7. Exporting Revolution – China’s Military Assistance to Africa in the Cold War
  8. After Bandung – Was the World Ripe for Revolution?
  9. Mao Zedong’s Legacy Part 1 – Continuities Between the Mao Era and China’s Role in the Global South Today
  10. Mao Zedong’s Legacy Part 2 – Changes Since the Mao Era in China’s Role in the Global South Today


  1. What is the “Third World”?
  2. The Ideological Cold War
  3. Usable Future – The Chinese Alternative in the First Development Decade
  4. Cold War or Cold Wars?
  5. Concluding Roundtable – Is There a “Beijing Consensus”?


Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching10Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching5 Seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching1Tutorial
Guided independent study134Guided studies

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan750 wordsAllOral feedback and supervision provided

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1003000 wordsAllWritten

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssayAllReferral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  Prior to taking the module, students should become broadly familiar with one of the following four texts:

  • Gregg Brazinsky, Winning the Third World: Sino-American Rivalry During the Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017)
  • Jeremy Friedman, Shadow Cold War: The Sino-Soviet Competition for the Third World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015)
  • Niu Jun, The Cold War and the Origin of Diplomacy of the People’s Republic of China: Knowledge, Thought, and Belief from the Seventh through the Nineteenth Century (Leiden: Brill, 2018)
  • Shen Zhihua and Li Danhui, After Leaning to One Side: China and its Allies in the Cold War (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2011)

The following will serve as helpful reference material throughout the module:

  • S.A. Smith (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014)
  • Christian Sorace, Ivan Franceschini, and Nicholas Loubere (eds.), Afterlives of Chinese Communism: Political Concepts from Mao to Xi (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2019)
  • Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
  • Roderick MacFarquhar and John K. Fairbank (eds.), The Cambridge History of China, Volume 14: The People's Republic, Part 1: Emergence of Revolutionary China, 1949–1966 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987)
  • Roderick MacFarquhar and John K. Fairbank (eds.), The Cambridge History of China, Volume 15: The People's Republic, Part 2: Revolutions Within the Chinese Revolution, 1966–1982 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).

All the primary resource readings will be available in the first week of the term and will be in digital format.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Cold War, China, Chinese, politics, foreign policy, modern history, global history, international relations, the Global South, culture