Chinese Communism at JMU

Course description of Chinese Government and Politics

Chinese Government Course in the 1978-79 course catalog

One of the less known actors in both the Cold War and Vietnam War was China. The country’s close proximity to Vietnam put it in a very precarious place during the conflict. On one hand, China was in support of their communist brethren in Vietnam. While on the other hand, it was desperate to avoid a conflict with the intimidating and powerful United States. “Beijing publicly announced that the Chinese people fully supported their comrades seeking national liberation but privately assured Washington that China would not directly enter the conflict unless U.S. forces threatened its southern border” (Duiker and Spielvogel 662). China also did not allow Moscow to ship Soviet goods to North Vietnam through their territory.  The United States was caught with a decision to make; China was still a communist country and therefore the enemy, but they were also cooperative. In 1972 Nixon visited China; a crucial step toward avoiding a situation similar to that occurring in Russia.

The avoidance of outward hostility between the United States and China made the country a subject of particular interest to scholars. In the university setting, classes began to be offered regarding Chinese government and politics. At JMU the Chinese government and politics courses centered around the building blocks of Chinese communism and how the system had evolved since 1949. The course also attempted to explain why Chinese communism had been successful when so many other communist regimes had failed. What is truly fascinating about courses on Chinese government was that they were even offered at all. Unlike Russia, which had been a major European power for centuries, China had only become relevant, from and American perspective, since it had adopted communism. In order to offer courses centered around the fundamentals of Chinese communism, university professors must have been completely dedicated to providing students with the opportunity to study the most up-to-date of topics. This trend is similar to the tendency today for political science departments to offer courses in Latin American or Middle Eastern politics. For political science to be marketable in the job market post-graduation, students must have access to courses that prepare them with information about current life and political trends in the modern world; no matter the decade.  The James Madison University political science department offered cutting edge classes about current events and political trends. This devotion to being up-to-date and relevant allowed the Department of Political Science to attract exceptional students and develop into the department that it is today.


Works Cited

James Madison University Course Catalog. Harrisonburg: James Madison University, 1978. Print.

Duiker, William J., and Jackson J. Spielvogel. The Essential World History. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2005. Print.