Teaching in China: A Professor’s Perspective

U.S. relations with China were a key point in President Trump’s 2016 campaign. But what does the future of our relationship with China look like to someone who has taught politics in both countries? Dr. Fisher, an assistant professor in Emory & Henry’s Department of Politics, has taught ‘Intro to IR’ classes in China and India through summer courses of the Duke TIP program. She taught in China in July 2016 and in India in the summers of 2014 and 2015.

Dr. Fisher, an assistant professor in Emory & Henry’s Department of Politics, has taught ‘Intro to IR’ classes in China and India through summer courses of the Duke TIP program. She taught in China in July 2016 and in India in the summers of 2014 and 2015. To Dr. Fisher, teaching abroad only reaffirmed her view that the relationship between China and the U.S. should remain an integral part of our foreign affairs. Above all, she stressed the importance of working together with China.

To Dr. Fisher, teaching abroad only reaffirmed her view that the relationship between China and the U.S. should remain an integral part of our foreign affairs. Above all, she stressed the importance of working together with China.

“I would argue that this is the most important bilateral relationship that the U.S. has,” she said, referring to China and the U.S. A ‘bilateral relationship’ is a description for two countries that are working together. While Dr. Fisher acknowledged that, objectively, China isn’t the most important country we deal with, she emphasized the critical characteristics of China as a “rising power” and as a state that is challenging its place in the international system.

While Dr. Fisher acknowledged that, objectively, China isn’t the most important country we deal with, she emphasized the critical characteristics of China as a “rising power” and as a state that is challenging its place in the international system. “We have the most opportunity to work together with China on things that are in both of our interests,” she explained.

“We have the most opportunity to work together with China on things that are in both of our interests,” she explained. In the summer of the 2016 presidential campaign, Dr. Fisher was teaching her class on international relations in China. And one subject her students were all fascinated with was American politics.

In the summer of the 2016 presidential campaign, Dr. Fisher was teaching her class on international relations in China. And one subject her students were all fascinated with was American politics.

“Everyone was asking all sorts of questions about American politics. One of them was just a puzzle over Trump. I think that Clinton made sense to outside observers, [but] they were curious about his rhetoric,” she said. One recurring theme in the opinions of her Chinese students was worry. Specifically, worry towards the 35 or 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods that Trump claimed he would put forth against China in his 2016 campaign.

One recurring theme in the opinions of her Chinese students was worry. Specifically, worry towards the 35 or 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods that Trump claimed he would put forth against China in his 2016 campaign. Despite this claim, Dr. Fisher didn’t see this campaign promise as something that would actually manifest in the administration. She also maintained that this was a common theme for incoming presidents.

Despite this claim, Dr. Fisher didn’t see this campaign promise as something that would actually manifest in the administration. She also maintained that this was a common theme for incoming presidents. “This is something that American politicians do, [they] campaign on being tough on China and then once they get into power they realize that would be terrible for everyone—especially if the U.S. slapped a 35 percent tariff on China,” she said.

“This is something that American politicians do, [they] campaign on being tough on China and then once they get into power they realize that would be terrible for everyone—especially if the U.S. slapped a 35 percent tariff on China,” she said.

However, some sources still worry that Trump’s claims will have a negative effect in Asia. One Foreign Policy article states that Trump’s campaign statements “could hasten the drive toward the self-reliance among Asian allies that is already underway.”Dr. Fisher sees these ‘pseudo-tough’ claims of the Trump administration as a continuation of U.S. policies in that region. However, she does believe that it is too early in the administration to make broad claims.

Dr. Fisher sees these ‘pseudo-tough’ claims of the Trump administration as a continuation of U.S. policies in that region. However, she does believe that it is too early in the administration to make broad claims. “I really do think that we don’t know yet,” she said.

“I really do think that we don’t know yet,” she said.

One challenge that Dr. Fisher didn’t expect during her summer abroad was teaching to a class that contained students from areas other than Mainland China. Unexpectedly, she had one Taiwanese-American student and one Hongkongese student in her class.

“I was really grateful to have a more diverse set of political views than I anticipated, but it was also really challenging,” she said. These students who lived outside of Mainland China consistently wanted to “push the envelope” against censored topics. Dr. Fisher assumed this was because the censorship personally affected those students in where they lived.

As a professor teaching a politics course in China, Dr. Fisher was “encouraged” to avoid focusing on topics such as Tibet, Tiananmen Square, Taiwan or the Falun Gong. These are some of the most heavily censored subjects in mainstream Chinese media.

“What was interesting was that all of my students knew absolutely everything that was going on in the world. I was not supposed to talk about what was censored, but everyone in the classroom knows what’s being censored,” she said.

This balance between classroom censorship and the students’ knowledge of what the state media didn’t want them to know created a unique teaching experience. However, Dr. Fisher still maintained that teaching is a similar experience no matter where you go.

“Students are the same everywhere,” she said. And despite the cultural and political differences between our countries, it looks like students will continue to ask important questions.

– Orion Rummler

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