At Duke Kunshan University, each major consists of an interdisciplinary set of courses that integrate different forms of knowledge and a distinct set of disciplinary courses that provide expertise in specific areas.

Political Economy/Political Science
Globalization and the profound structural changes occurring in international affairs make it imperative that we train a new generation of scholars and leaders who can navigate an increasingly complex world. This major examines politics, markets, and societies using a variety of analytic tools. Students learn to assess how international and domestic political factors interact with economic factors to determine outcomes in a wide variety of areas. Key areas of study include globalization, international trade and finance, regulation, development, taxes, institutional design, the environment and income distribution.

Required Courses

Divisional Foundation Courses

Foundational Questions in Social Science

This course introduces students to some of the foundational questions about human interaction and the theories that drive this quest, including: what are drivers of human prosperity?; what are the causes of war and the determinants of the peace?; why do some in society have so much, while others have so little?; how do humans govern themselves?; what role does religion play in people’s lives and decisions? how does family structure have an impact on people’s lives; what is the impact of human development on the environment? Students will read foundational texts as applied to contemporary research and current events to help them find their intellectual communities as well as potential areas of focus for their own study plans.

Introduction to Research Methods

This course provides students with an understanding of research designs and research methods used in the social sciences. Students will learn about the scientific method, research methods and design, measurement, and ethical issues. Topics include quantitative and qualitative approaches, as well as mixed methods.

Interdisciplinary Courses

Introduction to Statistical Methods

This course covers techniques for organizing data, computing, and interpreting measures of central tendency, variability, and association. Estimation, confidence intervals, tests of hypotheses, t-tests, correlation, and regression. Possible topics: analysis of variance and chi-square tests, computer statistical packages.

Ethics, Markets, Politics

What should be the relation between markets in which goods and services are exchanged, the state that has potential supportive and regulatory functions toward the markets, and ethical values such as human welfare, the desire for meaningful work, equality, and justice? To what extent can and should markets be regulated by the state for the sake of such values? Should businesses act on moral values as well as the profit motive? To what extent should consumers guide their choices in the market according to ethical values? An interdisciplinary approach through philosophy, political theory and economics.

Economics Principles

Asurvey of basic tools in economics. Examination of how commodity demand is determined, what affects supply of the commodity, how price is determined, when optimal market allocation of resources and failure occur, and basic topics concerning the aggregate economy. Students will apply these principles to contemporary social science issues.


This course provides an overview of advanced contemporary work on the political economy of development. The course brings together three intersecting fields of study: models of economic growth, research on the political economy of development, and recent work using field and natural experimental approaches to test the impact of policy interventions on local development. Students will study examples; theoretical and methodological issues bearing on the study of economic growth; the fundamentals of economic growth, such as climate, geography, endowments, historical legacies, and technological innovation, and human capital; and political economic issues, such as political institutions, taxation and redistribution, and foreign aid.

International Political Economy

This course is an introduction to international political economy, the study of how and why international economic policies are formed, and how the international economy influences domestic politics and economic performance. Course will include a significant amount of economic theory. The approach of the course is a mix of history and current events. We will examine the development of the international political-economic order since the 18th century and simultaneously compare “lessons from history” to present-day issues. We will also consider the extent to which the current global order fundamentally differs from the previous period of globalization (1815-1914). Topics covered include: foreign trade, capital flows, foreign direct investment and multinational corporations, monetary policy and exchange rates, immigration, and international organizations such as the WTO and IMF.

China’s Economic Transition

This course will provide a comprehensive overview of the Chinese economy and China’s role in the world economy. China’s current economic challenges will be given particular attention. Topics that will be addressed include: the Chinese economy before 1949; the socialist era, 1949-1978; economic reform and market transition; the role of state enterprises; foreign investment; foreign trade; China’s role in the East Asian trade-production network; the Chinese financial system; Chinese monetary and exchange rate policy; China’s role in global imbalances; the internationalization of the Yuan; and the housing market.

  • Senior Seminar: Advanced Topics
Disciplinary Courses

Conceptions of Democracy and Meritocracy

This course will examine democracy and meritocracy, exploring specifically the components, strengths, and liabilities of each. Particular focus will be on intersections between virtuosity, democracy and meritocracy. Readings will come from philosophy, political theory, history, and sociology. Potential application of these theories to the United States and to China, among other countries, will be discussed.

Policy Making Processes

This course is designed to teach students how to “read” a country’s political and economic system. The course will examine how the evolution of different institutional frameworks influences the way in which political choices are made. In particular, the course will focus on the institutional design choices available to constitution writers: 1) presidential, parliamentary executives and other political systems; 2) legislatures and their task structures (debate, oversight, law preparation, budgeting); 3) electoral laws and political parties; 4) veto-institutions, such as judicial oversight, federal delegation of authority to political subsidiaries; and 5) consequences of institutional choice: economic performance and political regime support.

Program Evaluation

This course introduces students to the approaches used by social scientists to evaluate the implementation and impacts of public policies. Topics covered include reasons for and uses of program evaluations; the different kinds of information gained through implementation analysis and the integration of qualitative and quantitative research; statistical power and effect size; and cost-benefit analysis. The bulk of the course focuses on the techniques, advantages, and drawbacks of experimental and quasi-experimental designs.

Public Opinion

Examines nature and role of public opinion from a comparative perspective, providing a broad-based introduction to the dynamics of citizens' social and political attitudes. The goal of the course is to help students arrive at a more comprehensive understanding of forces that shape beliefs, attitudes, and opinions of the public, the means by which those views are publicly expressed, and the influence of those opinions on policy outcomes. The course will also offer an introduction to the design, implementation, and analysis of public opinion surveys and election polls with a special focus on cutting-edge survey experiments and online designs.

International Politics

The theory and practice of international politics and foreign policy; analysis of the various elements of national power and its impact on differing world views and foreign policy behavior, the instruments of foreign policy, and the controls of state/nation behavior across different historical periods and from different national and analytical perspectives.

Recommended Electives for the Major

Courses listed below are recommended electives for the major. Students can also select other courses in different divisions as electives.

World History and Global Interactions

This course will focus on how countries have interacted with each other through bilateral and multilateral agreements, as well as international institutions and organizations. This could include an introduction to global organizations such as the United Nations as well as regional ones such as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Organization of African States (OAS) and the European Union (EU).

Politics of Food: Land, Labor, Health, and Economics

Explores the food system through fieldwork, study, and guest lectures that include farmers, nutritionists, sustainable agriculture advocates, rural organizers, and farmworker activists. Examines how food is produced, seeks to identify and understand its workers and working conditions in fields and factories, and, using documentary research conducted in the field and other means, unpacks the major current issues in the food justice arena globally and locally. Fieldwork required, but no advanced technological experience necessary. At least one group field trip, perhaps to a local farm or farmers market, required.

The Politics of International Economic Relations: America in the World Economy

Introduction to politics of international economic relations through an examination of persistent major debates and current events in world politics and global economy. Topics include politics of trade; politics of money and finance; foreign direct investment, multinational corporations, and global value chains; politics of foreign aid and economic development; and corporate social responsibility in a global economy. Examines how material interests, historical and socio-political context, and institutions at domestic and international level shape a country's foreign economic policies. Special focus on U.S. foreign economic policy in comparative perspective.

International Politics of East Asia

Course explores the economic, political, and security issues in East Asia. Examines respective theoretical and historical backgrounds of the countries in the region (Japan, North and South Koreas, China, Southeast Asia, Taiwan). ;Focuses on issues surrounding the region, including globalization, economic interdependence, nuclear proliferation, territorial disputes, and terrorism. Utilization of some international relation theory and methodological tools for more systematic analysis of these issues. Readings will be drawn from international relations theory, political science and history.

Modern Chinese Politics

Course examines contemporary Chinese politics, covering regime institutions and processes, policies and their effects, and the dynamics of political development. Course includes an overview of Chinese political history since the founding of the People's Republic, and including the reform era beginning in 1978. Course addresses the role of the Chinese Communist party and central government, as well as the role of subnational government. Students examine state-society relations and political participation and protest as well as economic and social policy. Also includes attention to China's international political and economic relations and policy challenges China faces in the future.

Career Path

Graduates are prepared to understand and shape political and economic policy, to play leadership roles in the public and private sector at home and abroad, and to study at the world’s leading schools of politics, economics and international affairs.