College of Arts and Sciences | Great Wall of China
E103 | 7778 | Atwood


2:30 PM - 3:20 PM MW
See the Schedule of Classes for discussion section times.

Why was the Great Wall of China built? What made the two peoples of
China and Mongolia so hostile that a vast wall had to be built to
separate them? Is this wall a symbol of China's might and glory, or
a symbol of tyranny like the Berlin Wall? Did the wall actually keep
out the "barbarians"? Can it really be seen from the moon? For
almost 2,000 years, how to handle the nomads of Mongolia was the
most important foreign policy question for China's rulers. At
several different times and several different places from the third
century BC to the twentieth century AD, the Chinese used walls to
defend themselves from the nomads. The wall thus came to symbolize
the social, economic, military, political, and cultural clash
between China and Mongolia. Nevertheless, powerful Chinese emperors
sometimes forced the nomads to submit, while at other times, as
under Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, the Mongols broke through all
barriers and founded dynasties to rule China.

To understand this conflict, students will explore fundamental
issues of international relations: is conflict between different
societies and cultures inevitable? Does greed always cause war or
can economic interests be harnessed to make peace profitable? How
much do domestic politics and ideology tie the hands of policy-
makers confronting foreign threats? Can smaller powers make peace
with larger neighbors without losing their independence and
identity?

In the final section of the class, we will look at the new "great
wall" of barbed wire that with contemporary Chinese colonization is
fencing off the Inner Mongolian steppe. Is this new great wall a
scientifically-based attempt to stop the invasion of sand and
desertification from encroaching on China? Or is it an imposition of
a centuries-old obsession in Chinese government with walling-off and
fixing the land? In examining this little-known but very serious
environmental issue, we will look at how the legacy of past
conflicts along the Great Wall is shaping contemporary issues of
environmental protection, minority rights, and land use.