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China-West Relations: Dilemmas and Lessons

Key information

Subject area:

Public Policy, Politics & Security

Course type:

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Credit level:

Not for credit


5 hours (self-paced)

Available course dates:

From: 09 March 2023 To: 09 March 2025

Course overview

The rise of China in the Liberal International Order has caused much frenzy and uncertainty across Western civil society. China as a cultural and political entity creates anxiety in those parts of the world where liberalism has dominated for decades if not centuries. Citizens, policy-makers, and military are still catching up on their knowledge of China and cannot confidently deconstruct the complexity of a country that hosts a fifth of humanity and whose foreign interactions have been characterized by much ambiguity. This course seeks to explore those areas of ambiguity where Chinese actions are causing security dilemmas for Western citizens, administrators, policy-makers and the military and to expand knowledge on China but also to learn lessons that can be applied in other areas of foreign/security policy. To achieve this aim, the course is structured around several topics, each of which seeks to address a “dilemma” related to China, by looking at a contemporary “case-study” while leveraging on an “academic concept” to stimulate lateral thinking. 

This is a self-paced online course where students can access and work through the material at their own convenience. You will have access to the course for 3 months. 

What does this course cover?

The detailed objectives of this course are to:

  • Develop an intellectual appreciation of non-Western political culture
  • Apply lateral thinking skills to contemporary foreign/security policy dilemmas
  • Use knowledge about China to think about contemporary foreign and security policy dilemmas in general
  • Think holistically about the current world order

What will I achieve?

At the end of each section of this course, students will be able to:


  • Understand the structure of the Liberal International Order (LIO)
  • Think critically about why Western countries are struggling to find a coherent policy towards China
  • Apply lateral thinking to deconstruct the dilemmas faced by capitalist democracies in their foreign policy towards China


  • Reflect on some practical examples to explain lateral thinking
  • Apply strategic ambiguity as a lens to current international security
  • Understand the differences between countries in applying strategic ambiguity amidst US-China competition
  • Infer lessons about China’s foreign policy on controversial issues
  • Describe China’s strategic culture


  • Consolidate your understanding of lateral thinking, especially in relation to the study of China’s relations with the international community
  • Understand what geopolitical dynamics led to the strategic oversight of China’s rise after the end of the Cold War
  • Critically reflect on the difference between interventionist state and neoliberalism, and the advantages that state-led societies have compared to Western democracies
  • Compare some aspects of the Chinese political system to recent developments in UK and US strategy


  • Define the Liberal International Order (LIO) 
  • Think critically about China’s challenge to US hegemony as opposed to challenge to the LIO
  • Understand the Chinese concept of harmony and what it means in international politics
  • Discuss the concept of decoupling and the related policies of China and the US


  • Outline the debate on the new Cold War hypothesis
  • Develop an opinion on China’s hegemonic aspirations
  • Understand the implications of Chinese military doctrine
  • Reflect on the importance of asking questions
  • Understand the issue of alliances from a Chinese perspective

Who will I learn with?

Zeno Leoni

Zeno Leoni

Lecturer in the Defence Studies Department

Who is this for?

This course is particularly designed for all professionals working in the security and defence sector and those in business and industry with a specific focus on China and international security issues. It would also be suitable for undergraduate and postgraduate students.

There are no formal education or professional requirements, however, all learning will be delivered in English, therefore we recommend minimum IELTS Level 6 for learners to get the most from the spoken and written content.

Course status:


Full fee £450

King's Students, Alumni & Staff £382.50

Terms and Conditions



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