course
Chinese Politics

Jan 2014

Eh not the greatest. His class was okay because he is such a nice professor but he tends to let some students run the class just because they are the only ones that participate. The subject matter is quite interesting but the course material itself was nothing special so I have no idea why this is a 4000 level class. The one thing that really bugged me about this class was that Professor Su only graded/read the grad papers. He left the undergrad grading to his TA and boy, she was the worst! She gave no commentary or reasoning behind her methodology for the harshly graded essays.The mandatory discussions, which was led by her, were an absolute disaster-- no one ever showed up and she's horrible at facilitating conversation. The excruciating experience of dealing with her has ruined the class for me.

Jan 2012

GREAT class. It took place once a week for 2 hours, not nearly enough time to cover class materials. On the first day of class, Professor Su informed us that he changed the course name from "Chinese Politics" to "Chinese Politics and Economics". While this was scary at first, one must realize that the two are inseparable. Each week we would cover a new, and almost completely different topic on Chinese society, politics, or economics. Sometimes the debates would extend to multiple weeks but each could largely stand on its own. Su liked to split the class in lecture form (he wrote on the board) and student discussions. The best part of the class was that it was mostly grad/SIPA students and students sent by their governments to learn more about China (Ex: some students were in govt ministries of Singapore, Japan, Korea, etc). This gave an invaluable bonus to class discussions. Topics ranged from Why China didn't industrialize, Internet freedom, Fiscal federalism, Gradualism vs big bang economics, migrant workers, hukou system, etc. If you don't like one week's discussion, there's no need to worry bc topics jump to all aspects of society. I came away each week amazed. You will learn A LOT about A LOT of things. The best part is we watched youtube clips/ documentaries nearly every class. But don't get me wrong, they were extraordinarily insightful and relevant to class. TL;DR: Take this class. Fun, easy, little work, will get an A. Take the time to talk to classmates and Professor Su

Dec 2008

I second the review below this one. Although Kay Shimizu is a kind woman, through her teaching it is evident that she is the newest addition to the political science department, and this means dis-organization and ambiguity. She posted slides for each lecture, but the words on the slides were so few that copying them was essentially meaningless. Her explanations of the slides were also incoherent, rendering lectures completely confusing. The only chance you will have to truly understand the material is in the discussion sections, where the TA will pose questions presumably crafted by Shimizu, as all sections answered the same questions throughout the semester. Regardless of her future growth as a professor, now is NOT the time to take Shimizu. I guarantee you that her ambiguous and ever-changing syllabus, combined with the bizarrely specific and random answers for the midterm (which were IDs), you will feel overhwelmingly frustrated. DO NOT TAKE Shimizu.

Dec 2008

Kay Shimizu is nice woman but not a terribly exciting lecturer. She is new to the department and recently got her Phd so she is a bit nervous in front of the class, and disorganized when it comes to assignments. The midterm was open book, open notes and open laptop, but then was graded very harshly, all of which was rather confusing. The paper topic was vague and the final was take-home. I ended up learning a decent amount from the class, but that was more because the material was pounded into my head so many times (it got repetitive after a while), rather than because it was enormously intellectually stimulating. All in all, the class was a success in that it taught me about china and fulfilled major cultures, but I was bummed that Bernstein stopped teaching this year.

Dec 2008

She's not great, not bad. She's very organized, but her lectures are extremely repetitive, in that she repeats the same concept over and over throughout the lecture and seems to have the same lecture several classes in a row. Every lecture in the first half of the semester, and many in the second half, were about Chinese political economy- the switch from a socialist economic system to a capitalist one. Very important, but this is a class about Chinese politics, not just economy. I would have liked to learn more about the inner workings of the CCP, about the PLA, and especially about Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macao issues. The last two were not covered at all; the CCP internal structure was only covered briefly. However, she did a good job covering the succession from Mao to Hua to Deng, and the beginnings of capitalism in China.

Feb 2008

Excellent professor. Knowledgeable and engaging. It was his first semester teaching, so the reading got out of hand toward the end of the semester. But overall, it was one of the most rewarding courses I've taken at Columbia.

Jan 2008

A wonderful and engaging class!! Professor Harold is a young professor whose interest and passion for China shine in this course while he remains incredibly approachable and open to questions. I thoroughly enjoyed Professor Harold's Chinese Politics class which discusses China's political history since the Qing Dynasty up to the political issues which the country grapples with today. While the first half of the class can seem more like a history lesson of the Chinese Communist Revolution, Professor Harold really picks up steam after the midterm and logically builds upon everything you've already learned. You will be fascinated by the dimensions and dynamics of Chinese politics as you learn about contemporary issues such as HIV/AIDS, the environment, and Muslim separatism. Be aware that the class does take dedication. There are four in-class quizzes based upon the readings, a 16-18 page take home midterm, a book review, and an in-class final. Readings can be plentiful and repetitive at times, so reading the introductions and conclusions of book chapters can be better than nothing at times. Some of the books chosen for the first half of the course could be very technical and dense while journal articles for the second half were often quite similar to each other. Just learn how to prioritize and unless Professor Harold changes the form of the midterm, set aside a week to do it or risk not getting it in on time. If you can stay on top of the work, you will find the class incredibly rewarding. I definitely recommend it!

Dec 2005

Sweet guy. As pro as you get when you're talking about modern poli-sci experts. Cutting edge insights. GREAT reading list (if you do the readings). You'll leave the class understanding why modern china is the way it is, and what kind of place it really holds in the world. On the other hand, his lectures are only really informative at a BASIC level, with the occasional informative and/or funny personal story.

Mar 2005

The man has a dry sense of humour that is subtle and hilarious. Don't be put off by his quiet mild-mannered demeanour at the onset. He is an old school lecturer and academic, meticulous and really well respected in his field. But who cares about that. The best thing about Bernstein is that you really learn, you really enjoy the learning, AND he is a model professor, helpful, challenging, supportive, etc., Check out the pictures in his office if you drop by for office hours and, if you ask, maybe he'll tell you some cool stories about his China travels. He also teaches and has an interest in some of the coolest, most off the wall subjects. Remember, this man also teaches Major Dictators of the 20th Century. He is very approachable and in general just very professional and adept at dealing with and encouraging students. There is no reason why anybody should ever leave Columbia without taking a class with him.

Jan 2005

Take this class only if you're interested in Chinese politics, and I mean REALLY interested. Otherwise, the lectures, with Prof. Bernstein's soft and lulling voice, will put you to sleep. Only half the class shows up. If you are interested in the post-Mao era, you'll find his lectures informative and at many times insightful. Sometimes they seem like he' s been giving the same lecture for decades (esp the Mao era); his best lectures definitely start after the Reform Era. Outside of class, he is a wonderful, accessible, and caring professor who would make a grandfatherly mentor.

Jan 2005

This is a great class for anyone who has even a speck of interest in post-1949 China, from the Mao years thru reform and the present day. Professor Bernstein's lectures are always interesting, informative and well-organized, and the readings were almost all excellent as well. He was able to boil down an unwieldy and very complex subject into understandable and even compelling sections without dumbing it down. My only bitch is that this class was filled with students who took advantage of Bernstein's soft- spoken and generous manner -- these idiots were half-asleep at best and openly disrespectful at worst. Every class had at least 5- 8 latecomers who thought nothing of disrupting lecture by clomping in loudly, slamming doors, giggling to their friends, etc. Don't get me started.

Dec 2004

Bernstein is a GREAT guy. He knows a lot about Chinese political institutions and puts the problems the face in context with their history and their position in the world. This was one of those classes that could give you most of what you needed to know in lecture, and youcould supplement the readings later for the paper. The final was a bitch, but the class was super-interesting and everything was extremely informative and to-the-point. Every poli sci major's dream. Give him a chance.

Jan 2004

First of all, the above review was just inaccurate - the class spent only 2 or 3 weeks on history. Secondly, the reading list was a who's who of Chinese scholarship - while isssues were examined from several different angles much of the time, occasionally only one article was included b/c the author offered the best analysis of the issue. This class is not for someone who wants an intro to comparative politics, nor is it for someone who is just looking to cover a major cultures. Domestic Politics very often deal w/dry issues, so be prepared if you aren't fascinated by Chinese environmental policy. While Economy is definitely not a seasoned lecturer, her teaching style is simple and straightforward - probably the result of having been trained to brief politicians and diplomats at the CIA. That being said, she is very generous with her time and encourages students to email, call and visit her with questions or comments. All in all, a great class if you are interested in the material. If not, go elsewhere b/c she won't sell it to you.

Jan 2004

Don't bother with this class, especially if you have already taken other courses in Chinese history/politics. She spends the first half of the semester covering the history of China and the second half inviting friends that talk about their studies. The readings were very repetitious to the point where I felt I was reading the same thing ove and over again throughout the semester. They all seemed one sided, and never giving us another perspective to consider. Her lectures were even more boring. She gets up in front of the class and regurgetates everything we had to read. She speaks so fast that you don't have time to write decent notes, but what is worse is that she re-reads most of the material in her lectures.

Apr 2003

by far the most boring lecturer i have encountered thus far at columbia. way too many grad students who know everything about chinese politics beforehand. grading was not as easy as some past reviewers suggested, possibly because the ta's changed. there was not a single lecture when i didn't fall asleep for at least 30 min.

Jan 2003

Horrible lecturer. Too much material left uncovered. Horrible TA. Unfair grading. Stuffy class where on most days 1/3 of the students did not show up. Interesting material, but not a good idea to lump all of Chinese Politics (modern period) into one class. Bernstein seemed disinterested in actually helping his students on an individual basis. Proceed with caution!

Jan 2003

The quick and dirty? I enjoyed this class. Bernstein isn't the most scintillating of lecturers (and he knows it and jokes about it from time to time), but he's got quite a few "pearls of wisdom" to share. The subject matter is fascinating, so if you've got any interest in China, all I can say is take this course.

Jan 2003

Be wary of the other review of this class--it seems very biased and seems as if the guy has a personal vendetta against Bernstein and TA. I loved this class and highly recommend it to any Poly Sci Major (non-majors stay away, too much reading). I thought that the readings were quite informative, and the lectures were interesting (although I do agree that his droning voice is quite conducive to sleep). As for grading the midterm, I thought Bernstein was quite generous. Maybe because I did the reading (seems as if few students take the time to). Like Bernstein, I thought TA was quite intelligent as well, although it was difficult to understand his English sometimes.

Jan 2003

What a horrible class. Bernstein, although (supposedly) an authority figure on Chinese Politics, does not lecture or teach well at all. He stands up in the front of class and proceeds to lecture monotone-and- incoherent-style for every class. The TA is obnoxious and grades with a ridiculous standard for the undergrads, because for some reason this undergraduate class is loaded (think more then 30 percent) with (obviously underachieving) graduate students who skew the standard of grading. Both the professor and the TA are unapproachable and are of no help; try emailing them and they will attack you personally. Basically you are thrown into a class expecting either to know a lot (like the graduate students) or to read and memorize every single text, word-by-word, on the syllabus. There is no one to help you ever and you have no idea what Bernstien of the TA wants. Truly disappointing! Proceed with a lot of caution!

Dec 2002

Very disappointing class. For some reason this undergraduate 4000-level course was comprised at least 50% by graduate Asian students. Far too much reading (and not much of it very interesting). Bernstein's monotonous voice and by-the-book script-like lectures frequently put me to sleep. The TA was thoroughly incompetent and graded ridiculously stringently. Though there is the pretense that undergrads and graduates are graded on a separate scale, I don't buy it. If you're looking for an intensive albeit boring class on China since the reign of Mao Zedong, go for it. But if you're expecting an intro. to Chinese politics, stay away. The material is extremely disarming, not at all preparing you for the ridiculously difficult grading of the midterm.

Jan 2000

Prof. Bernstein is a BIG guy in Chinese politics. From what I can gather from this course, there are about 10 Chinese politics scholars who really know what they are talking about and just get published over and over (another one being his wife, Dorothy Solinger). He's a bit penguin-like, and at times speaks like Porky Pig, but weed through the stutters and he's good. He definitely seems uncomfortable giving lectures--leans back and stops stuttering when answering a particular question. Even better, go to his office hours to chat. He's hilarious. Seems to realize he's boring and doesn't care if you doodle the whole time as long as you don't talk.