Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI)

The Rise of China: Politics, the Party & Global Power

Course Number


Study Group Leaders (SGL)

Scott McKnight


This course will take place virtually on Zoom. Participation requires a device (ideally a computer or tablet, rather than a cell phone) with a camera and microphone in good working order and basic familiarity with using Zoom and accessing email.

10-Week Course

Feb. 29 - May 9. No Class April 25.


How did China, a country beset by war, unrest and poverty, become an increasingly wealthy and globally relevant country over the past four decades? How has China’s single-party state, which came to power in 1949 to form the People’s Republic of China, been able to adapt—and indeed thrive—when so many other single-party states have stagnated or collapsed? What does China’s rise and all its attendant impacts—economic, political and environmental—mean for the rest of the world and for the United States in particular? This ten-part class will analyze the ‘rise’ of China, focusing on several key topics: trade and technology, China’s single-party political system, its relationship with the United States, its innovation trajectory, its (attempt at) becoming a clean energy superpower, as well as issues on China’s periphery, notably in Taiwan and Xinjiang. The course will also look at a range of obstacles that may slow or even reverse China’s ‘rise’—from a slowing or even stagnant economy, a pressing demographic crisis, a fragile real estate market, and growing opposition among other countries to this more assertive China, among other challenges.  

Group Leadership Style

 More lecture than facilitated discussion.

Course Materials

All readings (1-2 per class) will be provided via email in pdf format, with occasional video and podcast. This class will use a mix of long-form journalism and newspaper articles to provide an educated, well-balanced primer that the weekly lectures will then complement. All reading materials will be available in pdf format to the member via email or with links in this document. No outside text is required for purchase.

Preparation Time

30-60 mins (5-10 pages).


Scott received his PhD in Political Science from the University of Toronto, where he is now an adjunct lecturer in the political economy of innovation, energy and China. After completing his undergraduate degree in public policy at Carleton University in Ottawa and working for the Governor General of Canada, he completed a master’s degree in International Relations (in Chinese) at the prestigious Renmin University in Beijing. He later lectured for two years in China on Chinese politics, economy and foreign relations. He frequently provides analysis on Chinese politics and economy for the media in Canada. He is fluent in five languages.