What priorities should guide the U.S. relationship with China?
Thirteenth edition. November 2019.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. The preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS. Additional unit descriptions for the Current Issues Series that summarize the historical context, student readings, and skill development are available on this MIRO BOARD.

The relationship between the United States and China has been marked by ambivalence and misunderstanding. Today, as in the past, U.S.-China relations are sometimes clouded by misperceptions. What has changed is China’s position in the world. China’s remarkable transformation since the late 1970s has vaulted the world’s most populous country to the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda. China on the World Stage: Weighing the U.S. Response presents students with many of the same questions that U.S. policy makers will face in the decades to come. China on the World Stage: Weighing the U.S. Response draws students into the promise and uncertainty of this era. The unit is divided into three parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills (including at least one that focuses on building geographic literacy) and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

This unit also includes an Options Role Play as the key lesson and an additional synthesis lesson that allows students to synthesize new knowledge for assessment. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“The China unit was fun for my students and we held deliberations online using Zoom. It gave them a great opportunity to practice deliberating foreign policy. The curriculum is a great source of information. The readings are very informative and the videos really help students process the information. Overall, it’s really a wonderful resource for me.” – Taylor, Public Middle School Teacher, Florida

Part I: The History of U.S.-China Relations

Part I surveys the history of the U.S. interaction with China. There are two lessons aligned with Part I: 1) The Geography of China, and 2) History of U.S.-China Relations through Primary Sources.

Part II: China's Transformation

Part II explores the economic, social, and political dimensions of China’s transformation under Deng Xiaoping and the effects of those changes for Chinese people today. There are two lessons aligned with Part II: 1) Art and Politics: Ai Weiwei, and 2) Xu Wenli and the China Democracy Party.

Part III: The U.S.-China Agenda

Part III reviews the most critical issues on the current U.S.-China policy agenda. Lessons aligned with Part III include: 1) Cross-Strait Relations, 2) U.S. and Chinese Perspectives, and 3) South China Sea: Maritime Conflicts.


The Geography of China

Students familiarize themselves with China and its neighbors, significant cities, and landmarks on a map. They then work together to explore images of China and identify issues and themes for inquiry.

The History of U.S.–China Relations Through Primary Sources

Using excerpts from three key documents, students analyze the attitudes and perceptions that have framed U.S.–China relations over the past 150 years.

Art and Politics: Ai Weiwei

Students assess a contemporary artist's controversial response to censorship in China. Students consider the role of artists in society and explore the use of art as political expression.

Students explore the topic of political prisoners and watch videos of Xu Wenli, a Chinese dissident and democracy advocate. Xu describes his time in prison and the democracy movement in China.

Cross-Strait Relations

Using multiple sources—such as news articles, public opinion data, leaders' statements, and political cartoons—students examine the basics of the conflict across the Taiwan Strait.

U.S. and Chinese Perspectives

Students assess 2019 speeches at the UN General Assembly by President Trump and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Students evaluate language for tone to gain a better understanding of different perspectives on U.S.-China relations.

Students explore, discuss, and evaluate multiple perspectives on maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

The Options Role Play

The Options Role Play is the key lesson in the unit, and it asks students to examine four distinct options for U.S. policy toward China in preparation for writing their own option.

Tracking China's Future

Synthesis Lesson: Armed with historical knowledge and a sense of their own values, students deliberate the options presented. They articulate coherent recommendations for U.S. policy and defend their views in a letter to a newspaper or a member of Congress.

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