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Studying Chinese Politics in an Age of Specialization


The relationship between area studies and political science is fraught with tradeoffs. In particular, a danger exists that the field of Chinese politics is being hollowed out because (a) there are many islands of highly specialized research with few bridges between them; and (b) more and more Chinese politics scholars are engaged in debates in which the 'other side' is no longer a China scholar but instead a colleague in the discipline. At a time when China's economic growth and prominence in world affairs have generated remarkable interest inside and outside the academy, few scholars are willing to take a stab at characterizing the polity or addressing other, equally large questions. Further thought is needed about the 'terms of enlistment' for China scholars in political science, in an era when ever more-focused studies and greater participation in disciplinary debates have become the norm. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.

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