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Expert on Chinese Economic Statecraft among Bush School Faculty

With multiple years of teaching under his belt in the Master’s Program in International Affairs (MPIA) at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, Assistant Professor William Norris’ influence on the program has begun to spread. He was initially attracted to the Bush School because of its national reputation and the strength of its foreign policy and security studies programs. Norris especially liked the way the School matches rigorous scholarship with practical applications.

“I believe academia has a responsibility to help improve society, and the Bush School is an excellent demonstration of that kind of thinking,” he said. He also noted that he was impressed by the unique collegiality of the Bush School and the wider Texas A&M University community—something he says is not seen at many other institutions.

Before coming to the Bush School, Norris was a postdoctoral research associate at the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs and a fellow in the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, a joint program created by the two universities to foster the study of China in the field of international relations. Norris earned his PhD in the Security Studies Program in the Department of Political Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he specialized in the link between economics and security studies, focusing on the role of economics in contemporary Chinese grand strategy.

Norris teaches courses in East Asian security, Chinese domestic politics, and Chinese foreign policy. He encourages students to take the class on domestic Chinese politics before taking the class on foreign policy.

“Very few students come in with non-Western studies knowledge. Students need to know the history and institutional legacy of China to understand how they impact current decision making,” Norris says.

Though he says it is a “riskier” approach, Norris prefers teaching his classes in a discussion-based seminar setting, often utilizing the Socratic Method. This style offers less professorial control than a traditional lecture method, but Norris feels the students can develop a better command of the material since they have a more interactive opportunity to grapple with it.

“Research shows that actively learning by asking about readings, making connections between those readings, and generating and challenging ideas is a more effective way to learn than via a traditional lecture approach,” Norris said.

Because of his background in international relations and security studies, Norris’s research looks at the relationship between economics and wider foreign policy strategies in East Asian countries.

“In our field, the relationship between economics and security studies is under-developed,” Norris said. “There has been much research on the nature, application, and limitations of military power; but I believe the same level of attention needs to be given to the economic dimensions of national power.”

Norris’ latest work is a book entitled, Chinese Economic Statecraft: Commercial Actors, Grand Strategy, and State Control.  In the book, published by Cornell University Press, Norris introduces an innovative theory that pinpoints how states employ economic tools of national power to pursue their strategic objectives. Norris shows what Chinese economic statecraft is, how it works, and why it is more or less effective. The book has already received praise from scholars in US-China relations, including praise from Dr. Thomas G. Moore, University of Cincinnati author of China in the World Market.