Major in China and Asia-Pacific Studies


Majors in China and Asia-Pacific Studies are required to complete three years of college-level Chinese language courses and aim to achieve high-intermediate Chinese proficiency upon graduation (effective Fall 2018). The major gives students experience both on and off campus, including three years in Ithaca, one optional semester in Washington, D.C, and one required semester in Beijing.

In Ithaca, NY,  majors study China’s history, politics, economy, society, and foreign relations (especially with the United States), and they take Chinese language courses in the regular curriculum.

In Washington, D.C., majors are in residence at Cornell in Washington (whose building near Dupont Circle belongs to Cornell). Their core courses are a seminar on U.S.-China relations and a seminar on American public policy (or, alternately, a seminar on the American experience). In the U.S.-China seminar, students meet with key figures and discuss issues of diplomacy, business, law, journalism, education, and other fields. CIW is not required for the  major, but is highly recommended.

In Beijing, China, majors live on the campus of China’s preeminent institution of higher learning, Peking University, and take two Levinson Program seminars: CAPS 4001 with an English-speaking visiting U.S. professor; and CAPS 4002, a course taught partly in Chinese and partly in English by a Peking University professor. 

In both Washington, D.C., and Beijing, China, all majors are required to hold China-related internships in government agencies, embassies, newspapers, television networks, businesses, law firms, NGOs, and other organizations. 

Back in Ithaca for their final semester, majors bring their studies to a culmination in a senior seminar (CAPS 4030), and, ideally, with an honors thesis (CAPS 4010 and 4020). 

Course Requirements

There are no prerequisites to the major. Upon enrollment in the program, majors must complete SIX or SEVEN required CAPS courses and TWO elective CAPS courses (totaling 30 to 36 credits) with a grade average of C or better.  In addition, majors must achieve the 3000-level Chinese language proficiency (see "Chinese Language Courses" below).

Note: In addition to the major requirements outlined below, all students must meet the college graduation requirements.

One Levinson Program gateway course

Majors must take any one of the following courses (taught in Ithaca), normally during the first two years.

  • CAPS 3049 [China's Next Economy] (crosslisted GOVT 3044); Next offered 2022-2023
  • CAPS 3827 China and the World (crosslisted GOVT 3827)  
  • CAPS 3967 What is China? (crosslisted GOVT 3967) 

Other required courses

Majors must complete all the following required courses:

  • CAPS 3000 Seminar in American Relations with China (taught at Cornell in Washington);
  • CAPS 4998 Inquiry in Politics and Policy (taught at Cornell in Washington);
  • CAPS 4001 China in Transition or CAPS 4003 Experiencing China (taught in Beijing);
  • CAPS 4002 Chinese Perspectives on International and Global Affairs (taught in Beijing);
  • CAPS 4030 Making Sense of China: The Capstone Seminar (taught in Ithaca).

For students opting out of the D.C. semester, they will be required to take the following courses offered in Ithaca as a replacement:

  • CAPS 4502 [Becoming a China Hand] (taught in Ithaca) Next offered 2024-2025
  • Two additional 4000-level seminars (in any department or college that has a China focus, subject of approval by the CAPS Program Director, Ithaca)

Note: For students interested in opting out of D.C. semester, please schedule a meeting with the Program

Two Levinson Program elective courses

Majors may choose any two of the following courses to fulfill the program's elective requirement:

  • CAPS 1622 The World in Modern Japan (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 1740 Imperial China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 1910 [Introduction to Modern Asian History] (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 1920 Modern China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2132 Law and Society in Early Modern and Modern China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2133 [Social Debates in China] (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2212 Introduction to China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2262 [Medicine & Healing in China] (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2271 [China's Literary Heritage] (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2840 [Capitalism in China] (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2931 [Making of an Empire in China] (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 2985 Transformations in Twentieth Century China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 3307 Readings in Classical Chinese Literature (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 3329 Literature of Leaving China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 3352 Getting Rich in Modern China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 3370 [Nature and Ecology in Ancient Chinese Travel Writing] (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 3387 [The Asian Century: The Rise of China and India] (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 3395 [Empire of the Migrants] (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 4071 Law Culture and Society in China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 4127 The Body Politic in Asia (crosslisted) 
  • CAPS 4355 Work and Labor in China (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 4406 [Readings in Chinese History and Business Culture] (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 4420 Tang Poetry: Themes and Contexts (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 4502 [Becoming a China Hand] (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 4827 China, Tibet, and Xinjiang (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 4870 [China and Asian Security] (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 4888 Directed Study (taught in Beijing) 
  • CAPS 4931 [Vitality and Power in China] (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 4963 [China's Early Modern] (crosslisted)
  • CAPS 4999 CAPS Independent Study

Students may choose other-related courses to fulfill the S elective requirement upon permission of the Program Director. Taking additional Levinson Program gateway courses counts toward fulfillment of the elective requirement.

Chinese Language Requirements for the Major

Majors are required to complete three years of college-level Chinese-language courses (CHIN 1000 level through 3000 level) and acquire the high-intermediate (CHIN 3000) Chinese proficiency or higher upon graduation (effective Fall 2018). They are expected to maintain a minimum grade of B+ in their Chinese language courses; failure to maintain this expectation may result in dismissal from the major. 

Majors are strongly encouraged to take 4000-level advanced Chinese-language courses during the Levinson Program semester in Beijing.  A Chinese course at the 4000-level or higher may count as a Levinson Program elective course.  Only those who reach the 4000-level Chinese proficiency are eligible for candidacy in the Levinson Honors Program (see "Levinson Honors Program"). 

All minors need to complete the equivalent of second-year Chinese (CHIN 2000 level), or if they place beyond the second year, they must complete any single Chinese-language course at a higher level. A Chinese course beyond the 2000 level may count as a Levinson Program elective course.

Students who have graduated from a Chinese high school (not an international school) in the PRC or Taiwan are exempt from the Chinese language requirement.  They need to submit a copy of their high school diploma to the Director of the Chinese Language Program in the Department of Asian Studies in order to finalize the process.  Students who do not have this qualification are required to take the placement test.  If they can demonstrate the linguistic skills of the Chinese high school graduate, they are granted exemption.

Click here to see the explanations about the placement testing, exemptions, and Chinese language course sequencing in detail.

Application Procedures

Any Cornell College of Arts and Sciences student wishing to become a major must officially apply to the Levinson Program. Entrance is limited to twenty students per class-year. So students are encouraged to sign into the major early upon their admission to the College of Arts and Sciences. Students who are interested in the major should:

  • Consult with the Levinson Program Manager, Xu Xin. He can be reached by email at
  • Complete the major application using the online form.
  • Obtain an official transcript from the University Registrar’s office request have it sent to the Program Administrator at
  • Declare the major at any time—even before completing any CAPS course—yet preferably no later than February of sophomore year in order to be admitted to the optional Cornell in Washington semester the fall of junior year; space is limited applications for students declaring the major are reviews by a selection committee that will screen the applications, and a limited number of students are admitted to the major each year.


Honors in the Levinson Program are awarded for excellence in the major. Honors candidates must complete CAPS 4010 and CAPS 4020 (in the senior year), and write an honors thesis. (CAPS 4010 and CAPS 4020 may be used to fulfill the requirement for one CAPS elective course.)

Prerequisites and Application

Honors applicants must maintain an overall average of B+ (3.3) and an average of A­ (3.7) in courses pertinent to the major. Only students who reach the 4000-level Chinese proficiency are eligible for candidacy in the CAPS Honors Program (see the "Levinson Program Chinese Language Requirements").  Applicants, in consultation with the Levinson Program Director, must select an honors thesis advisor from the program faculty and discuss with that faculty member plans for the honors thesis. Applicants must then submit an application form to the Levinson Program Administrator via email The application must include a) a description of the proposed research project for the honors thesis, and b) the endorsement from the applicant’s thesis advisor stating that she or he will advise the applicant’s honors thesis. 

Please contact the Levinson Program Main Office to obtain an Honors Application by email

Honors Committee

The Honors Committee consists of a thesis advisor and one other member of the Levinson Program faculty (selected by the candidate in consultation with the thesis advisor). The Honors Committee must be organized and then reported to the Levinson Program Director before the honors candidate’s first semester of their senior year).

The application must be successfully submitted, and the Honors Committee formed, by the end of the applicant’s junior year in order for the student to be an honors candidate.

Honors Thesis Coursework

During the senior year, each honors candidate will enroll in the year-long tutorial (CAPS 4010 and CAPS 4020) with her or his thesis advisor. 

During the first semester (CAPS 4010 Honors Thesis Tutorial I), the candidate is expected to finalize the focus of her or his honors thesis, conduct required research and reading, and submit work to the thesis advisor to gauge satisfactory progress. The work submitted in consultation with the thesis advisor may include: draft portions of the thesis (perhaps a first chapter or an introduction), an extended thesis outline, a relevant course paper, or other approved work. All of the work is graded. If the advisor does not judge the honors thesis to be viable at this point, the candidate will not be allowed to enroll in CAPS 4020 Honors Thesis Tutorial II. Continuation of the honors program into CAPS 4020 is not automatic.


The text of the honors thesis may not exceed 60 pages, except by permission of the Honors Committee. Three copies of the honors thesis are due in the Levinson Program Administrator email by the conclusion of the business day on the Friday of the thirteenth week of classes in the spring semester (usually mid-April) or the candidate's final semester. Two copies are for the Honors Committee, and one copy is for the Levinson Program Director (and subsequently retained on file by the Program). 

Defense and Honors Award

An oral defense conducted by the Honors Committee is required for honors in CAPS. The defense must take place by early May (usually exam week of the final semester), or sooner. The thesis advisor assigns a grade for the honors work and submits both the grade and the Honor Committee’s written decision concerning the level of honors to the Levinson Program Director. In the unlikely case that the Committee cannot come to a decision on a candidate’s work, the director may seek to review the honors recommendation with the Levinson Program Advisory Committee.

The final level of honors awarded to a candidate is determined by the Levinson Program Director on the basis of the evaluation made by the Honors Committee and the student’s grade record in the major. If the candidate’s GPA as a senior first semester below honors requirements, the director may seek a review of the honors level.

Students are awarded one of four designations:

  1. no honors
  2. honors (cum laude)
  3. high honors (magna cum laude)
  4. highest honors (summa cum laude).