Lawrence C. Reardon
Excellence in International Engagement
Associate Professor of Political Science
College of Liberal Arts
Right: Chris Reardon in front of an image of Tiananmen Square.
"I don't have to convince them that international relations is important to study. They know how fascinating it is and have the urge to learn more."
Students with a week’s worth of the Financial Times in their backpacks chatter loudly about the latest international events as they wait for Chris Reardon’s Theories in International Relations course to begin. The palpable buzz intensifies when Reardon arrives and jumps into the frenetic conversation.
Ideas bounce around the room like metallic balls in a pinball machine as graduate and undergraduate students tie theories to current events and forecast what might come. For Reardon, classes such as this one are the most fulfilling.
“I don’t have to convince them that international relations is important to study. They know how fascinating it is and have the urge to learn more,” Reardon says. “For them, learning is a very personal experience.”
In many ways, Reardon’s impact on his students is similar to that of his ninth-grade teacher. “In 1972 Nixon went to China, and his trip was earth-shaking. I wrote a paper for my ninth-grade teacher, and she gave me an A ++. That’s one of the things in my life that I’m most proud of. She thought it was fantastic,” Reardon says.
Reardon’s earliest childhood memories are steeped in Asian culture. His parents met in Thailand—his mother worked for the U.S. Foreign Service in Bangkok, and his father was with RCA. The couple moved to Macon, Ga., where the Reardon home was filled with Chinese furniture. A member of the League of Women Voters, Reardon’s mother gave presentations about China’s Cultural Revolution. She also befriended the niece of Georgia native John Birch, a Christian missionary and American military intelligence officer killed by supporters of the Communist Party of China.
“So with all of those things influencing my life, I was always fascinated with China,” Reardon says.
After completing his undergraduate degree in international affairs at Johns Hopkins, Reardon attended the prestigious Chinese Language School at Middlebury College and The Stanford Program in Taiwan, where he had intensive training in written and spoken Chinese. He went on to earn his master’s and Ph.D. at Columbia University. In addition to serving as an associate professor of political science and coordinating the Asian Studies minor at UNH, he is a research associate at the John K. Fairbanks Center for East Asian Research at Harvard.
Reardon is the author of The Reluctant Dragon: Crisis Cycles in Chinese Foreign Economic Policy. He has been involved in the prestigious Fulbright Program on many levels, including as a participating scholar, as a campus committee member with the U.S. student program, and as a consultant and national screening committee member for China.
Among the highlights of his career is the time he spent teaching in China at Shenzhen University. There he obtained copies of government policies that advanced his research into understanding China’s elite politics. “I was able to get these policies during this initial period before they became propaganda,” Reardon says.
The documents were critical for Reardon’s dissertation and manuscript for his first book. Yet, he still felt like there were aspects about China’s elite politics that he had to uncover. For years, he refined his theories, mulling them over, even while out jogging. Then in 1997, China published the diaries of Premier Zhou Enlai. In them, Reardon hoped his theories would be confirmed.
“To this day, I remember sitting in Virginia. It was 90-some degrees, hot and humid, but I didn’t care because every page I turned, I was jumping up and down. Here I was finding in the words of one of these elites that my theories were correct. It was like a puzzle with all of the pieces coming together,” Reardon says.
“All of the lights went off. There had always been these little lights that were going off about China—little bursts of light and insight. But I didn’t necessarily feel like I could completely justify the work. Then these readings came along and I could,” he says. “Everything just fell into place.”