SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

International Relations of East Asia

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

This module is designed to provide students with a theoretically informed and comparative introduction to key issues in the contemporary international relations of East Asia. East Asia is defined as the states of the Northeast Asia (in particular, China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan), and the two main external actors, the United States and Soviet Union/Russia who played a key role influencing the region’s international relations. East Asia presents fascinating case studies in the study of international relations by bringing together the world’s three largest economies (US, China, Japan), three of the UN Security Council’s permanent members (US, Russia, China) and two divided nations (China/Taiwan and the two Korea). The module comprises three parts. The first part (Introduction) provides an overview of the themes and intellectual approaches to the study of the international politics of the region. The second part (Cold War System) examines nature of the Cold War alliance systems, their rivalries and consequences. The third part (Post-Cold War System) examines how the Cold War structure of the region has been altered and how it has persisted in the past two decades. As a result, the students will enhance knowledge of the region as a whole (to go beyond a single country focus) and learn to relate disciplinary and empirical knowledge.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Understand the major forces in the international relations of Asia from 19th C to the present
  • Analyse the points of conflict and cooperation in the region and the role of key outside actors
  • Critically evaluate the past, current and future challenges in the region
  • Demonstrate a familiarity with the existing theoretical approaches to analyse the inter-regional relations and foreign policy making of the major states in the region
  • Develop skills of oral and written communication    


This module will be taught over 10 weeks with:

  • 1 hour lecture per week
  • 1 hour tutorial per week

Method of assessment

Assignment 1: Essay 40%
OR1: Oral presentation 10%
Unseen written examination 50%

Suggested reading

  •  Muthiah Alagappa (ed.), Asian Security and Practice: Material and Ideational Influences (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).
  •   Muthiah Alagappa, (ed.), Asian Security Order: Instrumental and Normative Features (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003).
  •  G. John Ikenberry and Michael Mastanduno (eds), International Relations Theory and the Asia Pacific (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).
  •  Michael Yahuda, The International Politics of the Asia Pacific (London: Routledge, 2011).
  •  Takashi Inoguchi and G. John Ikenberry (eds), The Troubled Triangle: Economic and Security Concerns for the US, Japan, and China (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2013).
  •  Satoshi Amako, Shunji Matsuoka and Kenji Horiuchi (eds.) Regional Integration in East Asia (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2013).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules