SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

International Politics of East Asia

Module Code:
30 Credits

This module is designed to provide students with a theoretically rigorous and comparative introduction to key issues in the contemporary international politics of East Asia. East Asia is defined as the states of the Northeast Asia (in particular, China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan), with two main external actors, the United States and Soviet Union/Russia who played a key role influencing the region’s international relations. Asia presents fascinating case studies in the study of international relations by bringing together three of the world’s largest economies (US, Japan, China), three of the UN Security Council’s permanent members (US, Russia, China) and the divided nations (China/Taiwan and Korea).

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The module aims to provide students with both a detailed knowledge of the specific
region/country as well as insights into the thematic political issues. At the end of the module students should be able to demonstrate that they:

  • can understand the major forces in the international relations of Asia from C19th to the present.
  • can analyse the points of conflict and cooperation in the region and the key outside actors.
  • can critically evaluate the past, current and future challenges in the region.
  • have familiarity with the existing theoretical approaches to analyse the inter-regional relations and foreign policy making of the major states in the region.
  • have developed skills for oral and written communication of their ideas.


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

Scope and syllabus

The module enables students to develop both area expertise and to apply disciplinary insights from political theory and international political theory to the comparative study of international politics. The module is taught in a lecture/seminar format. The schedule of lecture topics is as follows:


  1. East Asia as a regional entity (YK)
  2. Themes and theoretical approaches (YK)


  1. Formation of the post-1945 system: domestic and international sources of state-building (YK)
  2. Cold War alliances (1): US-Japan-ROK-ROC (YK)
  3. Cold War alliances (2): USSR-China-DPRK (YK)
  4. Economic integration under the Cold War System: Japan-centric regional economy; flying geese; Asian development model (YK)


  1. Overview of the Post Cold War System: changes and continuities (YK)
  2. Conflict and cooperation (1): US and the rise of China (YK)
  3. Conflict and cooperation (2): US-Japan alliance (YK)
  4. Security hotspots (1) the Korean Peninsula (YK)
  5. Security hotspots (2): the Taiwan Straits (DF)
  6. Security hotspots (3): the South and East China Seas (YK)
  7. Soft power in the Post Cold War System (YK)
  8. Soft power: global liberalism versus Asian Values; rival nationalisms (YK)
  9. Financial crisis and the limits of the Asian development model (YK)
  10. Regional integration (1): finance and trade (YK)
  11. Regional integration (2): ASEAN (+3); ARF (YK)
  12. Regional integration (3): environmental issues (YK)
  13. Conclusion (YK)
  14. Guest lecture (TBA)

YK = Yuka Kobayashi, DF = Dafydd Fell

Method of assessment

Assessment is 30% coursework (one 3000 word essay), 10% seminar presentation, and 70% unseen examination. All coursework is resubmissible


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules