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International Relations in East Asia

Academic Year
Instruction in English
ECTS credits
Course type:
Elective course
2 year, 1, 2 module


Course Syllabus


This course is meant for those who are interested in learning more about major trends and developments shaping East Asia’s international relations. East Asia is understood here as an international-political region comprising Northeast Asia (NEA), Southeast Asia (SEA) and the US as an external actor. The key emphasis in the course is made on NEA, including: China, Japan, Korea (North and South), Russia and Mongolia. The standing of East Asia in the world order, which is already high, continues to rise. There are now hardly any doubts that this regional system will shape the global international order in the 21st century, though there is still a substantial amount of conflict and tension in the region. While it is lacking a solid system of cooperation to ensure mutual security, there exist systemic forces that generally contribute to peace and stable economic development in the region. Therefore, the course will examine East Asian international politics as a complex interplay, or dialectics, of rivalry and cooperation between key actors in economics and security.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • Discuss the theoretical concept of East Asia as an international-political region and examine its main features.
  • Examine the strategies and policies of the leading actors in Northeast Asia – China, Japan, Russia, Republic of Korea, DPRK, and the US as an external actor.
  • Research key features of China’s rivalry with the US (more globally) and with Japan in East Asia.
  • Explore the traditional security threats in the region, especially the role of nuclear weapons in NEA.
  • Analyze the evolving multilateral institutional structure of East Asia with a special focus on ASEAN as a model for Asian regionalism
  • Investigate Russia’s so-called “Pivot” to Asia, especially its manifestation in a strategy for advanced development of the Russian Far East
  • Outline possible future scenarios for East Asia’s strategic landscape
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • knows main characteristics of the East Asia international relations, modern strategies, policies, and priorities of key states in the region
  • characterizes main traditional and non-traditional threats in the region, and major economic trends defining international order in East Asia
  • is able to find, analyze and comprehend new information, to propose theoretical concepts and models explaining practical behavior and policies of key states in the region, taking into account growing regional competition of China with USA and Japan;
  • acquires modern methodology to clarify interests of main regional actors to be able to foresee future development of the international situation in East Asia and to formulate recommendations to the leadership of Russia and RFE on their international policy and bilateral relations in the region
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Introduction, History and IR Theoretical Approaches to East Asia
    Lecture 1 – Course Overview. The history of East Asia Region and its Conceptualization. Theoretical Puzzles of and Perspectives on the East Asian IR Seminar 1: East Asia and its Problems of the Historical Memories, Divided States and Territorial Disputes. Key IR Paradigms and “New Regionalism” theory on East Asia. ASEAN Special Role in EA Regionalism
  • Key Features of the East Asia as an International Political and Economic Region
    Lecture 2 – Cold War Times Regional Security Order. Economic “Regionalization” Driven by Corporate Activities. Financial and Economic/Trade Integration as Priority Components of the East Asian Regionalism. Seminar 2: American System of Bilateral Security Alliances in East Asia. China’s and Russia’s View of EA Security Order. Japanese Multinationals and Chinese Networks in EA. The Asian Financial Crisis and the Burst of New Regional Institutions and Processes: CMIM, APT, AIIB. Growing ASEAN – China Trade and Investments Flows
  • Northeast Asia as a Key Part of East Asia. Regional Powers of Northeast Asia: a Trend to Dividing in Two Groups (USA, Japan, RK) vs. (China, RF, DPRK) and to Forming of a Two-tied Structure of Multilateralism (6-Party Talks vs. CJK).
    Lecture 3 – The Economy-Security Nexus in NEA. The Key Role of the “Big Three” (China, Japan, RK). Rising China and Power Transition in East Asia. Seminar 3: Bolstering Economic Interdependence in the Midst of Historic Memory Conflicts. New Chinese Geopolitical and Ideological Concepts, Growing Economic and Military Power. The Belt and Road Initiative in the Global Context. Lecture 4 – Japan as a Status Quo (Re-emerging?) Power and RK as an Important Middle Power . The Divided Korean Peninsula: Old Problems and New Approaches. Seminar 4: The Decline of Japan-led Model of the EA Economy and Strong Dependence on the USA. Recent Attempts to Improve Relations with China and Russia. RK as an Important Political and Economic Middle Power in EA. DPRK Isolation, and its Military and Nuclear Challenge to Regional Stability. Lecture 5 – Russia’s “Pivot” to Asia and Strategy for Advanced Development of the Far East. Seminar 5: Russia as a Regional Player in East Asia, and Growing Role of the Strategic Partnership with China. Hosting APEC 2012 in Vladivostok. Recent Improvement of and Limitations for Further Development of Bilateral Ties with Japan and RK. Introduction of New Regional Development Institutions (Territories of Advanced Development, Vladivostok Free Port, etc.). Special role of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.
  • Southeast Asia and its Important Role in EA Economic Integration and Security
    Lecture 6 – ASEAN Countries and the “Asian Way”. Southeast Asian Security Dynamics and Economic Integration Trends. Seminar 6: ASEAN as a Model for East Asian and Asia-Pacific Regionalism. ASEAN Plus Regional Institutions in Economics and Security (ASEAN+1, APT, RCEP, ARF, CDMM, EAS). South China Sea’s Security Problem.
  • The USA as a Key External Power in East Asia. Challenges and Perspectives for a New Political-Economic Order in East Asia and Beyond
    Lecture 7 – The Declining American Influence in the Asia-Pacific: from the Obama’s “Pivot” to the Trump’s Isolationism. China’s Competition for Global and Regional Influence with USA and Japan respectively. Mounting Regional Challenges in East Asia. Seminar 7: Obama’ Evolution from “Pivot” to “Rebalancing”. Trump’s Exit from the TPP and Policy Uncertainty toward Strategic Allies (Japan and RK). Washington’s and Beijing’s Differences on Regional Security System. Market Democracy vs. Chinese Values of Shared Destiny. Trade, Currency and Technology Wars. Food Shortage, Environmental, Medical Concerns (Covid-2019) in East Asia. RCEP vs. TTIP. Is There a Collective Sense of “Asia”?
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking In-class Participation
    For each lecture and seminar topic, students are required to read at least two articles/chapters/books from the list of the recommended literature. Apart from the recommended titles, they are encouraged to read other materials relevant to the course’s general theme and topics. Substantial part of the relevant materials can be found in the web resources’ list below. Students are required actively participate in discussions during seminars.
  • non-blocking Essay
    Students are required to do one written assignment. They must write an analytical essay on any subject that is relevant to the general theme of the course or the course’s topics. Students should propose the essay’s subject/title on their own (some variations of possible themes for essays are listed below), subject to approval by the instructor, who may suggest necessary changes. The essay must be between 10 and 15 pages long.
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (2 module)
    0.5 * Essay + 0.5 * In-class Participation


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Lee, Y. W., & Son, K. (2014). China’s Rise and Regional Integration in East Asia : Hegemony or Community? Routledge.
  • Michael Yahuda. (2019). The International Politics of the Asia-Pacific : Fourth and Revised Edition: Vol. Fourth and revised edition. Routledge.
  • Robert S. Ross, & Øystein Tunsjø. (2017). Strategic Adjustment and the Rise of China : Power and Politics in East Asia. Cornell University Press.
  • Rothman, S. B., Vyas, U., & Sato, Y. (2017). Regional Institutions, Geopolitics and Economics in the Asia-Pacific : Evolving Interests and Strategies. Routledge.
  • Stubbs, R., & Beeson, M. (2012). Routledge Handbook of Asian Regionalism. Routledge.
  • Yul Sohn, & T. J. Pempel. (2018). Japan and Asia’s Contested Order : The Interplay of Security, Economics, and Identity. Palgrave Macmillan.

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Beeson, M. (2014). Regionalism and globalization in East Asia : politics, security and economic development / Mark Beeson. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.407183280
  • International relations theory and the Asia-Pacific G. John Ikenberry and Michael Mastanduno, eds. (2003).
  • Nederveen Pieterse, J., Abdul Rahman Embong, & Tham, S. Y. (2017). Changing Constellations of Southeast Asia : From Northeast Asia to China. Routledge.
  • Regional integration in East Asia theoretical and historical perspectives ed. by Satoshi Amako . (2013).
  • Wang Yi. (2018). China’s Diplomacy in the New Era: Opening Up New Horizons with a New Outlook. China International Studies, 68, 5–25.
  • Westad, O. A. (2019). The Sources of Chinese Conduct: Are Washington and Beijing Fighting a New Cold War? Foreign Affairs, 98(5), 86.