Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)


Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Not available in 2020/21 Module Cap
Tied to M9L007
Tied to M1K507
Tied to M1K607
Tied to M9K607
Tied to L2K707


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To provide students with an advanced understanding of key concepts and theories in the international politics of East Asia, notably the interaction of culture and strategy.
  • To provide students with an advanced knowledge of the power relationships between Russia, China, Japan and the United States.
  • To provide students with an advanced understanding of how these theoretical approaches have been, or could be, applied to the study of key problem areas in the international politics of the region.
  • To enable students to critically evaluate leading scholarship in the field of East Asian international politics.
  • To provide students with an advanced knowledge and understanding of strategic politics and how this shapes foreign policy thinking and behaviour in the countries of the Strategic Quadrangle.


  • Part One:
  • Week 1 - Introduction: International Political Theory and East Asia: problems of strategy and culture.
  • What are strategic politics 'made of'? Power implies material force; interest implies structured interactions; identity implies conceptions of self and other built out of culture and history. Does one variable determine the others; or should we attempt to blend all three?
  • Part Two:
  • Week 2 - China as an East Asian power.
  • Assess China's regional strategy: How does China understand the region? How does China's vision of its own future status interact with its conception of the Asian order?
  • Week 3 - Japan as an East Asian Power.
  • It is conventional to consider Japan an 'incomplete' power. How convincing is this in the regional context? In what ways is Japan's regional strategy evolving?
  • Week 4 - Russian Foreign Policy and East Asia.
  • Russia is two countries: culturally European; geopolitically Eurasian. What are the consequences of this? What is East Asia to Russia? What is Russia to East Asia?
  • Week 5 - US Week. US Foreign Policy and East Asia.
  • The US is the world's predominant maritime power; with the Atlantic pacified, the Pacific rises in importance. Does the US have a clear strategy for its relations with East Asia? How do you characterise these relations in IR terms?
  • Part Three:
  • There are no set topics for the cases. In each instance the seminar will address the same questions: How is the case shaped by the interaction of the strategic powers? What does the case tell us about the nature of their relationship? What does the case tell us about regional change?
  • Week 6 - Case Study 1: North Korea on the Threshold. Examines the EASQ in the context of the DPRK's weapons status.
  • Week 7 - Case Study 2: One China or several? Examines the EASQ in the context of Taiwan's sovereignty.
  • Week 8 - Case Study 3: Multilateralism and the EASQ. Examines the EASQ in the context of moves to build security mechanisms.
  • Week 9 - Case Study 4: East Asia since 9/11. Examines the EASQ in the context of the War on terror and the new security doctrine of the US.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An advanced understanding of the nature of strategic politics and how this shapes behaviour in the countries of the Strategic Quadrangle.
  • An advanced understanding of the components and dynamics of the strategic relationships in East Asia and how these are structured around one another.
  • An advanced knowledge of the nature of the foreign policy behaviour of the powers of the Strategic Quadrangle in the regional context.
  • A deep appreciation of the implications of the changing economic power dynamic of the Strategic Quadrangle.
  • An understanding of the international politics of the case studies.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to use critically the relevant theoretical concepts and approaches to international politics.
  • The ability to interpret and analyse the foreign policies of the major powers in the regional context and make appropriate judgements as to the variables shaping their behaviour.
  • The ability to conduct analysis of case studies in international politics, using appropriate theoretical and conceptual tools.
Key Skills:
  • Demonstrate independent learning within a defined framework of study at an advanced level.
  • Demonstrate iIndependent thought in analysing and critiquing existing scholarship on the subject area and in evaluating its contribution.
  • Demonstrate the ability to work to a deadline and complete written work within word limits.
  • Demonstrate advanced essay-writing skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students are taught in two-hour slots. The module is divided into three parts. The module begins with a lecture that introduces the main theoretical and conceptual frameworks for the study of East Asian politics and is designed to ensure that students with differential knowledge levels approach subsequent seminars with an appropriate level of understanding.
  • The subsequent seminars are divided into two blocks; the first examining the strategic cultures and foreign policies of the leading regional states; the second examining case studies from regional security. The first hour of each seminar is based on student presentations, followed by guided discussion and lecturer feedback. These seminars enable the students to develop their abilities to communicate and to develop their own skills in argumentation. The presenting student is required to produce a handout of not less than 1,000 words.
  • Students are required to submit a formative project of 1,000 words in the sixth week of term module is taught to allow for written feedback before the summative essay is submitted.
  • Students are required to submit a summative essay of 4,000 words at the end of the module. This enables them to demonstrate achievement that they have sufficient subject knowledge to meet the assessment criteria, that they have achieved subject skills; and that they have acquired the key skills 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 Weekly 2 hours 18
Preparation and Reading 132
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 4,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative project of 1,000 words submitted in Week 6 of term. Student presentation in seminars supported by handout of 1,000 words.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University