Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module SGIA49730: The Politics of East Asia

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA49730: The Politics of East Asia

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To provide students with an advanced understanding of key concepts and theories in the international politics of Pacific Asia;
  • To provide students with an advanced knowledge of the power relationships between key players in the region, and an in-depth understanding of how their domestic politics play a role in these;
  • To provide students with an advanced understanding of how these theoretical approaches have been, or could be, applied to the study of key contemporary issues in the international politics of the region;
  • To enable students to critically evaluate leading scholarship in the field of Pacific Asian international politics;
  • To provide students with an advanced knowledge and understanding of strategic politics and how this shapes foreign policy thinking and behavior.


  • Early lectures will provide some historical grounding on the region and introduce appropriate theoretical and conceptual frameworks for analysis before moving on to special topics. These will respond to current and emerging issues in the region, but indicative content may include some of the following:
  • • The East Asian strategic quadrangle;
  • • The South China Sea Dispute;
  • • Soft power in Southeast and/or East Asia;
  • • Southeast Asian and/or East Asian identities and ethnicities;
  • • The political economy of East Asia;
  • • China’s One Belt, One Road policy;
  • • Diaspora and Migration;
  • • Postcolonial nationalism in Southeast Asia;
  • • Nation-State division: Korea and/or Vietnam.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module, students will acquire knowledge and understanding of:
  • • The nature of Pacific Asian politics and international relations and how this shapes state and inter-state behaviour;
  • • The components and dynamics of key aspects of selected states’ domestic politics;
  • • The nature of the foreign policy behaviour of key Pacific Asian powers in the regional context;
  • • The implications of changing economic power dynamics across Pacific Asia;
  • • The international politics of the special topics studied.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should be able to:
  • • The ability to use critically the relevant theoretical concepts and approaches to international politics;
  • • The ability to interpret and analyse key domestic and foreign policies of major Pacific Asian powers in the regional context and make appropriate judgements as to the factors shaping their behaviour;
  • • The ability to conduct analysis of case studies in international politics, using appropriate theoretical and conceptual tools.
Key Skills:
  • Students will also develop some important key skills, suitable for underpinning study at this and subsequent levels, such as:
  • • Independent learning within a defined framework of study at an advanced level;
  • • Independent thought in analysing and critiquing existing scholarship on the subject area and in evaluating its contribution;
  • • Advanced ability to seek out and use relevant data sources, including electronic and bibliographic sources, as well as primary sources, and policy reports;
  • • Ability for independent thinking informed by the academic debate at an advanced level.
  • • Advanced essay-writing skills and the ability to work to a deadline;
  • • Effective written communication of research and policy applications;
  • • Ability to reflect critically on their own work and performance.
  • • Participate in group work and demonstrate intercultural awareness
  • • Research topics via a creative use of library and internet sources.
  • • Retrieve and utilise a wide range of information using their own initiative.
  • • Accurately assess the suitability and quality of resources.
  • • Show flexibility in using knowledge and subject specific skills to meet the specific demands of the module.
  • • Demonstrate self-direction and responsibility in producing a group summative assignment.

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

  • Students are taught through lectures and tutorials Lectures introduce the main theoretical and conceptual frameworks for the study of Pacific Asian politics and are designed to ensure that students with differential knowledge levels approach the subsequent tutorials with an appropriate level of understanding.
  • Tutorials develop students’ skills in communication and argumentation. Discussion and debate deepen students’ knowledge and understanding of different points and perspectives.
  • Students are required to submit a formative group report to allow for written feedback on their academic writing before the summative group report is submitted. The report would typically contain the following features: a critical examination of theories and concepts; problems of research methodology; an evaluation of the literature and online resources from Western and Chinese (translated) sources. This is not part of the final mark and is designed to give students practice in collaboration and feedback on their theme.
  • Students are required to submit a summative essay of 3,000 words at the end of the module. This enables them to demonstrate their subject knowledge and scholarly writing skills.
  • Students are required to submit a summative group research project based on a topic from the relevant list. This report differs from an essay in that it adapts the methodology of the formative exercise to addressing a specific research question: that is, direct reference should be made to theory, to methodology and to research resources in the report, as well as containing an analytical section that resembles a conventional essay. In addition, each member of the group is required to submit an individual work report indicating their contribution to the group and their assessment of the contribution of others. The mark will be determined as based on both parts of the assignment.
  • Skills training sessions will develop teamwork skills, including intercultural awareness, and monitor progress towards the submission of the group assignment. Teamwork represents a key transferable skill contributing to students’ international employability. .

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 9 Fortnightly 1 hour 9
Seminars 9 Fortnightly 2 hours 18
Skills training 3 2 near the beginning of term 1, 1 near the beginning of term 2 1 hour 3
Preparation and Reading 270
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 100%
Component: Group Assignment Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Collaborative research report produced by students in groups of 4 approximately 3000 100%

Formative Assessment:

1500 word group report.

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