Unit Geopolitics of China and East Asia

International relations
Study-unit Code
Conflitti internazionali, studi strategici e analisi di politica estera
Valentina Sommella
  • Valentina Sommella
  • 36 ore - Valentina Sommella
Course Regulation
Coorte 2023
Learning activities
Attività formative affini o integrative
Academic discipline
Type of study-unit
Opzionale (Optional)
Type of learning activities
Attività formativa monodisciplinare
Language of instruction
English. English materials will be provided. Documentaries will be presented in their original version. International and Erasmus students are invited to attend classes. The exam will be performed in English. Please, feel free to contact the Professor via email for additional clarification.

The course seeks to understand the East Asian historical and geopolitical experience of modern transformation from the mid-twentieth century to the present, with a special emphasis on the international relations of China and East Asian countries, from the First World War to the present time. It provides an overview of China and East Asia during the 20th century paying attention to decolonization; economic growth; political transitions from authoritarianism to democracy; local conflicts during the Cold War; conflicts and tensions in post-Cold War East Asia.
Reference texts

David Shambaugh (ed.), China & the World, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2020.
Educational objectives

This course offers an introduction to the history, geopolitics and cultures of China and East Asia (Japan, Korea, Vietnam, etc.), their major institutions and their international relations, from the mid-twentieth century to the present. The aim of the course is to introduce students to the understanding of China and East Asian history, geopolitics and culture through specialized material in order to achieve a broad and deep understanding of the area.

Students will extend their knowledge of China and the Asia-Pacific region by studying a wide variety of topics such as state-society relations, late development, nationalism, decolonization, democratization, political culture, social movements, localized conflicts, and globalization. Students acquire theoretical and methodological skills, an ability to detect problems, conduct research and analysis and compose texts, as well as presentation techniques.

Students who complete the course will have a broad knowledge of the major historic developments, cultures, and politics of China and East Asia, recalling and understanding the importance of the key events, people and ideas of Chinese and East Asian civilizations chronologically. At the end of the course students should be able to: demonstrate the ability to understand the importance of the contemporary Chinese and East Asian context; understand the modern transformation of Chinese and East Asian civilizations over time; acquire a knowledge of distinctive cultural and historical features of China and East Asia, with a special focus on diplomatic relations; provide in-depth evaluations of issues that affect the whole region.

By the end of the course students will have an advanced knowledge of key moments and processes in the international relations of China and East Asia and they will be able to synthesize their knowledge of the region across disciplinary perspectives. So students will be able to show a good knowledge of these countries and societies and they will also deepen their knowledge on the contemporary social and political issues of a chosen East Asian nation, acquiring the ability to apply regional studies methods to multiple or individual regions of Asia.

In order to understand the arguments of the course students must have successfully passed the exams of Contemporary History and History of International Relations. Good knowledge of these subjects is important for students wishing to follow the course.
Teaching methods

The educational activities will include theoretical lessons (face-to-face), seminars, seminar lectures with audiovisual material, and DVD projections. The course will operate in formal and informal modes, combining lectures, discussions of audio-visual materials, presentations, and workshops.

Students can choose to deepen specific topics on Asian culture/society presenting and discussing a paper in class, either individually or in groups.
Other information

Attendance is optional but strongly advised.
Learning verification modality

The final exam consists in an oral examination, of about 25-30 minutes, which aims at evaluating the acquisition of sufficient knowledge on the topics of the course.

The oral exam also tests the student’s ability to communicate their ideas effectively. Students are assessed on language skills such as the fluency to explain and define academic terms and concepts, and the ability to understand and respond clearly to questions.
Extended program

Part one. The first part provides an overview to the region: the Far East after the First World War; the Washington Conference and the problem of Disarmament; the Chinese question, Japanese expansionism and “the War of 15 years” (1931-1945); the Anti-Comintern Pact and the Tripartite Pact; War in the Pacific: The Japanese-American Conflict 1941–1945; Postwar East Asian balance: the civil war in China, the founding of the People’s Republic of China and its political and diplomatic consequences; Southeast Asia and Independence: India, Pakistan and the Kashmir conflict, Burma’s independence, the independence of the Philippines, the independence of Indonesia; the Korean War; the Treaty of Peace with Japan and the Security Treaty between the United States and Japan (1951); the Indochina crisis of 1954 and the Geneva Conference; the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO); the Sino-Soviet relations; the question of Formosa; the Bandung Conference (1955); the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); the Vietnam War; Nixon’s visit to China and the “normalization” of U.S.-China diplomatic ties; Inter and Intra State conflicts in Southeast Asia.

Part two. The second part aims to deepen the students’ knowledge on the contemporary social and political issues of a chosen East Asian nation.
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