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Unit Overview


This unit introduces students to the international relations in East Asia. For the purpose of the unit, East Asia is defined as the region encompassing both Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. Northeast Asia includes the Russian Far East, Greater China (mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong), the Korean Peninsular and Japan. Southeast Asia stretches from the Philippines to the east and Myanmar to the west, and from Vietnam in the north and Indonesia in the south. As the world's only superpower which has been extensively involved in East Asia, the United States is discussed elaborately for its role in the region.

The unit builds on POLS1102 The Contemporary International System and complements other international relations units. It enables students to apply the concepts and theories of international relations to a specific set of regional international relations. The unit first examines the relevance of contending theories of international relations, for their insights into the key issues, patterns, actors and challenges of East Asian politics. It then looks at the historical evolution of the region's international relations, beginning with the traditional Sino-centric regional order, European colonialism/imperialism, and independence movements. It examines Cold War alliance politics in some detail, followed by the more fluid post-Cold War period, which has been characterised by, among other things, the rise of China as an economic and military power and the importance of various non-traditional security threats. The focus then moves to the changing foreign policies of the US, the Soviet Union/Russia, China and Japan and their impacts on the region. Subsequently, the major 'hot spots' or flashpoints of recent years are investigated; these include the nuclear tension in the Korean Peninsular, conflicts across the Taiwan Strait, and the sovereignty dispute in the South China Sea. In addition, the major post-Cold War phenomenon of multilateral diplomacy is explored, as reflected in the construction of the ASEAN Regional Forum, East Asia Summit and the increasing dynamism of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. Non-state political activity of various transnational social movements is discussed as an important counter-balance to the conventional state-centric view of international relations in East Asia.

6 points
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 elective

Students are able to (1) apply international relations concepts and theory to analysis of contemporary affairs in East Asia; (2) describe the main strands in the evolution of international relations in the region, from the traditional Sino-centric regional order to the present era of globalisation; (3) explain the foreign policies of the major states, including their dynamic interactions, as they influence East Asia; (4) demonstrate an understanding of the complexity of the major security issues or 'hot spots' and suggest informed solutions to some of them; (5) describe the expansion of multilateral diplomacy and regional organisations and critically assess their achievements and weakness; (6) communicate information, ideas and argument related to the subfield in a coherent and logical manner in both written and oral forms; (7) work effectively in a collaborative manner as a member of a tutorial group; (8) demonstrate research skills appropriate for locating and assessing relevant primary and secondary materials; (9) demonstrate practiced skills of problem analysis and critical reasoning applied to the subject matter of the subfield; and (10) undertake enquiry-based learning and research on topics related to the subfield.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) written work; (2) tutorial participation and presentation; and (3) examination. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor Jie Chen
Unit rules
any Level 1 POLS unit
POLS3333 International Relations in East Asia
Contact hours
lectures: 20 hours
tutorials: 9 hours
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.