The United States and East Asia: Hegemony, Conflict and Rivalry
President Obama's foreign policy was punctuated by a so-called "pivot to Asia", which is now in the process of being re-calibrated and transformed under the Trump Administration. The content of this pivot is contested by scholars and politicians alike, but most agree that it has been occasioned by the rise of China. Indeed, the US's renewed focus on Asia has been widely viewed as an effort to counter China's expanded influence in the region, while preserving the hegemonic position that the US has enjoyed in Asia since the end of the Second World War. This unit explores the important political and strategic issues that this development raises, paying particular attention to the US's activities and relations in North East Asia - China, Japan, North and South Korea and Taiwan.
Each week there will be a two hour lecture during the day, which will be recorded, and then a one hour tutorial.
Week 1 (3 August) Introduction: Key Issues for the United States n East Asia
In this first week an overview of the unit will be provided, followed by an introductory lecture that identifies they key issues that the United States faces in East Asia today. These include economic challenges entailed by increased integration and competition in the region, and security challenges posed by the rise of China, North Korean nuclear proliferation, and juggling the competing claims of various bilateral relationships and alliances. We will also explore in a preliminary way some of the issues raised by President Trump's recent posturing in the region.
Peter Harris, 'The Imminent US Strategic Adjustment to China', The Chinese Journal of International Politics Vol. 8, No 3 (2015) pp. 219-250
Kurt Campbell and Brian Andrews, 'Explaining the US 'Pivot' to Asia' Chatham House Report (2013)
Robert S. Ross, 'US Grand Strategy, the Rise of China, and US National Security Strategy for East Asia', Strategic Studies Quarterly, Summer (2013), pp. 20-40.
Week 2 (10 August) Hiroshima and the Shaping of US Hegemony in East Asia
The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 represented both the end of an era and the beginning of a new one: the era of US hegemony in the Asia-Pacific and the so-called "free world". This week we explore the foundations and nature of US hegemony, and the ways in which the early years of the Cold War shaped US priorities and actions in East Asia.
Michael H. Hunt, 'East Asia in Henry Luce's "American Century"' in Michael J. Hogan, The Ambiguous Legacy: US Foreign Relations in the American Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 232-278.
Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to use the Atomic Bomb (New York: Vintage Books, 1995), pp. 319-365.
Week 3 (17 August) Challenges to US Hegemony; The Chinese Revolution and the Korean Civil War
To say that the US was hegemonic in East Asia in the years immediately following the conclusion of the Second World War, is not the same as saying that its supremacy was unchallenged. The two greatest challenges to US hegemony in these years were the Chinese Revolution in October 1949 and the Korean War (1950-1953). These events would shape US perceptions of and activities in East Asia for decades to come, and their effects continue to be felt right up to the present day. This week we explore the causes and consequences of these events and discuss the US's involvement.
Chen Jian, 'Mao and Sino-American Relations' in Melvyn P. Leffler and David S. Painter, The Origins of the Cold War: An International History (2nd edn.) (New York: Routledge 1994), pp. 283-298.
Warren I. Cohen, 'The Korean War and its Consequences', in Warren I. Cohen, The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations (Vol. V): America in the Age of Soviet Power, 1945-1991 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 58-80.
Week 4 (24 August) The Vietnam War and US Credibility in East Asia
As part of the general policy of containment, the US supported first French colonialists, then a brutal, dictatorial regime, in what became South Vietnam. Their military involvement intensified over time, to the point where they deployed combat troops in March 1965. The ensuing Vietnam War was fought on the rationale of the domino theory (if South Vietnam fell to Communists then neighboring states would surely follow) and the need to maintain US credibility - in the eyes of both allies (Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia etc) and enemies (China, North Korea, the USSR). In this lecture we examine the Vietnam war in the broader context of US diplomacy and efforts to preserve hegemony in East Asia.
Robert Dallek, 'Fear, Ambition, and Politics' in Robert J. McMahon (ed), Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War (3rd edn.) (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003), pp. 177-189.
Fredrik Logevall, 'Choosing War' in Robert J. McMahon (ed), Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War (3rd edn.) (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003), pp. 189-205.
Week 5 (31 August) Detente and Normalizing Relations with China
Increasingly exhausted and economically weakened by the Vietnam war, the US sought detente (a relaxation of tensions) with both the USSR and China from the late 1960s. This expressed itself in a normalization of relations with China after 1972, which would grow into a flourishing economic relationship by the early 1990s, though not without tensions and crises along the way. This week we explore the evolving relationship that the United States developed with China in the 1970s and 1980s, and discuss how this effected China's immediate neighbors. This is important as it laid the foundations for the US's relationship with China today, which includes many tensions and contradictions that are at the heart of the unfolding economic and security challenges that the US faces in the region.
Raymond L. Gartoff, 'Establishing Triangular Diplomacy: China and American-Soviet Relations, 1969-1972', in Raymond Gartoff, Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan (1994), pp. 227-278.
Week 6 (7 September) End of the Cold War: Promises and Challenges
More than one US statesman has commented that US foreign policy was easy during the Cold War because we knew who our enemy was. Consequently, the end of the Cold War created uncertainty about how the United States should exercise its power on the world stage in general, and East Asia in particular. We identify and examine some key episodes in the decade after the end of the Cold War (e.g., the Taiwan crisis of 1995, the forced landing of a US spy plane on Chinese territory in 2001, North Korea's nuclear ambitions throughout this period), in order to illustrate the challenges that the US faced in East Asia after the end of the Cold War.
Week 7 (14 September) Essay Writing Workshop
Clarity of writing expresses clarity of thinking, while clarity of thinking is manifested in clear writing. With this in mind, we will use this week to discuss what a good University Masters essay should accomplish and what it should include. I will begin by giving a presentation, which will be followed by a practical exercise and then a discussion. We will end by briefly considering each of the essay topics that will be on the ilearn site from week two.
No Reading for the week
Week 8 (5 October) The US and the Japanese Alliance
The United States has had a permanent military presence in Japan since 1945, and continues to do so despite the ostensible rationale for its presence having long since ended. The US's alliance with Japan, and its military bases on Japanese soil, constitute the bedrock of US hegemony and strategy in East Asia. It has taken on renewed importance with the growing influence of China in the region, though the Trump administration has created some uncertainty around the relationship. In this lecture we examine the nature and relevance of the US-Japan alliance, and analyze its role in the contemporary era.
Linus Hagstrom, '''Power Shift' in East Asia? A Critical Reappraisal of Narratives on the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands Incident in 2010' The Chinese Journal of International Politics, Vol. 10 (2012) pp. 267-297.
Christopher W. Hughes, 'Japan's 'Resentful Realism' and Balancing China's Rise', The Chinese Journal of International Politics, Vol. 9, No 2 (2016), pp. 111.
Week 9 (12 October) The US and the Korea Peninsular
As we saw in week three, the Korean Peninsular has been a central element in the US's strategic posture in east Asia since the end of the Second World War. It has continued to be so for different but related reasons. We examine these reasons, paying particular attention to the shifting US orientation to North Korea over the past decade, and how this impacts on diplomacy in the entire region. We end by considering the implications of the latest round of posturing and sabre rattling by both North Korea and the United States.
Jae Jeok Park, 'The US-led alliances in the Asia -Pacific: hedge against potential threats or an undesirable multilateral security state', The Pacific Review, Vol 24 No. 2 (2011), pp. 137-158.
Week 10 (19 October) The United States and China 1: Economics
China surpassed Japan in the mid-2000s to become the world's second largest economy. Many economists predict that it will overtake the US as the world's largest economy sometime in the 2020s. This spectacular growth has been accompanied by an increased integration with the regional economy, and indeed an increased interdependence between the Chinese and US economies. This process has been riven with tensions and contradictions, which this week's lecture explores in some detail.
Robert Brenner and S. J. Jeong, 'Overproduction not Financial Collapse is the Heart of the Crisis: the US, East Asia and the World', The Asia Pacific Journal Vol 7, issue 6 number 5 (2009).
Jochen Prantl, 'Taming hegemony: Informal Institutions and the Challenge to Western Liberal Orders', The Chinese Journal of International Politics, Vol. 7, no 4 (2014), pp449-482
Week 11 (26 October) The United States and China 2: Politics
As China's economy has grown, so to has its political and diplomatic influence in the region. China has become increasingly assertive in promoting its regional agenda, sometimes at the expense of its neighbors, all of whom look to the US as a guarantor of their security. More broadly, China is challenging the unrivaled hegemony that the US has enjoyed in East Asia for decades. In this lecture we expand on some of the themes that we began to talk about in the previous session, and examine the politics of increased US and Chinese rivalry.
John J. Mearsheimer, 'The Gathering Storm: China's Challenge to US Power in Asia', The Chinese Journal of International Politics, Vol 3 (2010), pp. 381-396.
Jihyun Kim, 'Possible Future of the Contest in the South China Sea', The Chinese Journal of International Politics, Vol. 9, No 1 (2016) pp. 27-57
Week 12 (2 November) War and Peace in East Asia?
Recent developments in the South China Sea have been interpreted by many as a dangerous escalation of brinkmanship that could, ultimately, lead to war. Most liberal internationalists reject this interpretation as exaggerated, arguing that the level of economic integration between the US and Chinese economies precludes the possibility of war. We evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the contending positions, and put the US/Chinese rivalry into a longer-term historical perspective, before summing up what we have learned over the previous 12 weeks.
James Dobbins, 'War with China', Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, Vol. 54, No. 4 (2012) pp. 7-24
Mel Gurtov, Will this be China's Century? A Skeptic's View (Boulder, Lynne Rienner 2013), pp. 137-148
Week 13 (9 November) Class Test (for internal students - externals have a take home test)
For internal students there will be a 2 hour test that will be conducted in the usual lecture time and place.