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East Asian Transformations: A Political Economy Perspective (PO384)

East Asia is home to two of the world’s three largest economies, a third of the world’s population, and contributes a share of more than 40 percent to global economic growth. The past 70 years have transformed East Asia into one of the most vibrant, exciting, and rapidly developing region of the globe. Now eight years following the global financial crisis, it is also increasingly where the future of global economic growth and political stability will be determined, as nation-states become increasingly interdependent within a global capitalist system. Yet East Asia is a geographically, culturally, and politically diverse region that shares but also defies many of the patterns and principles of international politics and economic development witnessed in the West. And how well do we really understand the dynamics that are driving East Asia’s transformation?

Programme content

What impact is China’s phenomenal economic rise having on the regional and global stage? Are semi-authoritarian political regimes holding back the development of Southeast Asian countries? Do East Asian financial and economic systems operate as they do in the West - is there such a thing as an ‘East Asian Capitalism'? And crucially, how will China, Japan, and the US seek manage the political consequences of increasing economic rivalry? In this module we address these and a number of other questions from an interdisciplinary political economy perspective, placing the evolution of the region and its key actors in historical context and exploring the fundamental social, economic, and political concepts necessary for making sense of the region. These allow us both to understand the region on its own terms, and compare it to the political economies of North America and Europe.

On the basis of this sound historical and conceptual foundation, we delve into a number of contemporary issues facing East Asian countries, and which determine their role and position within the global political economy. We draw connections across the region, across history, and across sectors, for example examining how distinctive East Asian industrial networks are reshaping Transatlantic trade flows, or the effect of historical animosities between China and Japan upon Vietnam’s resource-independence. By undertaking a fine-grained but theoretically holistic analysis of the history and current state of political and economic development across the region, we come closer to understanding where contemporary East Asia came from, the dynamics that drive it today, and where it might possibly be headed in the future.