China, Korea, and Japan: Politics and Economics

Instructor: Szu-Yun Hsu
The Workmen’s Circle
247 West 37th St, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10018

What can the modern histories of China, Korea, and Japan teach us about the relationships of politics, democracy, and economics?  The politics of East Asia are widely portrayed as oscillating between democracy and authoritarianism. Corresponding questions often turn on how political structures and cultures propel or deter development and economic growth. What, if any, is the relationship between political form and development? What factors shaped or deterred democracy in East Asia? What do different efforts towards democratization have to do with American empire, postcolonialism, nationalism, and populist politics? How do the economic, political, and cultural stories of East Asia connect with experiences in other parts of the world?

In this class, we’ll take a critical approach to East Asia’s experiences of democratization by investigating the social and material relations in which those experiences are embedded and placing their varied trajectories within a postcolonial and geopolitical context. We’ll first examine the “division system in Korea” and the “two Chinas,” Cold War ideological and institutional artifacts that shaped and underwrote the authoritarian regimes that occupied the “Communist” and “liberal” camps. We’ll then compare several democratization struggles across the region, examining how they took shape from the distinct class and ethnic relations forged by their colonial legacies. We’ll also trace Japan’s search for democracy in its modern history, and the rise and fall of its radical politics from wartime to the Cold War era. Finally, we’ll turn our attention to China’s reform era, exploring the economic and political dynamics that instigated the push for democratization in the late 1980s. How has Chinese civil society changed in the aftermath? How should we understand development and political society in today’s China? To conclude, the class provides a critical engagement with the reviving conservatism in the region underpinned by the idea of Asian exceptionalism.

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm
April 15 — May 06, 2019
4 weeks


Registration Open