Political Science 355/International Studies 355

Asian Governments and Politics

Spring 2017


Bill Newmann, Political Science program

Office Hours: 318 Founders Hall, Tuesday, Thursday12:30-1:45; and by appointment;

e-mail: wnewmann@vcu.edu; Dept. Phone: 828-2076

Newmann's home page: www.people.vcu.edu/~wnewmann with links to other Newmann syllabi and other fun stuff.



Asia, more than any other area of the world, is undergoing fundamental change. The change is so sweeping that many suggest the world is entering a new millennium: European dominance of the world is ending, and we are entering the Pacific age.  Asia was one of the poorest regions of the world only 40 years ago. The economic policies that brought Asia its wealth are being adjusted as these economies mature and as China becomes a factor in everyone’s economic forecasts.   Many states are strong democracies while other governments refuse to end their monopolies on power. In Asia, there are still communist dictatorships that starve their people (North Korea) and communist governments that believe in free-market economics (China). There are also democracies with capitalist economies that rely on extensive economic planning. An era that witnesses such vast and rapid change will also be an era of many contradictions. It will be these contradictions that this course will hope to highlight and examine. The best symbol of Asia today that I have seen is a picture from an Asian newsweekly of a barefoot man in ragged clothes pulling a wooden cart down a dirt road. The cart was stacked with boxes containing personal computers.

This course will focus specifically on China, Japan, and India, the big three powers in Asia. In discussions of China, we’ll also take quick looks at Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore (a “soft authoritarian” state that Chinese leaders often see as a model of political development) and its usefulness as an example of "Confucian Democracy."  One of the key questions we’ll ask is whether democratic Taiwan or authoritarian and capitalist Singapore the model for China?

We may from time to time touch on the examples of other nations as useful comparative examples.  Of course, for your research paper, you may look at any of the nations in Asia.  Links connected to these pages may be helpful: South Korea, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, North Korea, Burma (Myanmar), Pakistan.


 The Issues

As we examine each country, there are a number of issues we need to be thinking about:

1. Democracy and Development: political development, public pressures for democracy, and economic development. Some feel the relationship between these three aspects of a nation-state is different within Asia than in other areas. It also differs from nation to nation. Underneath all this are three fundamental questions:

  1. Is democracy necessarily the evolutionary end of all political systems?
  2. Is Asian democracy different from Western democracy?
  3. Can a nation develop economically and build democracy at the same time?

2. The Role of the State: Many attribute the rapid success of the Asian economies to "administrative guidance" from the government bureaucracy or to a business-government partnership. Others argue that Asian nations such as Japan and the Four Tigers have been successful in spite of state intervention in the economy. We should have fun trying to deal with this issue.

3. Global Interdependence: The history of Asia is the history of powerful Asian nations intruding into the affairs of the smaller Asian nations, while powerful non-Asian nations have intruded into the affairs of Asian nations large and small. The rise of Asia can only be understood in the context of a global marketplace in which nations form a fundamental economic interdependence. The future may witness the reverse. The world economy and the world political system, both domestic and international, may be shaped by the development of Asia. Welcome to the Pacific Century.

4. Modernization vs. Tradition: All societies have longstanding cultural, religious, economic, and political traditions. Before modern governmental techniques took (if they have), societies ordered themselves through time-honored patterns. Rapid economic growth, and calls for political reform that usually accompany it, challenge those patterns and traditions. Sometimes tradition can be married to modernity; sometimes they clash head on. One path leads to stability; one leads to violence, perhaps even civil war. We will examine the tensions between tradition and modernization in all the nations we study.

5. China: Discussions of Asia begin and end with China. Since 1978 China has undergone rapid economic change. Political change has lagged behind. That's an understatement. While communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, those same forces for change in China were crushed on June 4, 1989 at Tiananmen Square. One big question remains for the future of Asia and the world: will China follow the economic imperative and become a peaceful part of the world community and an engine of world economic growth for the next 50 years, OR will China use its new-found strength to exert power and influence in a more traditional way -- expansion and aggression?


The Comparative Method

This course will consider both the large and small Asian nations. This is necessary to grasp the nature of political and economic development in Asia. It is also crucial to making this genuinely a course in comparative politics. For the purposes of comparison, we will examine a number of nations through a common analytical framework. This framework is described in a reading assigned for the first week. The political and economic development of each nation addressed will be considered through this framework.  



You need to read them; you don't need to buy them. The books are available at the Virginia Book Company (intersection of Shafer and Franklin) and at the VCU Bookstore. They are also available on reserve at the Cabell Library in Room 301. If anyone has problems getting access to the texts, for any reason, let me know as soon as possible so you don't get too far behind in the reading. These books will also be on reserve at Cabell Library (but probably not until the first week of classes).


·         Evan Osnos. Age of Ambition (New York: FSG, 2014) (On reserve);

·         Chen Guidi, Wu Chuntao. Will the Boat Sink the Water?: The Life of China's Peasants (New York: Public Affairs, 2007) (On reserve and available on line through the VCU Library web site);

·         R. Taggert Murphy. Japan and the Shackles of the Past (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014) (On reserve);

·         Patrick French. India: A Portrait (New York: Vintage, 2012) (On reserve).



Map Quiz

Printable Blank Maps

January 26

5% of grade

Exam I

February 21

25% of grade

Exam II

March 28

25% of grade

Research paper

Topic Due February 9

Paper Due May 2 (hard copy at the beginning of class)

25% of grade

Exam III

May 11, 8:00 AM in the regular room; note the time change

20% of grade


How to calculate your grade:  Use the percentages from the above table. So, if you received the following grades, you would calculate your grades in the following manner:

    1. Map Quiz: 100, at 5% of the grade, that's 100 multiplied by .05 = 5.0
    2. Exam 1: 90, at 25% of the grade, that's 90 multiplied by .25 = 22.5
    3. Exam 2: 92, at 25% of the grade, that's 92 multiplied by .25 = 23.0
    4. Paper: 88, at 25% of the grade, that’s 88 multiplied by .25 = 22.0
    5. Exam 3: 92, at 20% of the grade, that's 90 multiplied by .20 = 18.0
    6. To get your final grade add all the scores: 5 + 22.5 + 23.0 + 22.0 + 18.0 = 90.5. Congratulations, you got an A.

I give you this very detailed formula for a number of reasons. You should never be unaware of what your class average is. You can calculate it at any point in the semester. If your grade is not what you'd like it to be, you should know, and you should come see me about it. Please do not come to me after Exam 3 and say that you're having trouble in the class. It's too late at that point. But any time in the semester that you feel you are having trouble, or not doing as well as you feel you should, come talk to me. During my office hours and by appointment I am happy to talk to you about the class.


Grading scale: I use a typical scale: A = 90-100; B = 80-89; C = 70-79; D = 55-69. Borderline grades are considered in the following manner.

1.      If your grade is 69.5, 79.5, or 89.5 or higher, then you may be a candidate for a round up to the higher grade (Notice those numbers in the sentence; do not ask for a higher grade if your average is a 68 or 78 or 88 or lower; those are not borderline averages).

2.      You may become a candidate if your grades are borderline and if your grades have been going up during the semester.

3.      That means that if you are borderline, but your last exam is lower than the previous exams (you are between a B and C, but your third exam is a C for example), you will probably get the lower grade.

4.      If you are borderline, and your last exam is higher than the previous exams (you are between a B and C, but your third exam is a B), you will probably get the higher grade.

5.      Another factor I consider is the typical grade you receive. Let’s say we have four grades for the class and three are grades of B and one is a C (bad day) and your average is a 79.6, you are a candidate for receiving a B

6.      There is no extra credit for this class.  Please do not ask.


And speaking of grades: The withdrawal date this semester is March 24


EXAMS: The exams will be short answer and essay. One week before the exam I will place a review sheet on line, linked to this syllabus, below this paragraph. This review sheet should be used as your study guide for the exam. The review sheet will include some terms that are from the readings only, so that you can go back and review those items from the readings. Once you have the review sheet, feel free to ask me questions about the terms. This is the best way to study for the exam. If you understand the terms on the review sheet, you can define each one and see how each one relates to the larger concepts and issues we've discussed in class, you should do just fine on the exam.  The final exam is not-cumulative.


Review 1

Review 2

Review 3



Research Paper Follow this link to the instructions for the paper.  Read them.  Read them now.  Read them later.  Please read them.  In other words, maybe I think it is important that you read them.

Paper topics are due on the date identified above and below.  This is a one paragraph description of the topic.  See the paper instructions on the appropriate topics.

The paper due date is listed above (in the table on grades) and below (in the course schedule).  It is absolutely essential that you turn your paper in hard copy at the beginning of class on the due date. If you don’t hand in the paper at the beginning of class, the paper will be considered late.  The following is also important: Even though I want a hard copy turned in at the beginning of class, it also must be turned in electronically. Please email the paper to me. Do not use the Blackboard digital dropbox.

Optional rough drafts can be turned in up until one week before the assignment is due (see the schedule below). Rough drafts are not required; I’m giving you the option of turning in a rough draft or outline or introductory paragraph so I can review it and return it to you with comments.  I have a deadline here only because I need to get my comments back to you in time for you to make the changes you’d like to make. 





Week 1: January 16-20 Introduction to the Class and China I: Dynastic China

Read: Newmann, "The Comparative Method."

Osnos, Prologue, Chapters 1-6

China to 1949



Week 2: January 23-27 China II: Mao’s China

Osnos, Chapters 7-12

Map Quiz: January 26

Mao Years Structure

Mao Years Public Policy

Notes on Government and Party Structure

Audio of January 26, 2016 Lecture



Week  3: January 30--February 3 China III: Economics and Politics of the Deng Era

Osnos, Chapters 13-18

Chen and Wu, Chapter 1

The Reform Era



Week 4: February 6-10 China IV: Chinese Politics and Economics in the Next Generations

Paper Topics Due: February 9

Chen and Wu, Chapters 2-4



Week 5: February 13-17 China V: The Future of China

Chen and Wu, Chapters 5-6

The Future



Week 6: February 20-24 Japan I: The Paradoxes of Japan

Exam 1: February 21

Murphy, Introduction and Chapter 1 (for the second exam)

Japan to 1945



Week 7: February 27-March 3 Japan II: Birth, Death, and Rebirth of Modern Japan

Murphy, Chapters 2-4

Post-War Japanese Government




Spring Break: March 5-12

Week 8: March 13-17 Japan III: The 1955 System: Formation and Collapse?

Murphy, Chapters 5-6, and 9



Week  9: March 20-24 Japan IV: A Two-Party System?

Murphy, Chapters 10 and 11 (315-368)

Japan since the 1990s



Withdrawal Date March 24



Week 10: March 27--31 India I: The World’s Largest Democracy

Exam 2: March 28

French, Introduction and Chapter 1 (for third exam)



Week 11: April 3-7 India II: Economic Reform and Political Change

French, Chapters 2-4

Indian Election 2014

India Basics



Week 12: April 10-14 India III: Party Politics in Post-Reform India

French, Chapters 5-7

Indian Public Policy



Week 13: April 17-21 India IV

French, Chapters 9-10, and 12

Two Eras of Indian Politics



Week 14: April 24-28 Indonesia I: Creating a Nation-State

Last day for turning in optional rough drafts of the paper is April 25

If there are readings for Indonesia, they will be assigned a few weeks before this week.



Week 15: May 2 Indonesia II: Defying all Predictions

Paper Due in hard copy at the beginning of class




Exam 3: May 11, 8:00 AM to 11:00, same room (Note the time change)




Where can you find information on Asia?


This is the questions students always ask me: “Where do I find good information on Asia. I’m looking for something unbiased and something that doesn’t always look at the world through American eyes (as in how do these developments affect the US).”


Here’s the short answer: For day by day coverage of events in the world:

  1. BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/.   On a day-by-day basis, no other news organization covers the world as well.  It has separate pages for most regions, links to past stories, links to data bases, all kinds of information that will get you up to speed on anything.
  2. There is also a magazine called The Diplomat (http://thediplomat.com).  You can read a few articles for free, but then after than you need a paid subscription.
  3. World News Network: http://wn.com/. This is a site which covers day-by-day events by creating links to major newspapers around the world.  So if something is happening in Pakistan, for example, there will be several links to stories about the event from web-based sources in S. Asia, E. Asia, Europe, N. America  It also has links to regional windows with coverage that is more focused.  It even has links to issue-specific compilations of links on various issues.  For example, the science page has sections for stories on AIDS, Biotech, cloning…


On a weekly basis:

The Economist: www.economist.com.  This is a Britain-based weekly which covers world politics and world business.  There really is nothing else like it in the comprehensive nature of its coverage.  You can also buy it on the newsstand, but the web is free.  It covers world politics very well.


Long Term Views of Crisis and Conflict:

International Crisis Group: www.crisisweb.org.  This is the International Crisis Group, a non-profit organization that studies, analyzes, and makes recommendations about how to resolve various crises in the world.  There is nothing better for the in-depth examination of current world events and the dilemmas of problem solving and peace making.  It has reports (30-50 pages), briefings (10-30), and a weekly briefing (Crisis Watch), which you can get on the web site or sign up for e-mail delivery.


The best academic journal on Asia is Asian Survey.  VCU gets it in the library.  The January/February issue every year gives an overview of developments in ever Asian country from the past year.  Other great journals are listed on the research paper site.



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