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Political Economy: Asia




Admissions requirements

Principles of Economics


This course offers an introduction to the political economy of East Asia. Mindful of Karl Polanyi’s view on state and society, the focus is on the connection between politics and economy in the region, but we also examine how these are interrelated with the social and cultural domains. The course looks at the contemporary dynamics of different East Asian economies, and positions these in the history of the region. Based on the historical background of Imperial Japan’s industrialization of Manchukuo in the 1930s, we trace the emergence, evolution and eventual decline of different forms of ‘developmental states’. Starting from Japan as the head of the ‘flying geese’, we move to discuss South Korea’s ‘Miracle of the Han River’, the ascent of the ‘Small Tiger’ Taiwan, and China’s ‘opening up and reform’ under Deng Xiaoping. Subsequently, we look at how economic shocks such as the 1970s global oil crises and the 1990 burst of the ‘bubble’ in Japan, began to challenge the development models of the post-war state-building period. After briefly discussing initial developmental successes in Southeast Asia, we examine the various views on the causes and the lessons-to-be-learned from the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. In the final part, we look at how the leaders in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing sought to cope with the negative consequences of rapid development. We discuss neoliberal reforms under Prime Minister Koizumi and the so-called ‘Abenomics’ in Japan, attempts at ‘economic democratization’ in South Korea, and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s One Belt One Road initiative. These most recent efforts to prolong phases of rapid growth leads us back to observe the rising economies of Southeast Asia. We conclude by following the sociologist Ulrich Beck in asking the question about the future of development in the age of the so-called Risk Society.

Course objectives

  • Acquire understanding of and think critically about key debates and perspectives concerning the political economy of East Asia

  • Assess the interrelatedness of economic development, political systems, and the social and cultural contexts of East Asia

  • Comprehend and analyze academic literature pertaining to the themes discussed in the weekly seminars

  • Actively engage in seminar discussions and give an oral presentation on one of the weekly themes

  • Formulate an original research question and write an essay corresponding the academic level on a subject of choosing related to the course content


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Seminar-style meetings, in which active engagement by the students is required. Classes will include short lectures, moderated discussions, and student presentations. Attendance of the classes is compulsory.


Class participation (15%)
Oral presentation (15%)
Reaction papers (30%)
Final essay (40%)


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Compulsory literature will be assigned according to the class themes outlined in the course syllabus, and made available via Blackboard. In addition, students will be asked to purchase:

  • Studwell, J. (2013) How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region. London: Profile Books.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact



As preparation for the first class, students are asked to read:

  • Birdsall, Nancy M., et al. (1993) ‘The East Asian Miracle: Economic Growth and Public Policy,’ World Bank Policy Research Report, Washington DC: The World Bank, pp. 1-26.

  • Fred Block’s introduction to Polanyi, Karl (1944/2001) The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, Boston: Beacon Press, pp. xviii – xxxviii (purchase of this book is not expected).