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PEIR Seminar Sino-Japanese Relations


Admission requirements

A foundational level knowledge of Contemporary East Asian politics and international relations is strongly encouraged.
Japan Studies Students in the PEIR cluster may take this course.


Sino-Japanese relations are at the heart of international politics of the East Asian region, but it is often a relationship that is poorly understood. This course seeks to challenge common misperceptions and to provide a balanced understanding of the Sino-Japanese relations. Throughout the course, students will be expected to examine the relationship by considering the perspectives of both Chinese and Japanese actors. We will explore a number of issues and questions and endeavor to develop a deeper appreciation of the complexity of Sino-Japanese relations. Who are the key actors in Sino-Japanese relations? Can Sino-Japanese relations be accurately captured by the adage of ‘hot economics – cold politics’? How do these two powers address the main strategic issues East Asian region? How do disputes over how the past has been interpreted continue to undermine Sino-Japanese relations today?

The course begins by placing contemporary Sino-Japanese relations in their historical context and exploring how disputes over history continue to undermine Sino-Japanese relations. We will then examine how foreign policy is made in both China and Japan and use the example of the Tiananmen square incident in June 1989 to highlight the roles played by various actors in the foreign policy making process of both states. These foundational sessions are central to providing a critique of International Relations literature that fails to provide an adequate account of context and that considers states as actors. Seminar 4 will take us to the library for a tutorial by the subject librarians for Chinese and Japanese Studies, aimed at providing you with the necessary skills and tools to find and judge sources for your assignments. In subsequent sessions, we will look at a number of key issues in Sino-Japanese relations. These sessions start with a consideration of Sino-Japanese relations in the immediate post-Cold War era, focusing on the 1995/6 Taiwan Straits crisis. We will then examine the common perception that China’s rise can be juxtaposed against Japan’s decline by evaluating Sino-Japanese strategic relations during the ‘war on terror’ and the Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute. The next two sessions address the politics of Sino-Japanese economic interdependence and focus on Japan’s public diplomacy towards China, including its Official Development Assistance (ODA) policy, and on economic interdependence as a source of political power. The final two issues address China, Japan and the Korean Peninsula and Sino-Japanese relations in the context of US-China rivalry. The course ends with a concluding session in which we will discuss the main themes of the course.

Course objectives

This module aims to provide a critical examination of key issues and processes related to contemporary Sino-Japanese relations. The focus of this module is on developments since World War Two, but with a particular emphasis on the post-Cold War period. By the end of the module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the complex issues in Sino-Japanese relations.

  • Apply complex conceptual tools to analyze and critique key events and processes in Sino-Japanese relations.

  • Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills, develop the capacity for independent learning, critique major texts on Sino-Japanese relations, and participate in and lead class debates.


The timetable is available on the Chinese and Japanese Studies websites

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

All students MUST (140 hours for 5 ECs):
1. Attend and participate in 12 x 2-hour seminars (24 hours);
2. Complete readings and contribute to webposts, leading and participating in seminar discussions and debates every week (76 hours)
3. write one research essay of 3,000 words (including bibliography), based on the material covered in the module (40 hours).

China Studies Thesis Students must (280 hours for 10 EC):
1. Write one thesis of approximately 8,000 words (280 hours).

Assessment method

The final grade for non-thesis students taking the 5 ECTS module will be based on:
Participation element – includes attendance (students must attend at least 70% of seminars), participation, webposts and seminar leading exercise: 50%
Research element – research essay (3,000 words): 50%

The final grade for thesis students (China Studies only) taking the 10 ECTS module will be based on:
Thesis: 100%

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


A handbook denoting weekly readings will be posted on Blackboard the week before the start of the semester.
Additional information (prezis, useful websites, etc…) will also be found on blackboard over the course of the semester.

Reading list

Core Textbook: Yahuda, M. 2013. Sino-Japanese Relations After the Cold War: Two Tigers Sharing a Mountain, Abingdon and New York: Routledge.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English
and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. I. d'Hooghe


Japan Studies Students: This course should be taken together with the corresponding BA3 Text Seminar offered by the same cluster.