nl en

Authoritarian Expansionism


Topics: China, Russia, Authoritarianism, Challenges, Current Affairs.
Disciplines: International Relations.
Skills: Research, group assignments, presentation.

Admission requirements:

This course is an (extracurricular) Honours Class: an elective course within the Honours College programme. Third year students who don’t participate in the Honours College, have the opportunity to apply for a Bachelor Honours Class. Students will be selected based on i.a. their motivation and average grade.


The ambitions of authoritarian states to influence and reform the international liberal order is one the main challenges we face in our world today. This has become painfully clear with Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, and with a rising China the challenge to international liberalism is only set to grow. This course will focus on the international ambitions and grand strategy of China and Russia, with slightly more emphasis on the former. While this problem is usually approached from an outsider’s perspective, this course takes a more measured approach. This means that, while not ignoring the question of what the west’s response should be to this challenge, students are encouraged to study and critically asses the motivations of these anti-democratic forces from their point of view. A core focus will be on why exactly these authoritarian states see the norms of the liberal order, and even the existence of liberal democracy, as a threat; how they want to change it; and what they want to replace it with. The work of some of the most important thinkers of this new authoritarianism, will be explored. And generally, students will be introduced to debates on this issue by policy makers and thinkers, from China and Russia as well as the west. Also a number of guest speakers will be invited who are directly involved with this challenge. Though the guest speakers for this year still have to be confirmed, in the past this course has featured guest lectures from: a Member of the European Parliament; a Member of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands; an Air Force General; ambassadors and journalists.

Course objectives:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will:

  • have a clear idea of the motivations informing authoritarian expansionism;

  • be introduced to policy thinking in the west, China, and Russia on this issue;

  • have an understanding of why exactly the current international order, and even the existence of liberal democracy, is such a threat for authoritarian states;

  • have an understanding of how authoritarian states want to change the international order and what they want to replace it with;

  • have an understanding of how this challenge can be countered by liberal democracies;

  • be introduced to a number of people directly involved with the challenge of authoritarian expansionism.

Programme and timetable:

The sessions of this class will take place on the following Thursdays from 19.00 - 21.30:

Session 1: October 5
Session 2: October 12
Session 3: October 19
Session 4: October 26
Session 5: November 2
Session 6: November 9
Session 7: November 16
Session 8: November 23
Session 9: November 30
Session 10: December 7
Session 11: December 14

The Hague, Wijnhaven 2.17

Reading list:

The course reading list will be announced on Brightspace.

Course load and teaching method:

This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours:

  • 10 Seminars of 2 hours (including introductory session): 20 hours

  • Literature reading 6 hours per week: 60 hours

  • Group assignment preparation: 20 hours

  • Individual assignment: 40 hours

Assessment methods:

  • 20% in class participation;

  • 30% group assignment (presentation plus short written assignment);

  • 50% individual assignment (final paper).

Students can only pass this course after successful completion of all partial exams.
The assessment methods will be further explained in the first session of the class.

Brightspace and uSis:

Brightspace will be used in this course. Upon admission students will be enrolled in Brightspace by the teaching administration.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Bachelor Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Application process:

Submitting an application for this course is possible from Monday 21 August 2023 up to and including Tuesday 12 September 2023 23:59 through the link on the Honours Academy student website.

Note: students don’t have to register for the Bachelor Honours Classes in uSis. The registration is done centrally before the start of the class.

Casper Wits: