Modern East Asian History

Semester: Fall

Lecturer: Dr. XU Hang

Credit: 2

Course Description:

  • This course will trace the history of political, economic, social and cultural change across East Asia from the nineteenth century to present. In particular, the course highlights tensions both within and between countries over power, status and resources, the challenges of retaining “tradition” while attaining “modernity”, and between competing visions of what modernization means and how it should be accomplished. This course will especially focus on Chinese and Japanese history and Sino-Japan relations, and specific emphasis will be placed on comparing the efforts of China and Japan to modernize in response to ongoing Western encroachment. Students will consider the impact of domestic and global conditions on Chinese and Japanese history and will understand the change of international order in East Asia. At the same time, developments in Korea will then be discussed in the context of these major events. This course will discuss regional events in an international context and also emphasize East Asia history as a regional history. From this foundation, students will then understand how history affects the international relations, and the challenges and opportunities faced by these countries nowadays.


1. Introduction: What is “East Asia” 

2. The Traditional Order in East Asia 

3. Encounters & Western Imperialism  

4. Response I: Japan’s Meiji Restoration 

5. Response II:China’s Attempt to Modernize

6. The Road to the Empire: Sino-Japanese War and Japanese-Russian War

7. Colonialism in East Asia: Korea and Taiwan 

8. The Pacific War

9. Japan’s Defeat and Occupation

10. Reconstruction in Japan

11. Hot War in East Asia

12. Cold War in East Asia

13. Economic Miracles in East Asia

14. Contemporary Issue I: Historical Memory and the Legacy of Cold War

Week 15. Contemporary Issue II: East Asia and Globalization 2

Week 16. Final Exam 

Grading Policy

Oral Presentation and Class Discussion(30%) Final Research Paper(50%)

Textbooks &References

Charles Holcombe, A History of East Asia: From the Origins of Civilization to the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

Andrew Gordon, A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present (Oxford University Press, 2003).