InSt 203: East Asian Studies

The University of Mississippi
Fall 2020, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 13:00-14:15, Remote via Blackboard and Zoom
Instructor: Dr. Gang Guo * e-mail: gg at olemiss dot edu * Office hours: by appointment

[ Class Schedule ] | [ Student Presentations ] | [ On-line Resources ] | [ Map of East Asia ]

Course Overview

International Studies 203 introduces East Asia, with a special emphasis on the comparison between China and Japan. After a brief look at the geography and cultural heritage of both countries, we compare their historical experiences with Western powers. In the second half of the course we will be looking at the differences and similarities in China and Japan's dramatic transformations in politics, economy, and society after World War Two.

After completing the course, a student should be able to identify some of the key basic historical facts and events in China and Japan, to understand the essential cultural and political traditions in each country, and to apply the conceptual frameworks used in this course to the study of contemporary East Asia.

It is essential for students to read the required materials before class and attend all class sessions on Zoom or the discussion board on Blackboard. Active participation in class is required and accounts for 10% of the course grade.

The required readings for this course will be linked from this web page or accessible via electronic journals at the University of Mississippi libraries.

Each student is also required to make two brief in-class presentations of about 5-10 minutes in length on a recent news on East Asia. A sign-up wiki page is on Blackboard and each student will choose two dates to present that are at least a month apart. The presentation schedule will be posted on this webpage for your reference. In reporting the news, the presenter should synthesize news stories from at least two major mass media outlets. For the preparation of the presentation, there are many English-language websites that cover news on East Asia, some of which are linked from the online resources section on this web page. The PowerPoint (or PDF) file for your presentation should include at least one page on the main news story, at least one page on some background information to help the audience understand the news story better, and at least one page of sources and/or references. The PowerPoint (or PDF) file for your presentation should be uploaded on Blackboard before the class in which you present. After each presentation there will be a short period of time in which the presenter responds to questions or comments from the audience.

The presentations account for 15% of the course grade and will be evaluated using the following rubric:

  1. Content
  2. Format
  3. Delivery

As shown in the schedule below, this course contains two paper assignments, each accounting for 10% of the grade. The papers will be on some aspects of international comparison related to China and Japan.

Please note that unexcused late papers will be penalized by one point per hour late. Allow time to proofread. Good writing is essential. Remember that family names come first in East Asia: Mao Zedong is Chairman Mao, not Chairman Zedong. Similarly, Tojo Hideki is General Tojo. Be sure to recognize all sides of an argument before giving your opinion. One-sided bombasts are not scholarly. Finally, please note that academic honesty is not only a mark of a good scholar, but also a good person. The papers will be submitted through and thus checked by SafeAssignment on BlackBoard.

There will be one or more quizzes, a midterm exam, and a final exam for the course. The quizzes will be posted on Blackboard and account for 10% of the course grade. The mid-term exam on Thursday, October 1st will account for 20% of the course grade. The final exam will start at noon on Monday, November 23rd according to the Registrar's Office. It accounts for 25% of the course grade.

Disability Access and Inclusion:
The University of Mississippi is committed to the creation of inclusive learning environments for all students. If there are aspects of the instruction or design of this course that result in barriers to your full inclusion and participation, or to accurate assessment of your achievement, please contact the course instructor as soon as possible. Barriers may include, but are not necessarily limited to, timed exams and in-class assignments, difficulty with the acquisition of lecture content, inaccessible web content, and the use of non-captioned or non-transcribed video and audio files. If you are approved through SDS, you must log in to your Rebel Access portal at to request approved accommodations. If you are NOT approved through SDS, you must contact Student Disability Services at 662-915-7128 so the office can: 1. determine your eligibility for accommodations, 2. disseminate to your instructors a Faculty Notification Letter, 3. facilitate the removal of barriers, and 4. ensure you have equal access to the same opportunities for success that are available to all students.

Class Schedule

MonthDateDaySubjectRequired Reading
August25thTuesdayIntroduction and administration
27thThursday Physical environment Borthwick, Mark. 1998. Introduction. Pacific Century: The Emergence of Modern Pacific Asia, 2nd Edition. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. Pages 1-15.
September1stTuesdayRice & cultureTalhelm, Thomas and Shigehiro Oishi. 2018. How Rice Farming Shaped Culture in Southern China"
3rdThursdayCross-national cultural traditions
8thTuesdayNative religions
10thThursdayTraditional Chinese State
15thTuesdayTraditional Japanese State
17thThursdayTraditional farm families in China Video "Small Happiness" in class: Originally shown on PBS August 25, 1987 as part of the series One Village in China. An exploration of sexual politics and the reality of life in contemporary rural China. Filmed under unprecedented circumstances, Chinese women of Long Bow speak frankly about footbindings, the new birth control policy, work, love and marriage.
22ndTuesdayTraditional farm families in Japan Video "Farm Song" in class: Originally produced as a motion picture in 1978. Documentary of the Kato family, a family of rice farmers in rural, northeastern Japan. Explores how each member of the four-generation family comes to terms with his or her traditional role, with special emphasis on the roles of the mother and daughters-in-law.
24thThursdayChina's early encounters with the West
29thTuesdayJapan's early encounters with the West The Polity of the Tokugawa Era by J.S.A. Elisonas 2008.
October1stThursdayMidterm ExamAll of the above.
6thTuesdayChina responds to Western invasion Chapter 6: Internal Crisis and Western Intrusion
8thThursdayJapan responds to Western invasion
13thTuesdayPost-WWII China Shinn, Rinn-Sup and Robert L. Worden. 1988. Section on The People's Republican China in Chapter 1: Historical Setting in A Country Study: China. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress.
15thThursdayPost-WWII Japan
20thTuesdayChina's Economic Rise Morrison, Wayne M. 2019. China's Economic Rise: History, Trends, Challenges, and Implications for the United States, Congressional Research Service, October 21.
22ndThursdayJapan's Economic Rise
27thTuesdayKorea's Economic Rise Eckert, Carter J. 1990. Korea's Economic Development in Historical Perspective, 1945-1990
29thThursdayChina's higher education Yan, Alice. 2019. "Crunch Time as Gaokao Exam Season Starts for China's University Hopefuls." South China Morning Post, June 6th.
November3rdTuesdayJapan's higher education Timsit, Annabelle. 2018. "Overhauling Japan's High-Stakes University-Admission System," in The Atlantic, January 13th.
5thThursdayPolitics in China The Chinese Party-State
10thTuesdayPolitics in JapanPolitics in Japan
12thThursdayU.S.-Japan Relations Maizland, Lindsay and Beina Xu. 2019. The U.S.-Japan Security Alliance.
17thTuesdayChina-Japan Relations Kei Koga. 2016 "The Rise of China and Japan's Balancing Strategy: Critical Junctures and Policy Shifts in the 2010s." Journal of Contemporary China, DOI: 10.1080/10670564.2016.1160520.
23rdMondayFinal ExamAll of the above since the Midterm Exam

Student Presentations

August25thTuesday(No presentation)
3rdThursdayGracie Bush
8thTuesdayMatthew Mestayer
10thThursdaySusanna Cassisa
15thTuesdayJulia Wood
17thThursday(No presentation)
22ndTuesday(No presentation)
24thThursdayJess Cooley
29thTuesdayEdwin Griffis
October1stThursday(Midterm Exam)
6thTuesdayEmily Stewart
8thThursdayMatthew Mestayer
13thTuesdayGracie Bush
15thThursdayJulia Wood
20thTuesdaySusanna Cassisa
22ndThursdayJames Halliday
27thTuesdayAbram Mills
November3rdTuesdayAbram Mills
5thThursdayJess Cooley
10thTuesdayEdwin Griffis
12thThursdayEmily Stewart
17thTuesdayJames Halliday

On-line Resources