Core Modules

Core 1: International Relations: Theory and Practice

This course will introduce students to the predominant ways in which scholars of world politics go about making sense of the contemporary world. Three main approaches will be emphasized: realism, liberalism, and constructivism. In particular we will explore theories of the balance of power, the balance of threat, the rise and decline of great powers, hegemony, cooperation theory, the role of international institutions in global governance, and the structures and relations of identity between and among states and societies. Major contemporary issues that will be addressed include the relations among China, Europe, and the United States; the global political economy, including trade and development, and the prospects for global cooperation on issues such as climate change.

Students should accomplish several major goals: have a conversational familiarity with the three primary streams of IR theory; have a collection of concepts that will travel well beyond IR and political science; develop some habits of mind for analysing competing interpretations of the world; and have a better knowledge of, and critical perspective on, events in the world.

Core 2: International Security – Concepts, Issues and Policies

This course is an overview of international security. It begins by asking “what is security?” and what are the causes of war and the use of coercion. The course then goes on to deal with “non-traditional” security: terrorism, climate change, water security, health security, and gender and violence. A key aspect of International Relations is the possibility of war – the use of force between states for political ends. Students will focus on the problem of inter-state war and the resources in the international system for managing violence between countries. Students will then go on to review some of the leading causes of war: power distributions/transitions, the security dilemma/offence-defence, misperceptions, ideas/frames/cognition, and the possibility of war between nuclear-armed powers (US-China, China-India, India-Pakistan). The course will consider ways of dealing with the war: balance of power, deterrence, and disarmament. From here, it will proceed to consider “non-traditional” security issues. The focus throughout the course will be: what are the causes of war and the drivers of various non-traditional security challenges; and what can policy makers do to deal with these threats to human safety and well-being?

Core 3: International Political Economy

This course brings together politics, economics and international relations on issues relevant to the global economy. It introduces students to various approaches to International Political Economy (IPE) and applies them to important policy issues. It aims to give students a critical understanding of how politics and economics, and domestic and international forces, interact to shape modern policy. The course is divided into four parts: 1) IPE concepts; 2) history of the world economy, focusing on the post-1945 era; 3) globalisation and modern policy; 4) countries, regions and actors. Part Three emphasizes globalisation, which is the frame for looking at policy issues – macroeconomics and finance, trade and investment, energy and environment, international migration, and urbanisation and cities. In Part Four, major regions of the world economy are covered, as are the key actors – governments, international governmental organisations, business and NGOs.

Core 4: Research Methods in International Affairs

To successfully identify and address the critical questions in international affairs, we need tools both to advance our own analysis and to critically assess what others propose. This course provides an introduction to the principal research methods in international affairs. Students will assess the strengths and weaknesses of alternative approaches, learn how and when to use different lines of attack, and gain experience in critically evaluating published research. By the end of the module, students will have developed for their own use a toolkit that includes small-N case studies, comparative case studies, process tracing, hypothesis testing, analysis of variance, basic statistical methods (including regression analysis), and discourse analysis.

Core 5: Foreign Policy Analysis

What is foreign policy analysis? Is it the same as the analysis of international relations? If not, how should we think about their relationship? This course explores these questions by examining, and where appropriate, by comparing, the foreign policy challenges and decision-making of a group of Asian Pacific countries, including China, Japan, India, the United States, Indonesia, and Singapore. Special attention will be given to how the constraints/opportunities posed by the international and regional contexts factor into the relevant country’s domestic political and decision-making processes to give rise to the observed foreign policies.

Core 6: International Economic Development

The mechanics of economic development are at once deceptively simple and dauntingly complex. But it is economic development, appropriately defined, that forms both backdrop and goal for a large part of public policy in emerging economies. International economic development forms an essential canvas against which international affairs unfolds across developed and developing nations. This module provides the essentials of modern understanding on the subject, ranging from programme evaluation and randomized controlled trials through the Middle-Income Trap, financial crises, the resource curse, the Lewis Turning Point, and the boundary between state and market.

Core 7: International Conflict Analysis and Resolution

Conflict and violence produce disruptive impacts over the security, economic, and social wellbeing of our increasingly interconnected societies. In a time when conflicts are becoming more complex, a better understanding of their dynamics and of the means to address and solve them are a paramount necessity for future leaders and policy makers. This course offers the opportunity to develop analytical skills to understand today’s armed conflict and to learn key tools of conflict resolution. Not only it aims to equip students with a better understanding of how to address and solve contemporary armed conflicts and disputes, but also to develop assessment techniques that can be useful throughout their professional career.

Core 8: Global Governance in a Changing World

Intractable conflict, global terrorism, organized crime, cyber threats, nuclear proliferation, pandemics, financial markets’ meltdown, extreme poverty, climate change, food and water insecurity are some of the global problems that states cannot manage alone. All require cooperation among governments and increasingly with their citizens and the private sector; some need international norms and mechanisms; others call for international and regional organizations. This course explores the theoretical foundations of global governance and international law, its elements, and then provides a hands-on and in-depth analysis of the actors, norms, and challenges in the supply of some of today’s critical global public goods, including peace and stability, development, climate change mitigation, trade, food security, global health and a secure internet.

Core 9: Geopolitics of the Asia Pacific

The rise of China has irrevocably changed the geopolitical landscape in Asia-Pacific. This has not only resulted in the shift of the centre of economic, political and diplomatic gravities into Asia-Pacific, but also led to a trend of development from unipolar to multipolar world, especially in the region. Thus, the geopolitical scene in Asia-Pacific involves a fast transition in major power relations, while regional architectures for both security and economic development remain insufficient. This module examines the opportunities as well as challenges to regional peace and stability amidst fast geopolitical changes in Asia-Pacific. Specifically, the analyses focus on four sets of issues:

  1. The role of major powers – USA, China, India, Japan, ASEAN – in our endeavour to sustain peace and stability in the region. And in such endeavour, does the political system, as the conventional wisdom predicts, make a difference?
  2. The extent to which the established IR theories can (or cannot) capture and explain the geopolitical change and its implications to peace and stability in Asia-Pacific and beyond.
  3. The role of leadership (or the lack of it) by both a given state and individual leaders during the geopolitical transition.
  4. The prospect of the development of regional international institution and regimes.


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