Pacific Rim Rivals: China, Russia, Japan, and the United States

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Spring 2017 quarter

Taught by

China has become a world power ambitious to expand its political and economic influence not only in Asia, but across the globe. China's commercial and political inroads in Africa are so great that some have called it China’s SecondContinent .  Meanwhile, American policy makers have signaled a shift in U. S. vital interests from Europe and the Middle East to the Pacific Rim and East Asia.  Already the United States and its Pacific allies are in conflict with a more aggressive and robust China over the control of the South China Sea.

At the same time, Russia is testing the limits of its power not only in the European East, but through expansion of air and naval forces in the western Pacific region.  Add to this Japan's recent "improbable military resurgence," and it is easy to conclude that a new era of conflict is at hand.

But viewed historically, the current Pacific rivalry is only the latest version of "great powers" politics that have deep roots in the aggressive and expansive policies of these nation-states, going back to the late nineteenth century. Knowledge of these ongoing rivalries will help us understand how regional international relations in the Pacific Rim have developed and how they might unfold--hopefully short of global war--but certainly with new socioeconomic and cultural consequences.

This program will explore the complex imperial international relations between the United States, Japan, China, and Russia in the twentieth century and the legacies of those conflicts and negotiations in today's world. How did these geo-political rivalries help foment and shape the Chinese Revolution and the emergence of modern China as a global power?  Is Japan seeking to recover some of its pre-war imperial might?  How is Russia seeking to exert itself more than a quarter century after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and how is the United States reacting? 

Against this background of ongoing imperial rivalries, we will examine in detail the history of Revolutionary China from 1911 and culminating with the Chinese Communist Revolution of 1949.  We will also cover the global Cold War between China, the United States and the Soviet Union (Soviet Russia) and its impacts on national liberation movements in Southeast Asia and the emergence of China as an expanding world historical political economic power in the late twentieth century. This program will be of great interest to any students of history, geography, geopolitics, political economy, and anyone interested in Chinese, Russian, Japanese or American studies. 

Program Details

Fields of Study

geography history international studies political economy writing

Preparatory For

Political science, history, geography, regional studies (Pacific Rim), culture studies


Spring Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

Mon & Wed 6-10p

Online Learning

No Required Online Learning