78565 - Democracies and Authoritarianism in Asia (1)

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course aims at providing an overview of security policies, both conventional and non-conventional, of Asia's most relevant countries. At the end of the course students will be able to: - describe the main problems in the security realm of the Asian continent; - identify the main challenges and threats and the choices these have modeled in political terms in the region; - understand the differences between "conventional security" and "non-conventional security".

Course contents


East Asia represents one of the most important and dynamic regions in the world in terms of population, natural resources, economic and investment opportunities. Despite the exceptional economic performances, there are still significant security issues in this region that can be a source of instability and tension. From the point of view of traditional security, there are still many open questions such as: the division of the Korean peninsula, the complicated relations between Taipei and Beijing, the territorial disputes that involve in various capacities Japan, South Korea and China, the the South China Sea issue and relations between China and several emerging Southeast Asian countries, without mentioning the role played by the United States in the region's security policies.
These concerns related to more traditional aspects of security, such as military and economic issues, have been accompanied by new challenges in the region linked to the phenomenon of globalization, ecological stability, human and health security. Many of these new challenges, which are defined as non-traditional security, are characterized by their transnational character and by the fact that they often require a response that goes beyond the traditional borders represented by States and their sovereignty.
In order to provide students with all the tools necessary to analyze these issues in a complete and in-depth manner, the first part of the course will be dedicated to the study of the main concepts and definitions that allow to understand and interpret the main security issues in East Asia and the policies put in place to deal with them. Subsequently, the second part will focus on the main traditional security issues facing East Asian countries, such as: the Sino-American rivalry, the division of the Korean peninsula and the North Korean nuclear program, the territorial disputes in Northeast Asia, the relations between China and Taiwan, and tensions between China and Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea. Finally, the third part of the course will analyze the non-traditional security challenges affecting the region, such as: human rights and human security, energy security, environmental security and global warming, cultural security, national identity, health security and cyber security.


Readings and teaching materials will be provided by the lecturer during the course. All students will have to study the following textbook:

  • William T. Tow (ed.). Security Politics in the Asia Pacific: A Regional-Global Nexus? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2009).

Reading the following texts is highly recommended although not compulsory:

  • Barry Buzan and Ole Waever, Regions and Power: The Structure of International Security. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 3-182.
  • Mely Caballero-Anthony and Alistair D.B. Cook (eds.), Non-Traditional Security in Asia: Issues, Challenges and Framework for Action. Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, 2013.

Teaching methods

The course will consist of a combination of lectures and class discussions related to the different readings. Students will be given the texts that must be read and analyzed, in order to be discussed in class. In turn, a student will introduce the discussion by presenting the salient aspects of what has been read.

Assessment methods

Presentation and class discussions of the materials assigned by the lecturer; written document in the form of policy paper or memo policy (details and specific guidelines for the written document will be provided during the lessons); oral examination at the end of the course.

Teaching tools

Slides and short films (which will be discussed).

Office hours

See the website of Antonio Fiori


Quality education

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.