Syllabus—Fall 2007

University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW)


PLS 317: Political Thought of Asia


Days/Times: Tuesday/Thursday 11:00am-12:15pm

Location:  SB 207 (to Leutze Hall 255, if size permits)


Professor:  Paige Johnson Tan, Ph.D.

Phone:  (o) 910-962-3221


Office Hours:  Tuesday/Thursday 12:30pm-1:45pm

Office Location: LH 257



Course Introduction:


This course is intended as a critical assessment of philosophical responses to the political, economic, and social challenges faced by the Asian region.  Asian political thought will also be considered comparatively, addressing recurring issues of politics and community life.  Thinkers such as Confucius, Mao, Gandhi, Sukarno, Fukuzawa, and Rizal will be examined.


Course Goals:


First, the course is intended to allow students to read the words and writings of Asians themselves.  This will engage students in primary documents and encourage analysis.  Second, the course hopes to encourage comparison of Asian thinkers with one another and also with thinkers elsewhere and at other times.  Third, the course intends to encourage students to transport themselves across narrow subfield boundaries, considering thought as thought but also the momentous issues of contemporary political and economic development (domestic politics) and international relations touched on by the course readings.


Course Style:


This course is designed as a seminar course. That means the course is driven by students engaging in the course readings and commenting on the reading in class.  Lectures will be few and far between.  In signing up for the course, students agree to keep up with the reading, consider the reading critically, and discuss actively in class. 


Required Books:


Readings are on the library’s e-Reserve system.  Instructions for using e-Reserves are as follows: go to the library homepage (, choose Reserves in the left column, choose the green reserves button, choose Electronic Reserves and Reserves Pages, choose "Instructor" and type in "Tan," choose "PLS 317."  Click on Accept.  Look for the title of the reading and access.


Course Requirements:


Students will be evaluated on the basis of class participation, five tutorial papers (homeworks), a midterm, and a final exam.  The distribution of the final course grade from the various assignments is:


Class Participation 25%

Tutorial Papers/Homework (5 @ 5%) 25%

Midterm 20%

Final Exam 30%


Class participation.  In the old days, students were seen to be an empty vessel into which the professor poured his or her knowledge (more than likely, it was “his”—since it was the old days!).  However, this old-model of education has come under severe challenge in recent years.  Rote memorization is now seen to offer little to students.  How often have you “crammed” for a test and then forgotten everything you learned within a few weeks (or, gasp, days)?


The philosophy behind this course is that students learn better when that learning is active.  Students are expected to attend class (with a maximum of two absences for the semester).  They are also expected to participate in class discussions, considering, manipulating, testing, and questioning the topics presented in class in order to develop their knowledge of the field of Asian Political Thought and their familiarity with the tools and concepts of Political Science more broadly.  Active class participation by all students has the advantage of helping to foster tolerance for divergent viewpoints and developing students’ abilities to formulate arguments in a well-reasoned manner.  


Tutorial Papers/Homeworks.  At five points across the semester, students will have short (2-3 page) essays to write based on the day’s readings.  These homework assignments are designed to help students improve their writing and to prepare for class discussion.  As part of class participation, students will occasionally be asked to review and comment on their peers’ papers.


Midterm and Final Exam.  Exams may include a mix of both short-answer and essay questions.  They are designed to test students’ mastery of the material, strength of analysis, and quality of writing.


Course Policies


Academic Honesty


This instructor believes academic honesty is the foundation of the entire enterprise of a university. Only in an environment of honesty can genuine learning occur and good citizenship be fostered.  For further information, students should consult the online UNCW Code of Student Life at (The Honor Code begins on page 6 in the 2010 version).  Students should also feel free to ask the instructor any questions they may have about academic honesty.  Because academic honesty is treated as a serious matter, the course policy is one of zero tolerance for academic DIShonesty. 


The core principle of the Academic Honor Code is that student work represents the original work of the student.  For this reason, plagiarism, using the work of another without proper citation, and cheating, the unauthorized use of information during an examination, are prohibited. 


The Academic Honor Code works for both students and teachers.  Students can expect that the instructor will treat them in a fair, honest, and impartial manner.  The instructor also expects students to deal with her and with one another honestly.  Plagiarism and cheating are violations of academic honesty because they steal from the original creator of the work.  In addition, they violate the relationship of honesty between student and teacher as the student attempts to pass off work as his or her own which was produced by another.  Further, plagiarism and cheating violate the bond of honesty among students themselves.  Students who produce their assignments through long, hard work are being violated by those taking a shortcut through the misappropriation of another’s work or knowledge.  Most sadly, students who violate academic honesty cheat themselves of the chance to learn.


Please note two particular policies the instructor follows:

1) Work for this course must be yours, and it must be original.  If you wish to work on a project you have previously worked on for another class, you must add at least as much content as the assignment requires that is new and original for this class.


2) You may receive help on your written assignments (not tests) from your roommate, significant other, parents, the University Learning Center, or a passerby on the street.  The process of reading and revising your work based on the comments of others is an important part of how we learn and improve.


Contacting the Instructor


Students are encouraged to call or e-mail with questions, or stop by office hours (listed above).  I endeavor to be available to assist you with your course work. It’s my job.  As a hint, e-mails are likely to guarantee a quicker response than phone messages.  I am most happy to set up an appointment for a meeting in addition to those times listed as office hours.  However, because I have a young child at home, students must understand that there are limits on my time.  A note on courtesy: When students receive assistance through any one of these extra-class channels, they should be sure to thank the instructor for her time, thought, and effort.  This little trick will serve you well in the future. It is an expected part of social etiquette.


Late Papers




Students are encouraged to plan in advance to make time to complete assignments.  Things come up during the semester; relatives require our attention, cars break down, and students get sick.  Students should begin their assignments early enough to allow for these foreseeable and unforeseeable eventualities.  The instructor does not wish to receive any late assignments during the semester.


Papers are due at the start of class on the date listed on the syllabus.  Each twenty-four hours that a paper is late may result in a penalty of one letter grade.  Late papers must be submitted by e-mail (pasted into your message and attached in Word format) and must receive confirmation of receipt from the instructor to be considered "turned in."  For your protection, submit your paper from an e-mail account which will keep a record of your outgoing e-mail. With this, you could demonstrate a true attempt to submit the paper that somehow disappears into the electronic ether.  Do not submit papers to the instructor’s faculty snail mailbox, the department secretary, or under the instructor’s office door.  After submitting papers electronically, students should bring a print-out of the late assignment to the next class meeting.  Late assignments will not be graded on the same schedule as assignments submitted on time.  Under no circumstances should students miss class to complete an assignment.


Extra Credit


Students are invited to attend lectures, panels, and movies on campus that deal with international affairs.  Just check with the instructor beforehand as to whether  you've picked a good event.  After the event, submit a one- to two-page single-space write-up that deals with your reactions to the presentation. How does it relate to what we are doing in class? How does it relate to other things you've studied?  Did you agree or disagree with the speaker/s argument?  What did the presentation make you think about?  This extra credit will be used toward class participation or in the calculation of final grades in borderline cases.




Students are strongly encouraged to show respect for fellow students and the instructor by arriving for class on time. Late arrivals disturb fellow students and disrupt the learning process.  It is better to come in late than not to come at all, but try to be respectful of classmates by making arrangements to be in class and in your seat at the start of class.


Excused Absences


An excused absence is one that is discussed with the professor IN ADVANCE and for which documentation can be provided.  Only for excused absences will the professor allow work to be made up.  All make-up work will be done at the instructor’s convenience.




The instructor understands that some students may have need of accommodation (for example, extended testing time or a quiet testing locale) due to a disability.  If you feel that you are in need of an accommodation, please contact Disability Services in Westside Hall to make the appropriate arrangements.  The phone number is 910-962-7555. 


Electronic Devices


Students are permitted to use laptop computers during class to access PowerPoints, online notes, or to type their own course notes.  Laptops are not to be used for surfing the internet or checking e-mail.  Students with computers are encouraged to sit in the back of the classroom to avoid disturbing fellow students. During periods of class discussion, computers should be closed to ensure adequate attention and participation.  Obviously, when tests and quizzes are being administered, laptops are not permitted.  Use of cellphones, including texting, is never permitted. PLEASE NOTE: If students are found to be using electronic devices in a manner inconsistent with the professor’s assessment of the best environment for group learning, they may be penalized with a one-letter grade reduction in their final course grade.



Course Schedule:


Aug 23 Introduction

Review syllabus, course content and expectations.


I. Civilizational Foundations: Right Ordering of the State and the Duties of the Self


Aug 28 China and Sinicized Cultures: Confucianism

Reading:  Selections on Confucius and Mencius. Wm. Theodore de Bary, et. al., eds.  Sources of Chinese Tradition, Volume I.  New York: Columbia University Press, 1960, 15-33 and 86-98 (RESERVE "Confucius").

Recommended:  Find the Analects attributed to Confucius at  Students with interest in ancient Chinese thought may wish to explore:  The Chinese Text Initiative at the University of Virginia at, the Internet East Asian History Sourcebook at and the Confucian Canon at

Please look ahead to the reading for September 4th. It will take more than the average effort to get the assignment.


August 30 Buddhism and Daoism

Reading: Selected Buddhist texts from Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, New York: Grove, 1959, 92-94, 97-98.   Lao Zi (Tzu), Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching), Undated [ONLINE] [accessed May 15, 2007].  Read Poems 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 28, 32, 36, 37, 48, 50, 53, 54, 56, 57, 66, and 70.

Recommended: Find more information on Daoism (Taoism) at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Find information on Buddhism through the Buddhist Studies World Wide Web Virtual Library


Sept 4  India and Indianized Cultures: Hinduism

Reading: Stephen Mitchell, trans.  Bhagavad Gita, Three Rivers Press, 2002, entire  (RESERVE.  Please note that the hard copy of this book is on reserve at the library. You will need to physically go there to read or copy the assignment.  Do not get too worked up about the length.  There are lots of pages but not lots of text.)

Recommended:  For the Bhagavad Gita in pictures or audio and with explanations of the stanzas, see or


Sept 6  Muslim Asia: Islam 

Reading: Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples, New York: Warner Books, 1991, 59-79, 141-146, 172-188 (RESERVE "Articulation of Islam").  Chapter 42, “Consultation,” Quran, [ONLINE] [accessed May 15, 2007].

Go over Writing Well Handout.


II.  Encountering the West/Colonialism


Sept 11 Muslim Asia:  The Muslim Discovery of Europe

Reading: Bernard Lewis, The Muslim Discovery of Europe, New York: Norton, 2001, 135-170 and 201-220 (RESERVE "Muslim Scholarship about the West"). 


Sept 13  China: Responses to Modernity, Lu Xun

Reading: Lu Xun, The True Story of Ah Q, translated by Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang, Peking: Published by Foreign Languages Press, 1960.  Available online at [accessed September 12, 2004].

Recommended: For more of Lu Xun’s stories (his name is also spelled Lu Hsun in the old romanization system), see  Find more information on the late Qing (Ching) Dynasty and Republican China (1911-1949) at and

TUTORIAL PAPER #1 DUE.  Compare and contrast approaches to the good life in religious traditions we have examined so far in the course.  Please use examples from the readings to illustrate your points and reference the Writing Well handout to proofread your work. A sample organization might be: introduction (to set out thesis), explain three faiths, focus on three analytical elements to compare/contrast (use examples from the reading in this section and the previous one), and conclusion (to sum up your argument). Topics to consider might be duty, hierarchy, harmony, life goals, learning, and how rule should be organized.


Sept 18  Japan:  Modernization and the West, Fukuzawa Yukichi

Reading:  Yukichi Fukuzawa, The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa, Eiichi Kiyooka, trans.  New York: Columbia University Press, 1980, 178-224. (RESERVE "A Non-partisan in the Restoration").  Helen Hopper, Fukuzawa Yukichi: From Samurai to Capitalist, New York: Longman, 2004, 55-73 (RESERVE "Civilization and Enlightenment").


Sept 20  Indonesia:  The Awakening of Women, Kartini

Reading: Radan Adjeng Kartini, Letters of a Javanese Princess, Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 31-36, 49-64, 120-130, 239-241 (RESERVE "Letter to Stella Zeehandelaar").

Recommended: If you are interested in learning more about the awakening of nationalism in Indonesia, consider reading Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s novels: This Earth of Mankind, Child of All Nations, Footsteps, and House of Glass.   These novels bring vividly to life the challenges experienced by the first generations of Indonesia’s nationalists as well as the clash of cultures, injustice, and inhumanity of colonialism.  You can find information about Pram at


III.  Liberation


Sept 25  Philippines: First Glimmerings of Independence, Jose Rizal

Reading:  Jose Rizal, “The Last Poem of Jose Rizal,” [ONLINE] [accessed January 5, 2005].  The reading load is extremely light today.  Due to its length, I will have to convey to you the tale of Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not), one of Rizal’s great works. 

Recommended: Rizal’s best-known novels are Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.  Both are available in English.  They can be seen to be among the first documents of modern nationalism in Asia.  Try to read one of them over the holiday break.

TUTORIAL PAPER #2 DUE.  Compare and contrast Muslim Asian, Chinese, Japanese, and Javanese responses to the West.


Sept 27  India: Gandhi’s Satyagraha (Soul Force)

Reading:  Louis Fisher, The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas, New York, Vintage, 2002, 164-197 (RESERVE "Chpts from the Essential Gandhi").

Recommended: For more information on India’s independence era, see  For more information on Gandhi, visit the Complete Site on Mahatma Gandhi at


Oct 2  India: Gandhi, continued

Reading: Louis Fisher, The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas, New York, Vintage, 2002, 241-263, 307-321 (RESERVE "Chpts from the Essential Gandhi," [above]).

Recommended: Watch the movie Gandhi, an excellent treatment of the man and his ideas.


Oct 4  China: Mao Zedong and the Sinification of Marxism

Reading: Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong), “A Study of Physical Education,” April 1917 [ONLINE] [accessed May 15, 2007].  “Oppose Book Worship,” May 1930 [ONLINE] [accessed May 15, 2007].  “On Practice,” July 1937 [ONLINE] [accessed January 10, 2005].

To learn more about Mao and the “cult of personality” surrounding him, see the Chinese poster collections at and


Oct 9  Fall Break: Class cancelled




Oct 16 China: Mao Zedong, continued

Reading: Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong), “On the People's Democratic Dictatorship,” June 1949 [ONLINE] [accessed October 11, 2007].  “Mao’s Interview with Gunther Stein,” 1944 [ONLINE] [accessed May 15, 2007].

Recommended: To learn more about Mao’s thought, check out these two books: Brantly Womack, Foundations of Mao Zedong's Political Thought, 1917-1935. Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii, 1982 and Stuart Schram, The Thought of Mao Tse-tung, Cambridge: Cambridge, 1989.


AND Japan: Empire as Answer

Reading: Ian Buruma, Inventing Japan: 1853-1964, New York: Modern Library, 2003, 65-108 (RESERVE "Inventing Japan").  George M. Wilson, Radical Nationalist in Japan: Kita Ikki 1883-1937, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969, 65-87 (RESERVE "A Plan to Reorganize Japan").


Oct 18 Midterm Examination


IV.  Nationalism, Religion, Modernization, and Revolution


Oct 23  Pakistan: A Nation of Muslims

Reading: Akbar S. Ahmed, Jinnah, Pakistan, and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin, New York: Routledge, 1997, 86-115 (RESERVE "Jinnah, Pakistan, and Islamic Identity").

Recommended: More information on Muhammad Ali Jinnah can be found at  To learn more about Pakistan, explore the WWW Virtual Library for Pakistan at  Find news from Pakistan at


Oct 25  Indonesia: Crafting a New Nation, Sukarno

Reading: Ross Marlay and Clark Neher. “Sukarno: The Fiery Emancipator,” Patriots & Tyrants, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999, 215-237 (RESERVE "Patriots and Tyrants").  Also, J.D. Legge, Sukarno: A Political Biography, Singapore: Archipelago Press, 2003 (3rd edition), 380-400 (RESERVE "Sukarno: A Political Biography").


Oct 30 Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh

Reading: William J. Duiker, “All for the Front Lines,” Ho Chi Minh, New York: Hyperion, 2000, 515-561 (RESERVE "All for the Front Lines").  Also, original readings from “Uncle Ho:” Ho Chi Minh, “Vietnamese Declaration of Independence,” (1945), “The Imperialist Aggressors Can Never Enslave the Historic Vietnamese People,” (1952), “The Path which Led me to Leninism,” (1960)


Nov 1  China’s Continuing Revolution: Mao and the Cultural Revolution

Reading: Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong), Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, Chs. 7, 9, 11, 21, 24, 27.


Nov 6  Muslim Asia: Trends in 20th c. Islamic Thought, Modernism and Radicalism

Reading: Antony Black, The History of Islamic Political Thought: From the Prophet to the Present, New York: Routledge, 2001, 279-307, 308-348 (RESERVE "The Age of Modernism" and "The Age of Fundamentalism").

TUTORIAL PAPER #3 DUE.  Assignment: Compare and contrast nationalism in a selection of countries covered in the course.  What was nationalism? How did various thinkers and statesmen use nationalism?  How did nationalism fit within the thinkers’ overall conception of the good life?


V.  Grasping Contemporary Challenges


Nov 8  India and Malaysia: Roy and Mahathir, Voices against Globalization and US Hegemony

Reading:  Arundhati Roy, “The Algebra of Infinite Justice,” The Guardian (UK), September 29, 2001 [ONLINE] [accessed November 12, 2004].  Also, Roy, “Confronting Empire,” January 28,2003 [ONLINE] [accessed November 12, 2004].  Mahathir Mohamad, “Capitalism’s True Self,” PBS, “Commanding Heights,” July 2, 2001 (RESERVE "Interview with Mahathir").

Recommended: Roy’s most famous activist writing is “The Greater Common Good” (against the building of the Narmada River dams in India). It is available at  Roy won Britain’s prestigious Man Booker Prize for her novel, The God of Small Things.


Nov 13  Singapore: Remaking a Nation

Reading:  Look over the website of Remaking Singapore at


Nov 15  Indonesia: Liberal Islam, Abdurrahman Wahid

Reading: John L. Esposito and John O. Voll, “Abdurrahman Wahid: Scholar-President,” Makers of Contemporary Islam, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 199-216 (RESERVE "Makers of Contemporary Islam").  Bret Stephens, “The Last King of Java,” The Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2007 [ONLINE] [accessed May 16, 2007].   (Also, RESERVE as "The Last King of Java")

Recommended: Indonesia’s Liberal Islam Network at  See more on liberal Islam at the Wahid Institute at


Nov 20  Indonesia: The Manifesto and Message of the Partai Keadilan Sejahtera

Reading: Elizabeth Collins and Ihsan Ali Fauzi, “No Contradiction between Islam and Democracy,” Inside Indonesia, 2005 [ONLINE] [accessed May 16, 2007].


Nov 22 Thanksgiving holiday: Class cancelled


Nov 27  Modernization in China:  Market-Leninism

Reading: Deng Xiaoping, “Hold High the Banner of Mao Zedong Thought and Adhere to the Principle of Seeking Truth from Facts” (1978),  “Building Socialism with a Specifically Chinese Character” (1984), and “Seize the Opportunity to Develop the Economy,” (1990) Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping [ONLINE] People’s Daily Online [accessed May 16, 2007].

TUTORIAL PAPER #4 DUE.  Question:  Does the good life lie in delivering economic development to the people? How is development best achieved?  Consider these questions from the point of view of Deng Xiaoping, the Singapore leadership, Arundhati Roy, and/or Mahathir.  You may compare and contrast a selection of views, if you wish.


Nov 29  India: Hindu Nationalism

Reading:  Bharatiya Janata Party, Bharatiya Janata Party, 1980-2005, New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party, 2005, selections (RESERVE "Election Manifestos").


Dec 4  China: Contemporary Chinese Political Thought

Reading: (official Chinese government portal), “What Is ‘Three Represents’ CPC Theory?” Undated [ONLINE] [accessed November 13, 2004].  Joseph Kahn, “A Sharp Debate Erupts in China over Ideologies,” New York Times, March 11, 2006 (RESERVE "A Sharp Debate").

TUTORIAL PAPER #5 DUE.  Question: How does religion inform some Asians’ understanding of the good life today?  You may draw from our study of contemporary Islam or Hinduism. (Watch the sweeping generalizations.)


December 11th (Tuesday) 11:30am  FINAL EXAMINATION



You have (hopefully!) completed the course.

Congratulations and have a happy holiday.