This course brings together International Relations theory and real-world Vietnamese foreign policy decisions and outcomes. The primary goal is to give students conceptual and critical tools to understand and analyze how theories of international relations, Vietnamese foreign policy outcomes, and current political events fit together. The course pays attention to the application of international relations theories to the problems we study, and also takes an interest in policy issues facing decision-makers in Vietnam as well as those facing decision-makers in other countries who deal with Vietnam. It is designed to develop students’ capacity both to explain the foreign policy-making process in Vietnam, and to better understand the underlying patterns, logic, and implications of Vietnam’s foreign policy in the world at large.

The course is divided into three main topics. First, we will discuss International Relations theory that grounds Vietnam’s foreign policy by examining the core international relations paradigms: realism, liberalism and social constructivism. It presents their historical origins, the evolution of their various branches (classical realism, neo-realism, neo-liberal institutionalism, etc.), and studies the contemporary application of the most important theories in the field. The second part of the class will examine the peculiar institutions and processes that guide foreign policy formation and implementation. Questions will revolve around who set the foreign policy agenda and what are the important institutions attempting to implement this agenda. Finally, the last third of the course will review some of the major elements and the more salient foreign policy challenges facing Vietnam since 1975. We seek to understand the security-based rationale of policy as well as other factors – institutional, ideological cultural, perceptual, and so on – that influence Vietnamese foreign policy. We also analyze decision-making processes that shape Vietnamese foreign policy, and Vietnam’s relations with various countries and regions.

offering time

Fall 22


Vietnam Studies


Trung Nguyen



Course code


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