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The Mind of EmpireChina's History and Modern Foreign Relations$
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Christopher A. Ford

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780813192635

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813192635.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
The Mind of Empire
Author(s):

Christopher A. Ford

Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
DOI:10.5810/kentucky/9780813192635.003.0001

This book aims to explain the Chinese conception of world order to Western readers, to outline the ways in which this worldview has helped shape China's relations with the rest of the world, not least with Western Europe and the US, and to suggest some potential implications that these dynamics might have for the future. Chinese conceptions of international order are mainly grounded in lessons drawn from its history, and its tradition has as its primary model for interstate relations a system in which the focus of national policy is, in effect, a struggle for primacy, and legitimate, stable order is possible only when one power reigns supreme. Its central assumptions are reflected in many aspects of China's classical cannon: in Confucian literature, Taoist works, and the manuals of war and statecraft known as the bingjia. Sinic monism, therefore, enjoys powerful roots in China's intellectual tradition that amplify its centrality as a prism through which all subsequent Chinese leaders have viewed their world and China's place in it. The implications of this cultural baggage have been profound in the past as they have influenced how China has lived out its encounters with others for many centuries and, most dramatically, have helped shape the contours of China's awkward, painful, and sometimes disastrous encounters with the modern industrialized West. Nevertheless, China's modern approach to international relations suggests an understanding that ideals of sovereign equality and international law are currently in China's interest. As its strength grows, however, China may well become much more assertive in insisting on the sort of Sinocentric hierarchy its history teaches it to expect and its traditional notions of power and legitimacy encourage it to demand.

Keywords:   China, world order, national policy, Chinese culture, Chinese traditions, Confucius, international law

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