From the founding of the Ming dynasty in 1368 to the start of
the Opium Wars in 1841, China has engaged in only two large-scale
conflicts with its principal neighbors, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.
These four territorial and centralized states have otherwise
fostered peaceful and long-lasting relationships with one another,
and as they have grown more powerful, the atmosphere around them
Focusing on the role of the "tribute system" in maintaining
stability in East Asia and in fostering diplomatic and commercial
exchange, Kang contrasts this history against the example of Europe
and the East Asian states' skirmishes with nomadic peoples to the
north and west. Although China has been the unquestioned hegemon in
the region, with other political units always considered secondary,
the tributary order entailed military, cultural, and economic
dimensions that afforded its participants immense latitude.
Europe's "Westphalian" system, on the other hand, was based on
formal equality among states and balance-of-power politics,
resulting in incessant interstate conflict.
Scholars tend to view Europe's experience as universal, but Kang
upends this tradition, emphasizing East Asia's formal hierarchy as
an international system with its own history and character. This
approach not only recasts our understanding of East Asian relations
but also defines a model that applies to other hegemonies outside
the European order.
Subjects: Political Science, History
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