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Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power

Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power

Yan Xuetong
Daniel A. Bell
Sun Zhe
Translated by Edmund Ryden
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  • Book Info
    Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power
    Book Description:

    The rise of China could be the most important political development of the twenty-first century. What will China look like in the future? What should it look like? And what will China's rise mean for the rest of world? This book, written by China's most influential foreign policy thinker, sets out a vision for the coming decades from China's point of view.

    In the West, Yan Xuetong is often regarded as a hawkish policy advisor and enemy of liberal internationalists. But a very different picture emerges from this book, as Yan examines the lessons of ancient Chinese political thought for the future of China and the development of a "Beijing consensus" in international relations. Yan, it becomes clear, is neither a communist who believes that economic might is the key to national power, nor a neoconservative who believes that China should rely on military might to get its way. Rather, Yan argues, political leadership is the key to national power, and morality is an essential part of political leadership. Economic and military might are important components of national power, but they are secondary to political leaders who act in accordance with moral norms, and the same holds true in determining the hierarchy of the global order.

    Providing new insights into the thinking of one of China's leading foreign policy figures, this book will be essential reading for anyone interested in China's rise or in international relations.

    In a new preface, Yan reflects on his arguments in light of recent developments in Chinese foreign policy, including the selection of a new leader in 2012.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4895-9
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Preface to the Paperback Edition
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Yan Xuetong
  2. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)
    Daniel A. Bell

    If American neoconservatives are liberals mugged by reality, Chinese realists are idealists mugged by the surreal events of the Cultural Revolution. In the case of Yan Xuetong, he grew up in a family of morally upright intellectuals and, at the age of sixteen, was sent to a construction corps in China’s far north, where he stayed for nine years. Here’s how he describes his experience of hardship: “At that time, the Leftist ideology was in full swing. In May, water in Heilongjiang still turns to ice. When we pulled the sowing machine, we were not allowed to wear boots. We...

  3. PART I Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power

    • 1 A Comparative Study of Pre-Qin Interstate Political Philosophy
      (pp. 21-69)
      Yan Xuetong

      There were several schools of thought on interstate politics among thinkers of pre-Qin (pre-221 bce) China. Understanding the differences and commonalities among these schools may help us glean from their thought ideas to enrich contemporary theories of international relations. Given the great complexity of pre-Qin political philosophy—both in the number of schools and in their teachings—it is impossible to cover everything. Hence, this essay is limited to the works of seven thinkers: Guanzi, Laozi, Confucius, Mencius, Mozi, Xunzi, and Hanfeizi. It relies on the fruits of established research and examines these seven thinkers from four different angles: ways...

    • 2 Xunzi’s Interstate Political Philosophy and Its Message for Today
      (pp. 70-106)
      Yan Xuetong

      Xunzi (ca. 313–238 bce) was a famous thinker from the Warring States Period. There have been many in-depth studies of his philosophy in the light of the history of thought in China, but in the political arena the majority of such studies examine his view of domestic administration; very few scholars have examined Xunzi’s ideas from the perspective of international politics.¹ What Xunzi has to say about international politics is found scattered throughout his writings but is largely concentrated in three chapters: “Humane Governance,” “Humane Authority and Hegemony,” and “Correcting: A Discussion.”² Although what Xunzi has to say about...

    • 3 Hegemony in The Stratagems of the Warring States
      (pp. 107-144)
      Yan Xuetong and Huang Yuxing

      The Stratagems of the Warring Statesrecords the history of the Warring States.¹ Most academics have denied that the book contains any philosophy as such. One scholar who believes that the book lacks any philosophy says, “The riches ofThe Stratagems of the Warring Statesfrom the literary point of view cannot conceal its poverty from a philosophical point of view.”² As a historical recordThe Stratagems of the Warring Statesclearly cannot have a complete philosophical system, but if we read it carefully we can discover many illuminating points of philosophical interest nonetheless. Contending for hegemony was a key...

  4. PART II Comments

    • 4 An Examination of the Research Theory of Pre-Qin Interstate Political Philosophy
      (pp. 147-160)
      Yang Qianru

      Using the expression of Barry Buzan, we can say that there were many “statelike units” in China with complex and varied relationships. There were clans bound together in an alliance under a leader (as in the Legends of the Five Emperors), tribal states on the periphery of the land ruled by the Son of Heaven (at the time of the Three Kings), feudal states under a central royal house (the Zhou king), as well as relationships among various family clans, tribes, and princely states. This essay groups all these forms together and looks at their interstate relations, taking this as...

    • 5 The Two Poles of Confucianism: A Comparison of the Interstate Political Philosophies of Mencius and Xunzi
      (pp. 161-180)
      Xu Jin

      Mencius and Xunzi were two great pre-Qin Confucians, yet generations of scholars gave them radically different assessments: Mencius was raised to the status of “Second Sage” after Confucius, while Xunzi remained neglected for centuries until the late Qing Dynasty (nineteenth century). The main reason for this was that Xunzi’s thought was close to that of the Legalists, and two of his disciples, Hanfeizi and Li Si, were prominent Legalist scholars and politicians. Hence, in a society dominated by Confucian orthodoxy, he was “discriminated” against.¹

      From the point of view of research in international political philosophy, however, Xunzi most certainly deserves...

    • 6 Political Hegemony in Ancient China: A Review of “Hegemony in The Stratagems of the Warring States”
      (pp. 181-196)
      Wang Rihua

      The history of ancient China’s interstate politics and foreign affairs has much to say about hegemony.The Stratagems of the Warring Stateshas much discussion of how to contend for hegemony as well as historical instances of such contention. In chapter 3, “Hegemony inThe Stratagems of the Warring States,” Yan Xuetong and Huang Yuxing provide a detailed picture of the hegemonic philosophy ofThe Stratagems of the Warring States. Through their study the authors have summarized the foundations of hegemonic power, the role of norms in hegemony, and the basic strategy for attaining hegemony. They have also compared their...

  5. PART III Response to the Commentators

    • 7 Pre-Qin Philosophy and China’s Rise Today
      (pp. 199-222)
      Yan Xuetong

      Since 1978, when China implemented its policy of reform and opening, the field of international relations studies in China has made great progress in introducing international relations theory as developed by Western scholars. There has been no systematic international relations theory created by Chinese scholars, however. For this reason, in 2005 I began to read what the pre-Qin masters had to say about interstate relations and use this material to look for a way to develop a new theory. Although no systematic theory has yet been created, the few articles I have written about Chinese interstate political thought of the...

  6. Appendix 1 The Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods and the Pre-Qin Masters
    (pp. 223-228)
    Xu Jin
  7. Appendix 2 Yan Xuetong: A Realist Scholar Clinging to Scientific Prediction
    (pp. 229-251)
    Lu Xin
  8. Appendix 3 Why Is There No Chinese School of International Relations Theory?
    (pp. 252-260)
    Yan Xuetong