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East Asia at the Center: Four Thousand Years of Engagement with the World

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Overview

A common misconception holds that Marco Polo "opened up" a closed and recalcitrant "Orient" to the West. However, this sweeping history covering 4,000 years of international relations from the perspective of China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia shows that the region's extensive involvement in world affairs began thousands of years ago.

In a time when the writing of history is increasingly specialized, Warren I. Cohen has made a bold move against the grain. In broad but revealing brushstrokes, he paints a huge canvas of East Asia's place in world affairs throughout four millennia. Just as Cohen thinks broadly across time, so too, he defines the boundaries of East Asia liberally, looking beyond China, Japan, and Korea to include Southeast Asia. In addition, Cohen stretches the scope of international relations beyond its usual limitations to consider the vital role of cultural and economic exchanges.

Within this vast framework, Cohen explores the system of Chinese domination in the ancient world, the exchanges between East Asia and the Islamic world from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, and the emergence of a European-defined international system in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The book covers the new imperialism of the 1890s, the Manchurian crisis of the early 1930s, the ascendancy of Japan, the trials of World War II, the drama of the Cold War, and the fleeting "Asian Century" from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s.

East Asia at the Center is replete with often-overlooked or little-known facts, such as:

• A record of persistent Chinese imperialism in the region

• Tibet's status as a major power from the 7th to the 9th centuries C.E., when it frequently invaded China and decimated Chinese armies

• Japan's profound dependence on Korea for its early cultural development

• The enormous influence of Indian cuisine on that of China

• Egyptian and Ottoman military aid to their Muslim brethren in India and Sumatra against European powers

• Extensive Chinese sea voyages to Arabia and East Africa—long before such famous Westerners as Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus took to the seas

East Asia at the Center's expansive historical view puts the trials and advances of the past four millennia into perspective, showing that East Asia has often been preeminent on the world stage—and conjecturing that it might be so again in the not-so-distant future.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Acta Koreana - Andrea Campana
A successful attempt to rpovide a useful aid to students in "area studies".
Acta Koreana
A successful attempt to rpovide a useful aid to students in "area studies".

— Andrea Campana

Baltimore Sun - James H. Bready
A detailed, general-reader overview of everything below Siberia and above the Himalayas, plus the offshore archipelagos and the march of Islam. With maps, time-lines and celebrity lists; without partisanship.... East Asia at the Center is an intellectual feat.
Military Review - Lewis Bernstein
I recommend that all who are curious about or who have a professional interest in East Asia read this book.
Foreign Affairs
A superb and readable introduction to the region's history.
China Quarterly
Extremely ambitious... Cohen plunges right in with enviable bravado and scope.
Baltimore Sun
A detailed, general-reader overview of everything below Siberia and above the Himalayas, plus the offshore archipelagos and the march of Islam. With maps, time-lines and celebrity lists; without partisanship.... East Asia at the Center is an intellectual feat.

— James H. Bready

The Japan Times
[Cohen] has attempted the impossible with East Asia at the Center and largely succeeded. His book is an absorbing corrective to the Eurocentric view that dominates most thinking about the world.
Military Review
I recommend that all who are curious about or who have a professional interest in East Asia read this book.

— Lewis Bernstein

James Mann
Warren I. Cohen is one of the most perceptive, knowledgeable and prolific historians in the world today on the subjects of China and East Asia. He writes with the clarity of a journalist and the wide-ranging authority of a scholar.
Akira Iriye
An ambitious project that takes much courage, stamina, and intellectual acumen to undertake. It is evident that Cohen has all three.
Robert J. McMahon
This is, in all respects, a truly amazing study! . . . Only a seasoned, talented -and audacious -writer would attempt what Warren I. Cohen has.
Japan Times
[Cohen] has attempted the impossible with East Asia at the Center and largely succeeded. His book is an absorbing corrective to the Eurocentric view that dominates most thinking about the world.
James H. Bready
A detailed, general-reader overview of everything below Siberia and above the Himalayas, plus the offshore archipelagos and the march of Islam. With maps, time-lines and celebrity lists; without partisanship....East Asia at the Center is an intellectual feat.
Foreign Affairs
A superb and readable introduction to the region's history.
China Quarterly
Extremely ambitious . . . Cohen plunges right in with enviable bravado and scope.
Japan Times
An absorbing corrective to the Eurocentric view that dominates most thinking about the world.
Library Journal
Cohen, a prolific and estimable historian of America's relations with Asia, here explores the historical resonances of the modern system. From the prehistoric formation of political units in East Asia a mature international system arose that was centered on the Chinese Han and Tang dynasties, though Central Asia, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia each rejected or even dominated China at times. This system was successively disrupted by the Mongols, the coming of Islam, the capitalist maritime world system, and the Japanese empire's disastrous attempt to take up the mantle of imperialism from the colonialists. The Cold War and the resurgence of East Asian economic power led to the challenge of the new century. Specialists may quibble that Cohen relies more on narrative than structural analysis or theoretical exploration, but general readers and students of world history will find this stimulating and informative. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries.--Charles W. Hayford, Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Marco Polo, says Cohen (history, U. of Maryland-Baltimore County), did not open up the Orient. He shows how China, Japan, Korea, and southeast Asia, have been involved in world affairs for some 4,000 years. To match his broad temporal and geographical sweeps, he broadens the concept of international relations to include cultural and economic exchanges. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231101097
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 9/11/2001
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 1,037,691
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Warren I. Cohen is Distinguished University Professor of History at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) and Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. His publications include The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations: America in the Age of Soviet Power, 1945-1991, East Asian Art in American Culture (Columbia), and America's Response to China: A History of Sino-American Relations (Columbia).

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface1. The Emergence of an International System in East AsiaIn the beginning there was ChinaOther rooms, other voicesEmpire of the Han, challenge of the XiongnuThe diffusion of powerChinaKoreaJapanSoutheast AsiaConclusion2. Shadows over Tang SplendorThe SuiThe Years of Tang AscendanceKorea, Japan, and Southeast Asia3. East Asia UncenteredLate TangThe Tibetan FactorThe demise of the Tang DynastyNortheast AsiaSoutheast AsiaThe Song reunify ChinaKoryoJapanSoutheast Asia in TurmoilConclusion4. The Mongol AscendancyChinggis Khan and his sonsKhubilai Khan and the ChineseAsian Resistance to Khubilai as Universal RulerThe last days of the YuanConclusion5. The Resurgence of Chinese Power and the Coming of IslamRise of the MingKoreans, Japanese, and Ryukyu IslandersSoutheast Asia and the spread of IslamMing China on the eve of the Portuguese intrusionConclusion6. Europe and Japan Disrupt the East Asian International OrderArrival of the PortugueseThe Ming under SiegeThe Rise of Japanese PowerOther Europeans: The Arrival of the Dutch and the EnglishSoutheast Asia: Magnet for the WestLast Days of the MingConclusion7. The Great Qing EmpireRebuilding of the "Chinese" empireJapan and KoreaSoutheast Asia in fluxApproach of the British empireConclusion8. Triumph of the WestThe British are comingThe Yanks are comingFrance's quest for gloryRussia as a Pacific powerAnd then there were the DutchConclusion9. The Ascendance of JapanRestoration and self-strengthening in ChinaThe Meiji RestorationJapan ascendantThe United States as an East Asian PowerThe Boxer WarIn the light of the Rising SunConclusion10. Challenge to the WestDevelopment of the Japanese empireThe Rise of Chinese nationalismNationalism elsewhere in East AsiaWashington and Moscow look to East AsiaNationalist revolution in ChinaCrisis in Manchuria11. War and Decolonization, 1932-1949In the beginning it was ManchuriaChina imperiledWar comes to AsiaJapan's Greater East Asia Co-prosperity SphereThe war ends in East AsiaDecolonization in Southeast AsiaConclusion12. The Cold War in AsiaThe occupation of JapanRevolution in ChinaWar in KoreaSoutheast Asia and the Cold WarChina, Taiwan, and the United StatesConclusion13. The Resurgence of East Asian Economic PowerJapan as # 1Little DragonsSoutheast AsiaChina joins the world market economyThe Japan that can say noConclusion14. On the Eve of the 21st CenturyDisaster at TiananmenDemocracy comes to TaiwanThe Korean peninsula: democracy and nuclear weaponsRed star over Hong KongCrisis in Southeast AsiaConclusionClosing ThoughtsFurther ReadingIndex

Columbia University Press

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