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Confucianism has shaped a certain perception of Chinese security strategy, symbolized by the defensive, nonaggressive Great Wall. Many believe China is antimilitary and reluctant to use force against its enemies. Instead, the country practices pacifism and refrains from expanding its boundaries, even when nationally strong.
In a path-breaking study that travels seven hundred years of Chinese history, Yuan-kang Wang resoundingly discredits this notion, recasting China as a practitioner of realpolitik and a ruthless purveyor of expansive grand strategies. Leaders of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) prized military force and shrewdly assessed the strength of China's adversaries. They adopted defensive strategies only when their country was weak and pursued expansive goals, such as territorial acquisition, enemy destruction, and total military victory, when their country was strong. Despite the dominance of an antimilitarist Confucian culture, warfare was not uncommon in the bulk of Chinese history. Grounding his research in primary Chinese sources, Wang outlines a politics of power that are crucial to understanding China's strategies today, especially its policy of "peaceful development," which it has adopted only because of military, economic, and technological weakness in relation to the United States.
About the Author
Yuan-kang Wang is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Western Michigan University. He had held positions as an international security fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
List of Tables
1. Confucian Strategic Culture and the Puzzle
2. Culture and Strategic Choice
3. The Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127)
4. The Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279)
5. The Ming Dynasty (1368–1644)
6. The Ming Tribute System
7. Chinese Power Politics in the Age of U.S. Unipolarity
Glossary: Chinese Terms
What People are Saying About This
Harmony and War does an excellent job of using Chinese history, especially Song and Ming Dynasty documents, to measure the affect of structural realism on Chinese foreign policy. An important bookalong the lines of Iain Johnston's Cultural Realism.
Yuan-kang Wang offers a powerful test of strategic culture versus structural realism in the contexts of Song and Ming China, meticulously weaving together international relations theories and Chinese history. The result is a must read for any student of international relations and Chinese foreign policy.
Yuan-kang Wang's theoretically informed and historically rich study of Chinese strategic behavior is a major contribution to answering one of the central questions of the twenty-first century: How might China's growing strength shape its role on the world stage? Wang boldly challenges explanations that emphasize the distinctiveness of China's traditional culture as the source of its international behavior. His book is sure to encourage important and necessary debates about the adequacy of our beliefs about China as a great power, both during its Imperial past and its current renaissance.
China assures its neighbors that its rise will be peaceful, in part because Chinese have a cultural allergy to aggression. Those who would like to take such promises seriously should read Harmony and War, Yuan-kang Wang's outstanding account of Chinese national security strategy in the Song and Ming dynasties. He finds that it was the degree of external danger and not Confucian culture that motivated Imperial leaders, and that they pursued harmony when China was relatively weak but engaged in war when it was stronger. There may be a contemporary lesson lurking in there.