Harmony and War: Confucian Culture and Chinese Power Politics (Contemporary Asia in the World)
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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. It practices pacifism and refrains from expanding its boundaries, even when nationally strong.
In a path-breaking study traversing six centuries 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 capabilities of China's adversaries. They adopted defensive strategies 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, he argues, the nation has adopted mainly because of its military, economic, and technological weakness in relation to the United States.
subsumes cultural realism, there is indeed no need to set up a critical test to separate the wang15140_bk.indd 29 10/14/10 9:41 AM 30 CULTURE AND STRATEGIC CHOICE two out. In addition, I have demonstrated that cultural realism mischaracterizes China’s strategic culture because this approach narrowly selects confirming elements from Chinese military writings and downplays a vast body of disconfirming Confucian literature. We are thus left with two major theories: Confucian pacifism and
Use this virtue to embrace far-away people and use kindness to benefit your people. Then the submission of people from afar can be expected.”41 However, the rising influence of Confucian pacifism should by no means be construed as independently constraining Chinese decision makers: its ascendance came only after offensive actions had failed to achieve Chinese objectives, and was used to justify restraints in using force. wang15140_bk.indd 44 10/14/10 9:42 AM THE NORTHERN SONG DYNASTY
equipped and trained, Song navy incapacitated the Jurchens’ most dreaded weapon, the cavalry, as the latter attempted to cross the Yangtze at Caishi. The eventual outcome of the war, however, was not decided on the battlefield, but by Jurchen domestic politics. Jurchen aristocrats and tribesmen, resenting Prince Hailing’s autocratic rule, launched a coup d’état back home and erected a new emperor, Shizong, on October 27, 1161. A group of officers also had enough and murdered Hailing in his camp
and the return of Jin defectors, mostly Han Chinese. Emperor Xiaozong asked Zhang Jun for his opinion of the peace talk. Zhang Jun saw the matter in terms of power: “If the Jin is strong, it will attack; if it is weak, it will stop. It does not matter whether or not to make peace.” Pro-peace officials, in contrast, argued for a long-term plan of self-strengthening, using the peace to give the Song army and people a rest; the best strategy was to wait for something to happen in the Central Plains
Shi Jinqing was awarded a cap and belt by Emperor Yongle and was appointed as pacification commissioner.67 Since the title was typically granted to the chieftains of aboriginal peoples on the Chinese borders, it implied a higher degree of Chinese rule than would be exercised over the ruler of a tributary state.68 Second, in the hardest-fought of the three campaigns, in 1410 the Chinese fleet captured the king of Ceylon, Alakeshvara (Alagakkonara), and delivered him to China for disobeying Ming