Power and Order in Other Chinese Traditions

Christopher A. Ford

in The Mind of Empire

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780813192635
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135519 | DOI:
Power and Order in Other Chinese Traditions

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This chapter examines the conceptions of statecraft and international order in the ancient Chinese traditions of Taoism, Buddhism, Legalism, and bingjia, and how these impact the social and political philosophy of modern China as it relates to the rest of the world. It is shown that the Chinese intellectual tradition is suffused with a monist political ideology that conceives of international order in fundamentally hierarchical terms and idealizes interstate order as tending toward universal hegemony or actual empire. Hence, it lacks a meaningful concept of coequal, legitimate sovereignties pursuant to which states may coexist over the long term in nonhierarchical relationships. With the exception of Buddhism, such conceptions of international order may be seen in all the major philosophical currents that are examined. In a country as obsessed as China is with canonical texts and the present-day legitimacy that literary-historical precedent is felt to convey, this legacy of hierarchical assumptions about international order may also provide cause for concern to students of modern-day international relations.

Keywords: China; statecraft; international order; ancient Chinese traditions; Taoism; Buddhism; Legalism; bingjia; intellectual tradition; political ideology

Chapter.  7757 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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