Conceptual Currents

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:
Conceptual Currents

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The Confucian doctrine disliked and distrusted legal mechanisms, and it discouraged the use of civil law to settle disputes among people. Hence, the Westphalian notions of systemic pluralism and international legal rules of conduct based on the idea of sovereign rights were alien to the Confucian worldview. Particularly in a world order the natural contours of which were presumptively hierarchical and virtuocratic, it was just as discomfiting for rulers to assert their rights against each other as it was for individuals to resort to litigation against each other. Without completely departing from ancient antecedents in its effort to return the country to its rightful place in the global system, twentieth-century Chinese nationalism found itself attached to Western-derived concepts of the territorial nation state as a means to further China's development and restoration. Faced with the realization that it was merely one of the participants—and a comparatively weak one at that—in an international system built around the paradigm of Westphalian sovereignty, China developed a concept of horizontal order using its own preunification history during the Warring States period as a conceptual model. With Chinese political discourse already thick with idioms from ancient statecraft, modern Chinese writings on statecraft, strategy and international politics are particularly rich with analogies to the preunification period.

Keywords: Chinese Communist Party; Confucianism; Westphalian system; imperial power; international law; pluralism; sovereign rights; territorial integrity; Chinese nationalism; Warring States period

Chapter.  5232 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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