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Title: Chinese primacy in East Asian history : deconstructing the tribute system in China's early Ming Dynasty
Author: Zhang, Feng
ISNI:       0000 0004 2717 0501
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 2009
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The "tribute system" has been the central organizing concept for our thinking about historical East Asian politics since the 1940s. Despite its dominance in the literature, however, the concept remains ill-defined and underspecified. The extant frameworks constructed around the concept also have not been evaluated conceptually and empirically in a systematic way. Most importantly, the tribute system, as an important institution for interstate relations in East Asian history, remains undertheorized in the existing literature. This thesis identifies three interrelated ways in which the "tribute system" concept has been used in the literature and argues that they all encounter problems in interpreting or explaining historical East Asian politics. The thesis deconstructs this concept by developing a theory of Chinese primacy in historical East Asia and by evaluating it against evidence from early Ming China's (1368-1424) relations with Korea, Japan, and the Mongols. The theory and evidence show that East Asian politics under the condition of Chinese primacy or unipolarity are best described as the dynamics between China's political/military domination and other states' accommodation and resistance. A variety of motives and strategies that China and its neighbours can employ toward each other are identified. The multiplicity of the relations between China and its neighbours suggests the need to deconstruct the analytical category of the "tribute system" and develop new conceptualizations about historical East Asian politics. The thesis calls for new thinking about historical East Asian politics, contributes to theorizing in this field by developing a synthetic theory of Chinese primacy that draws on both realist and constructivist theories of International Relations, and evaluates some persistent myths about Chinese foreign policy and East Asian politics in history.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available