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Traditional Chinese World Order

Li Zhaojie {James Li) With nearly five-thousand years of recorded history, Chinese civilization is one of the oldest in the world. Until the middle of the Qing Dynasty (1644 1911), age, culture, size and wealth had made China the natural center of East Asia and perhaps, also one of the most powerful countries in the world. During this long period of history, however, geographical barriers insulated China from regular contacts with the other centers of civilizations. As a result, the development of Chinese civilization had been largely indigenous; it owed very little to the world beyond East Asia.4

I. China's Contacts with the Outside World prior to Modern Times


The history of China was by no means that of an isolated country whose only contacts with other great civilizations were with its closest neighbors. On the contrary, more than two millennia before the last century, China's vast historical records have well-documented instances of relations between the Chinese on the one hand and West Asian and European peoples on the other. Outlined below are only a few of the most far-reaching contacts pre-modern China had with the outside world, of which the earliest date back more than 2,000 years before the Han Dynasty (206 B.C -A.D. 220).5 Seeking allies against the Xiongnu (Hsiung-nu), the nomadic enemies of China's Han Dynasty, the Han Emperor Wudi, in 139 B.C., sent his envoy ^hang Qian to the west across the desert of Xinjiang to establish an alliance with the Da Tuezhi (Great Yue-chih) people, a Central Asian tribe living in the Amu-Darya valley in what is now Uzbekistan. Despite great difficulties, ^hang and his men managed to reach the destination and return to China in 126 B.C. Seven years later, he set out again for what was then known as the "western region" (Xiyu) to seek an alliance with the Wnsun people, another central Asian John King Fairbank, A Preliminary Framework, in: John King Fairbank (ed.), The Chinese World Order: Traditional China's Foreign Relations (1968), 5. John King Fairbank, China, A New History (1992), 186. Noticeably, China is guarded on the east by the endless oceans, on the north by the barren steppes, on the west by the vast desert, and on the southwest by the world's highest mountain system. Immanuel C.Y. Hsu, The Rise of Modern China (1975), 3, 6. China's contacts with the outside world prior to the Opium War (1840-1842) are outlined in Liu Peihua's Jindai ^hongwai Guanxi Shi (Modern History of China's Foreign Relations) (in Chinese, 1986), vol. 1, 1-54.

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tribe living in the Hi Valley north of the Tarim Basin. In addition to travelling himself, Zhang also sent his assistants to visit Ferghana, Bactria and Sogdiana and the oases of central Asia. These two missions brought China into contact with Hellenistic culture established by Alexander the Great. They also brought back first-hand knowledge about the lands of central Asia. For the first time, China came to know of the existence of the Persian and Indian worlds. Perhaps, the most significant achievement of these journeys was the opening of what is commonly known as the Silk Road, the first trade route linking China with the West.7 In military campaigns during the last quarter of the first century A.D., Chinese armies advanced almost to the edge of the Roman Empire. The description of the Romans was well documented in Han Histories, which recognized the existence of a people of an equal civilization. The Roman Empire was honorably called by the Chinese "Da Qin", meaning "Great Qin", since the Romans were viewed as civilized as the Chinese viewed themselves (Qin) but taller in stature. The Chinese also discovered that the Roman Empire had a great demand for China's silk, and promoted the trade. 8 In A.D. 97, a Chinese envoy was dispatched to the Roman Empire across Persia. When it prepared to cross the Red Sea, however, the Persians stopped it because they did not want to see any direct relation between China and Romans, which would jeopardize their monopoly in the silk trade. Late in the Han Dynasty, the sea route between the Chinese and the Romans was also established. In A.D. 166, an embassy from "An Dun King of Da Qin" arrived at the Han court by sea. The "An Dun King" turned out to be the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. In A.D. 226, another Roman merchant, Qin Lun, arrived mjianye (Nanjing),1 and about sixty years later, shortly after the collapse of the Han Dynasty, another embassy, from Carus or Diocletia, reached China. Direct contact between China and the outside world took a new turn during the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907). Indeed, until modern times, the Tang
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Id., 2-4. C.P. Fitzgerald, The Chinese View of Their Place in the World (reprinted in 1971), 7-8. Id., 8. Liu Peihua, above n.5, 5. Fitzgerald, above n. 7, 9-10. Liu Peihua, above n.5, 6. , Id., 6.
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Dynasty had been the golden age of China's contacts with foreign civilizations. Not only was trade with merchants from central Asia through the Silk Road growing in importance, but the two big currents of civilization flowing from Persia and India began to spread widely in China. With the expansion of the Tang frontiers and the augmentation of the dynasty's prestige, the Tang emperors became involved in the politics of Persian kingdoms. In A.D. 638, an embassy from Persia arrived in Changan (Xian), the capital of the Tang Dynasty, to request Chinese aid against the Arabs, who were attacking their kingdom. Later, when that kingdom perished, its King took refuge in China, where he was welcomed by the Chinese and also given the post of officer with palace guards. In A.D. 643, an embassy from the King of Fu Lin (the Byzantine province of Syria), believed to have been sent to China by the Eastern Roman Emperor Constans II, was received by the Tang court. '5 By the Tang Dynasty, Buddhism had taken root in China for so long that it was no longer a foreign religion. Its links with its Indian origin, however, were renewed and strengthened with the return to Changan in A.D. 645 of the most renowned of all Chinese Buddhist pilgrims, Xuan <ag.'6 In order to procure classical Buddhist treatises and enlarge his knowledge, Xuan ang, an already established Chinese monk of Buddhism, set off alone across the deserts of central Asia in A.D. 628. In a span of seventeen years, he toured what is now Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan and the whole of India. On his return to China, he directed until his death the most prolific translating teams in the whole history of Chinese Buddhism. Moreover, one of his disciples used his travel notes to compile a general work on the countries that he had visited. The book provides information about climate, produce, manners and customs, political systems and history, as well as information about the state of Buddhism in these various regions of Asia.' In A.D. 635, a Nestorian monk known in Chinese as A Luo Ben (A-lo-pen) arrived at the Tang court and was welcomed by the Tang emperor. Shortly after, he was authorized to translate into Chinese the Nestorian Christian texts he had brought with him. The translation seems to have been enjoyed by the court. Soon, the construction of Christian churches in the Tang capital began and the preaching of the Gospel was ordered. This new religion seemed to
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Fitzgerald, above n.7, 19. Jacques Gernet, A History of Chinese Civilization (translated byJ.R. Foster, 1982), 283. 15 Id. 16 Id., 277-281. 17 Id.

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have spread to the provinces, at least to many large cities. A famous discovery in 1625 in Changan of a bilingual stone tablet in Syriac and Chinese told die story of the uhen-quite-recent evangelization in China. Nestroianism, however, scarcely had time to secure Chinese devotees. With the advent of the great proscription of foreign religions in the years A.D. 841-846, it seemed to have disappeared completely. Later, with the rise of the Arab world, Tang's increasing contacts with central and western Asia led to the introduction of Islam to China. The earliest contacts between the two cultures can be traced to the time of the Arab expansion in the area between Mesopotamia and Lake Balkhash, though there is evidence that Arab merchants brought Islam to Guangzhou (Canton) by sea at about the same period. The meeting of the two cultures facilitated the transmission of certain skills from China to the Arab world and then to Europe. The best known example is that of paper. By the time of the Arab conquest, Chinese paper manufacturers, weavers, goldsmiths, and painters were found on the banks of the Tigris. During the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368), the Mongol expansion throughout the central and west Asia and up to the lands of the Eastern Europe renewed the importance of the old trade route that had linked China and the West since Han times. Contacts between East Asia and the Hellenic world, however, and later with Islam via the sea route, were available. This land route was systematically organized by the Mongols, who extended to it the Chinese institution of postal relays. As a result, contacts between Outer Mongolia and the northern part of China on the one hand, and Russia, Persia, and the Mediterranean, on the other, increased remarkably. The Mongol domain was traversed by men of every nation, and because of the links between business and administration in the Mongols' political system, certain foreigners were even allowed to serve as officials in the Yuan court. By this time, countries of the Western Europe had decided to send Franciscan missionaries to China. Among many of these Catholic missionaries, the names of the famous Venetian merchants Niccolo, Maffio, and Marco Polo will be always remembered. The brothers Niccolo and Maffio left Venice in 1254 on a journey to China via the land route. They returned to Italy in 1269, and set off again in 1271 with Marco Polo, son of Niccolo and nephew of Maffio. They arrived in Beijing in 1275, where they were warmly welcomed by the Yuan emperor. Very impressed by Marco's extraordinary
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Id., 283. Id., 287-289.


Id., 373-374.

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talent, the emperor assigned to Marco Polo the task of governing the big commercial city of Yangzhou, and later, entrusted him with various different missions. In 1292, after spending about a quarter of a century in East Asia, Marco Polo returned to Venice. A few years later, his memoirs were published as the famous Book o/Ser Marco Polo, an immortal masterpiece of information about oriental civilization during the medieval period.21 The Ming Dynasty (1368-1643) witnessed the rise of great maritime expeditions conducted by the Ming Emperor Yongle's Grand Eunuch, heng He. From 1404 to 1433, heng led seven expeditions with large naval forces. The first three voyages reached the southeast coast of Vietnam, Java, Sumatra, Malacca, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Siam and the western coast of southern India. The fourth went beyond India to Hormuz, and the last three visited ports on the east coast of Africa, as far south as Malindi (near Mombasa). Detachments of the fleet made special side trips, one of them to Mecca. As was the case with other envoys to distant countries, the 1405-1433 maritime expeditions led by Zheng He were followed by the publication of geographical works that enlarged Chinese knowledge of the oceans and overseas countries and made it more
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precise.

II. Traditional Chinese View of World Order


While these instances, and others, illustrate that throughout Chinese history, China has dealt with foreign nations, the long-asked question is why these contacts did not develop into a system of inter-state relations in the sense in which it emerged in the seventeenth century in the Western world. To answer this question, one must first bear in mind that, due to the geographical barriers that blocked China from the outside world, contacts with foreign nations in the early days were at best a weak, long link, susceptible to constant interruptions. Although the contacts became more extensive and frequent in later dynasties, no sustained, purposeful burst of cultural borrowing ever took place. The significance of these contacts was further weakened by the great Id., 374-375.
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The naval force comprised several dozen big "treasure-ships", which displaced more than 3,000 tons apiece. In the first voyage, Zheng He was accompanied by a staff of 70 eunuchs, 180 medical personnel, 5 astrologers, and 300 military officers, who commanded a force of 26,800 men. See Fairbank, above n.2, 137-138. Id. Immanuel C.Y. Hsu maintains that the main streams of Chinese and Western civilizations moved in divergent directions. The major currents of the two civilizations could not meet until one of them had developed sufficient power and technology, coupled with interest, to reach the other. See, Hsu, above n.4, 6-7.

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distances and long periods through which these cultural imports had to travel, and by the fact that these contacts were conducted via intermediaries rather than through direct interactions with the centers that produced these imports. More importantly, until the Western powers' invasion in East Asia in the nineteenth century, the conduct of China's foreign affairs had been primarily directed under the traditional Chinese world outlook based on a political philosophy that had been in effect since time immemorial. Thus, in order to understand China's response to the head-on confrontation with the West in the nineteenth century and the calamitous consequence thereof, one has to first understand the nature of the traditional Chinese conception of world order.
/ . Sinocentrism and Cultural Supremacy
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For a long time, geographical barriers kept the whole region of East Asia separate from the West. To Westerners, East Asia was a remote and seemingly inaccessible land at the end of the earth. Even today, in European parlance, "the Far East" still remains in common use. However, the Chinese did not perceive their world the same way the Westerners did. The Far Eastern region in Chinese eyes became Tianxia, literally, "all under Heaven," of which China perceived itself to be the very center.27 Thus, China's name, ^hongguo, denoted a sense of "the central country" or Middle Kingdom which embraced the whole world known to it. Such traditional Chinese perception of its place in the world is what Western historians have meant by the term, "Sinocentrism," which generally is used to characterize traditional China's relations with other nations. Of course, China's self-image as the center of the world is a false idea in modern geographical terms. Throughout history, however, such idea accorded closely with the facts of East Asian experience, and seemed to be reinforced by practical reality. The Chinese world (tianxia) originated in an agrarian-based cultural island in the Yellow River valley in what is now North

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Immanuel C.Y. Hsu, China's Entrance into the Family of Nations (1960), 5-6. Moreover, Fairbank has identified a set of assumptions which underlie the origin and growth of the traditional Chinese view of world order. See, Fairbank, above n.l, 4-14. Hsu, id., 6.

Fairbank, above n . l , 2.

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China. This area was insulated from the rest of the world by geographical barriers, and surrounded by minority tribal groups, Man, Ti, Xiong and Di, the four quarters. It was this closed world that nurtured the growth of Chinese civilization, which was at no time in direct contact with any people of an equal level of civilization. The subsequent movement of Chinese civilization, mainly southward, and then to other parts of China, expanded the Chinese world by absorbing both surrounding territories and people into the Chinese domain. The process of such development was so gradual that it was impossible to say in which year any given territory came under the Chinese control. The result, however, was solid and invariable: whether through military campaigns or sustained cultural influence, it was always the "alien" people, or the "barbarian," to use the Chinese term, who were either ejected from the Chinese domain or admitted into the Chinese world. Consequently, an assumption was created that China remained the center of civilization, and the Chinese form of civilization was superior. Moreover, as Fairbank notes, the Chinese were impressed that their superiority was not one of more material power but of culture. Indeed, so great was their virtue, so overwhelming the achievements of the Middle Kingdom in art and letters and the art of living, that no barbarian could long resist them.33 In the end, when the Chinese tianxia reached its outposts, all peripheral countriesKorea, Annam (Vietnam), Siam (Thailand), Burma, Japan, and the small island kingdom of Liuqiu (Ryukyu Islands)came under the powerful shadow of Chinese civilization. China's cultural, political, economic, and military preeminence caused it to remain the "natural" center of East Asia with a group of tributary states clustered on its borders. This confirmed the Chinese in their belief that their civilization was matchless and supreme. Historians agree that, in the earliest literate period, China was a group of states living in what is now North China, linked by culture and by language, and surrounded by barbarian tribes. See Fitzgerald, above n.7, 3-5. Wang Gungwu, Early Ming Relations with Southeast Asia: A Background Essay, in Fairbank, above n.l, 37. Fairbank, above n.l, 5.
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T.F. Tsiang, China and European Expansion, in Immanuel C.Y. Hsu (ed.), Readings in Modern Chinese History (1971), 130. Wang, above n.29.
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John K. Fairbank, 1 Tributary Trade and China's Relations with the West, Far Eastern Quarterly (1942), 129. In the formative age of the Chinese empire, the Chinese civilization moved mainly southward to the Yangzi River valley, where the way of life was, like that of the Chinese, sedentary agriculture, but backward. As the nomadic peoples were not rice cultivators, and the Chinese and southerners were not pastoralists, the southern

Li, Traditional Chinese World Order 2. The Concept of Universal State

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Coupled with the sinocentrism was a vague but pervasive sense of allembracing unity of the Chinese tianxia, in which the Chinese emperor claimed to be Tianzi (the Son of Heaven), who had supreme power to reign and rule over all human affairs. The Book of Poetry expressed this sentiment in the following words: Under the wide heaven, there is no land that is not the Emperor's, and within the sea-boundaries of the land, there is none who is not a subject of the Emperor. The notion of a universal state ruled by a universal emperor had long preceded the first effective political unification of the Chinese world, and persisted throughout Chinese history. The existence of China as a unified world may be dated back to prehistorical times when the Chinese knew their Central Kingdom as Xia (approximately 2200-1700 B.C.).37 Later, the Shang Dynasty (approximately 1700-1100 B.C.), which replaced Xia, was believed to have once ruled over all China.38 When the %hou Dynasty (approximately 1100-256 B.C.) replaced the Shang at the end of the first millennium B.C., the concept of the Middle peoples could be absorbed, civilized, and made into "Chinese," and gradually admitted into the circle of the civilized states. The northern nomads, however, remained beyond this pale. Their steppes yielding no crops, it was profitless to expand to such a country, and all that could be done was to keep its dangerous inhabitants from raiding China. Thus, the Great Wall was built up along the ridges of the northern mountain chain, ranging from the sea coast to the borders of the central Asia desert. The Great Wall was also regarded as the physical limit of civilization, beyond which the northern nomads might live, or die, as they would; their realm was no part of China. Id. See also Fairbank, above n.l, 5; Hsu, above n.25, 6; and Hsu, above n.4, 6.
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Book of Poetry (Shi Jing, Xiaoya, Beishan in Chinese) has been literally translated as Book of Odes. The original Chinese reads pu tian zfri xia, moftu, shuai tu zhi bin, mo.

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This is cited from Immanuel C.Y. Hsu's translation which is more literal. See Hsu, above n.4, 6. The most recently revised version of the Chinese-English Bilingual Series of Chinese Classics (1991), 437 gives the following translation: "Under the whole heaven, every spot is the sovereign's ground; to the borders of land, every individual is the sovereign's minister." Fairbank, above n. 1, 5. It is said that the Xia stood for a group of separate states loosely linked together by common culture and by language. Id., 4. Id, 6.

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Kingdom was born. Despite the fact the %hou disintegrated into many adversary vassals in the periods known as the Spring and Autumn (722^476 B.C.) and the Warring States (475-221 B.C.), and despite the fact that each of them claimed to be independent by centering themselves in their walled capital, the notion of universal state had hardly been challenged. These "inter-state" contests were seen as the rivalries of princely houses for supremacy instead of the conquest of one people by another.40 There still existed a general sense of unity based on the same language, and cultural and racial identity among these states which was expressed in the belief that all the Chinese peopleboth the rulers and the ruledwere descended from the Yellow Emperor {Huang Di), the semi-divine Sage King of remote antiquity. As a result, the subordination to the universal rule of the %hou persisted, at least in theory. The Qin's unification of all the warring states and the consequent founding of China's first centralized dynasty, the Qin Dynasty in 221 B.C., substantially reinforced the long-held belief that the Chinese world was a united and centralized whole.4 What followed the Qin Dynasty had been a history of dynastic cyclethe fall of old dynasties and the rise of new ones. China as a unified empire under one dynasty rather than divided between two or more, however, had never ceased to exist. Even when China was subject to partial conquest by northern nomads during periods of internal chaos and weakness, the idea of a universal state was only slightly impaired. In order to administer the conquered land, the nomad invaders, the minority group in terms of population and the inferior group in the arts of civilization, had to cooperate with the Chinese majority. To obtain this cooperation the nomad invaders had to utilize the Chinese tradition and adapt themselves to the arts

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Fairbank, above n.2, 49. Fitzgerald, above n.7, 5. The Chinese view of their origin has been firmly held to this date, and seems to be more supported by archaeological evidence. Fairbank, above n.l, 5, 279. As Fitzgerald writes, "The contest of the warring kingdoms, north and south alike, were seen as the struggles of princely houses for supremacy, not as the conquest of one people by a foreign race. Statesmen, nobles and warriors could change their allegiance, travel the land in search of a just prince or a worthy master. This was not treachery, no sense of betraying the home country deterred men from taking service under a prince who might become the enemy of the ruler of the wanderer's native land." Fitzgerald, above n.7, 5.

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favored by the Chinese. Soon they found themselves assimilated into the Chinese world. With the deeply-ingrained and commonly-shared belief in belonging to a civilization, the ideal of a unified empire was seen as normal and right, whereas division, which only resulted from weakness, confusion, or partial, passing foreign conquest, was aberrant, and thus could not survive. With the continuing outward expansion of the Chinese tianxia, which brought the culture of the old center of Chinese civilization to the surrounding regions, any barbarian tribes who adopted the ways of China, accepted its ideas, and submitted to its rule were susceptible to being civilized, and were thus transformed into the fold as "new" Chinese.46 By the time the Chinese frontiers were pushed to the edge of the Far East, China had become, in fact, a world onto itself.47
3. Civilization v. Barbarity

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Since the concept of Chinese universal empire was that of an allembracing domain, which included the whole world known to it, it was social in nature rather than limited by geographical boundaries. For this reason, the traditional Chinese perception of the world had a characteristic absence of national sentiment in its modern meaning; the concept of nationality in the sense in which it appeared at very early times in the West remained unknown to the Chinese throughout history. In addition, there was no national flag in Imperial China; there were only dynastic or royal banners. After centuries of solitary grandeur as the center of Eastern Asia, what the Chinese developed may be described as a spirit of culturalism, which mattered only with the distinction between civilization and barbarity. However, barbarity was not tested by race, religion, language or national origin as the semantic force of

As compared by Fitzgerald, in the former Roman world the differences of race, language, and later of religion reinforced a separation which the Adriatic already imposed; in China, however, an identity of race, language, and tradition reinforced a unity, see above n.7, 1417. Fairbank, above n. 1, 9. * M., 4-7. Hsu, above n.25, 6. 48 Thus, before the Opium War (1839-1842) broke out, when the British superintendent of trade in China urged the Viceroy of Canton to settle the differences between the "two nations" peacefully, the Chinese viceroy was puzzled by the term "two nations," which he took for England and the United States." Hsu, above n.25, 13.

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the term was to Greeks and Latins. Instead, civilization and barbarity were conceptually related in that they defined each other.49 "He was barbarian who did not accept Chinese civilization and who knew not the refinement of ceremony, music, and culture."50 By definition, Chinese superiority over the barbarians was based on a cultural rather than political ground. The only test of barbarity rested on the standard of cultural achievement. In Chinese eyes, barbarians were simply those who were ignorant of the beauty of the Chinese way of life and not sophisticated enough to appreciate reason and ethics as the Chinese did. They were not foreign peoples but uncultivated, outlandish peoples waiting for assimilation into the Chinese world. From this it followed that the sign of the barbarian was not race or origin so much as non-adherence to the Chinese way of life. Those who did not follow the Chinese way were ipso facto barbarians. Barbarians could become Chinese "when they advanced to the Chinese level of civilization." By the same token, "the Chinese became barbarians if they debased themselves through uncivil practices."53 Such a spirit of culturalism dictated that the power to move others came from right conduct according to certain virtuous norms. Thus, the ruler could gain prestige and influence over people merely by being virtuous. By a logical expansion of this theory, the emperor's virtuous action was believed to attract irresistibly the barbarians who were outside the pale of Chinese civilization proper. The corollary of this theory was that the way to assimilate barbarians, as admonished by the Chinese classical teachings, was to win their admiration for the grandeur of Chinese civilization through a virtuous and benevolent concern for their welfare given by the Son of Heaven. It was the function of the emperor to be compassionate and generous. His tender cherishing of men from afar (huairou yuanren) is one of the cliches in all documents on foreign Mancall, The Ch'ing Tribute System: An Interpretive Essay, in: John King Fairbank (ed.), The Chinese World Order: Traditional China's Foreign Relations (1968), 63. Hsu, above n.25, 6-7. Id. Hsu also points out: "In their utter ignorance of the beauty of the Chinese way of life and in their lack of sufficient intellect to appreciate reason and ethics, the barbarians were considered no different from the lower animals. Nothing expresses these sentiments so well as the ideographic Chinese characters used to designate the barbarians. The designation for southern barbarians, Man, is written with an "insect" (ch'ung) radical, and that for the northern barbarians, 77, is written with a "dog" (ch'uan) radical. Ch'iang, a Western tribe, is written with the "sheep" (yang) radical." Id. Id., 8.

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relations. In return, the barbarian were expected to voluntarily seek to come and be transformed (laihua) and so participate in its benefits. Accordingly, die Chinese did not feel the need to go out to bring die blessings of their way of life, dieir ideas, their values, and their political system to the outlandish tribes. When these tribes adopted elements of Chinese culture, they did so for their own reasons, and the Chinese were always encouraging those who wished to transform themselves into members of civilization; but they did not, like the Western powers in die nineteenth and twentieth centuries, try to convert and civilize die world by subduing it and turning it into a replication of themselves. As Hsu apdy suggests, die Chinese policy towards barbarian people was colored with a passive laissez-faire attitude to "expect them to come to obtain transformation of their own accord." This policy particularly accounted for China's defensive approach to the situation where barbarian peoples who were not willing to submit to civilization kept disturbing China. Then, and only then, must a physical limit be set to the bounds of civilization. Thus, when northern nomads refused to accept the benefits of civilization and continued to raid China, the only thing China could do was keep them from making trouble. First, long walls along the ridges of the mountain chain which separates North China from die Mongolian steppe were built and, later, these walls were linked together to form the Great Wall, running some ten thousand li from the sea in the east to the borders of the Central Asian deserts in the west. Beyond the Great Wall, the nomads might live, or die, as they pleased. China had no interest in their realm, for "the Chinese believed that if the barbarians did not aspire to a higher life, there was no need to force them to do so." As revealed by the foregoing survey, however, there were exceptions to this passive policy. For instance, military campaigns during the last quarter of the first century A.D. were launched by Chinese armies to bring the vast xiyu (the West Region) under Chinese control or influence. In the Ming Dynasty, the maritime expeditions led by Zheng He between 1405 and 1433 reached as far as the east coast of Africa. The primary motivation of these voyages was to spread out the Ming emperor's divinity and omnipotence so as to persuade all outside countries to submit to the rule of China. But, as Hsu points out, these

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However, it was generally essential that barbarians should recognize the unique position of the Son of Heaven. Thus, the relationship which inhered between barbarians and the emperor was by no means unilateral and indeed could hardly exist except on a reciprocal basis. Fairbank, above n.33, 130-131. Id., 9. Id.

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instances were always attributed to ambitious emperors or powerful ministers; they were exceptions to the general approach towards barbarian affairs. During the Qing Dynasty (16441911), several wars were waged in Central Asia, Burma, and Vietnam. But these wars would not have happened without the presence of the non-Han Manchu Dynasty and its special commitment to military achievement in Central Asia. Moreover, in all these cases, the main objective was to extend and consolidate the tribute system, a peculiar relationship between China and its neighboring countries, rather than to annex these countries into the Chinese territory.
4. Hierarchy and Anti-Egalitarianism

Since earliest times the Chinese world had been structured on a rigid hierarchical and patriarchal order, which integrated visions of the family and the state, or of morality and politics, together with nepotism, male chauvinism, filial piety, seniority, obedience and reverence as the basic governing principles.09 Within this social order, man dominated woman, father over child, husband over wife, senior over junior and, in return, benevolence and care should be expected from the former to the latter. At the apex of this order was the Son of Heaven,60 "who eventually became in theory omnicompetent, functioning as military leader, administrator, judge, high priest, philosophical sage, arbiter of taste, and was more than human. In sum, the state (shejt) as a whole was conceived of as an extended family, and the importance of filial piety in the family corresponded to the emphasis on the duty of absolute loyalty and obedience on the part of subjects to the ruler. More importandy, this hierarchical social order was heavily colored with ideological orthodoxy, particularly the conception that the power to rule over tianxia came from the mandate of a broader, impersonal deity heaven, whose endowment might be conferred on anyone who was virtuous and worthy of responsibility. This so-called virtue (de) took the form of a set of established ritual norms (It), which, in a broader sense, meant the whole corpus of
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Id., 9.
Gilbert Rozman (ed.), The Modernization of China (1981), 25-26. As for the nonHan rule under the Manchus, see Hsu, above n.4, 19-28. Zhang Guohua and Rao Xixian (eds.), /[hongguo Falu Sixiang Shi Gang (History of Chinese Legal Philosophy) (in Chinese 1984), Vol. 1, 86. This relationship of benevolence and obedience was later summed up as san gang (Three Cardinal Guidances), namely father guides son, husband guides wife, and ruler guides subject. Id. Fairbank, above n. 1, 6.

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governmental laws, regulations, social institutions, and proper human relationships, and were, therefore, applied to govern every aspect of social life ranging from affairs of state to private individual transactions.62 The aim of li was to achieve social stability, and the means to such an end was to make a distinction between persons. Hence, every person in such a society had an assigned status, including barbarians, and no one was supposed to or permitted to overstep the dividing line. Whereas virtuous responsibility constituted the legitimacy of the Chinese world order, observing ritual norms as the symbol of one's authority as a ruler, official, or superior man, gave one prestige and power among others. This responsibility would serve as a vital mechanism to maintain stability and order, which were the highest virtues in the cosmological continuum. Such an ideologically-charged hierarchical social order reached not only throughout China proper, but continued outward beyond the borders of China to all mankind. Fairbank uses a model of zonation in characterizing the scope of this Chinese world order. According to him, there were three main zones. The first was Sinic Zone, which consisted of the closest and most culturally-similar tributaries, Korea and Vietnam, parts of which had been within the Chinese empire in ancient times, along with the Liuqiu (Ryukyu) Islands and, at brief times, Japan. The second was the Inner Asian Zone, which embraced tributary tribes of the nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples of Inner Asian, who were not only ethnically non-Chinese but were also less influenced by the Chinese cultural heritage. The third was the Outer Zone of the outer barbarians generally at a further distance over land or sea which eventually included Japan and other states of Southeast and South Asia and Europe that were supposed to send tribute when trading with China. Within this zonal hierarchy, China, situated in the center, took the position of the head dejure, if not always de facto, and the smaller nations on its periphery assumed the position of junior members. In effect, the Chinese image of world order as such was no more than a corollary of the Chinese internal order and, thus, an extended projection of Chinese civilization on the "inter-state" plane. Its underlying tenet was the concept of subordination of all local authorities to the central and awe-inspiring power of the Son of Heaven,

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1 Id' 8-

Later the moral and virtuous responsibility was developed into the so-called wu chang (Five Constant Virtues): humanity,righteousness,propriety, wisdom and fidelity. Fairbank, above n. 1, 6. Id., 2. Norton Ginsberg seems to maintain similar view. See On the Chinese Perception of a World Order, in: Tang Tsou (ed.), 2 China in Crisis, 80.

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who was the embodiment of virtue, and by whose very nature carried out the rites required for the continuing harmony of the universe in both its natural and its social aspects. Such hierarchically-structured world order was therefore characterized by the absence of state-to-state relations on the basis of principles of sovereign equality and territorial independence like the European world order, which, with its focus on precise division of territories among sovereigns of equal status and its own concepts of legitimacy, laid the foundation of modern international law. 7 The Chinese world order, in contrast, was unified and centralized in theory by the universal preeminence of the Son of Heaven, in which all other non-Chinese nations had to be submissive and obedient, and were expected to accept their inferior status if they wished to have relations with China. Just as every person within the Chinese society had an assigned status, every non-Chinese nation that desired contact with China had its assigned place in the Chinese world order, and it had to contact China through the medium of the so-called tribute system. It should be noted that the legitimacy of the hierarchical and antiegalitarian Sinocentric world order rested more on moral virtue than military power. In other words, the concept of the universal state ruled by the Son of Heaven with a cosmic virtue was richer in cultural symbolism than in political dynamics, more passive than active, and thus, more defensive than imperialistic. Indeed, except for a few isolated cases as indicated earlier, the Chinese image of world order, on balance, did not lead to dynamic and aggressive imperatives to expand and impose its will upon recalcitrant nonChinese states. China's cultural and economic preeminence was used as a

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r9 -

id

Note here that the Son of Heaven carried two personalities. As a tianzi, he was a son not in a biological but in a holistic sense, whereas as an emperor, he stood at the apex of organized civilization, and in this personality, he could stray from the path of true virtue, betraying his role as son of heaven and causing disharmony in the universe. Fairbank, above n.l, 9.

This was particularly reflected in the tributary system, in which the closer the relationship between China and a tributary state, the larger and more frequent the tributary mission. For tributary relations, see Part III of this article. As Fairbank suggests, in general, China's relations with non-Chinese nations (in a Western sense) developed between two extremes, namely, the extreme military conquest and administrative control on the one hand and that of complete nonrelations and avoidnace of contact on the other. The former led to efforts to incorporate non-Chinese into the bureaucratic empire, while the latter meant a refusal to acknowledge their existence.

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means to make its unique position prevail. But sometimes, this was not sufficient. Before the use of firearms, cavalry from the Inner Asian and northern grassland tribes played a very important role in war and politics within the Chinese empire. As Fairbank aptly reminds us, it became an established practice that, when China itself was too weak to maintain the Sinocentric world order, mounted nomadic bowmen would become die final arbiter of batde in die Sinocentric world and non-Chinese rulers could become the actual Sons of Heaven at the apex of the hierarchy. Such a nonHan takeover of the imperial function culminated first in the conquest of part of China by the Khitan Liao Dynasty after A.D. 907 and the Jurched Jin Dynasty after 1122," and, later, in the conquest of all China by the Mongols and Manchus, who established the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) and the Qing Dynasty (16641911) respectively. Noticeably, as will be discussed, once in power, these non-Han dynasties utilized the Chinese tradition without exception in governing China and, to a large extent, in conducting dieir foreign relations.

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72 73

This was manifested in the established assumption that the Chinese had nothing to gain from the barbarians but those who desired contacts with China were expected to accept the Chinese way of life. Id., 9. The Khitan Liao Dynasty (907-1125) was established by the Khitans (Qulan), an ethnic nomadic tribe living in today's North China. It was later subjugated by the Jin (Chin) Dynasty (1115-1234), another nomadic Jurched tribe, living in today's Northeast China (Manchuria). As the concept of "nation" or "nationality" in its modern sense was characteristically absent from the traditional Chinese perception of world order, the semantic force of the term "alien" or "foreign" should not be confused with the term's modern sense. "Alien" in traditional Chinese eyes was synonymous with barbarian. It denoted a cultural and ethnic meaning rather than territorial implications, as the term is commonly understood today. Thus, Khitans, Mongols, and Manchus were "aliens" only vis-a-vis the "native Chinese". But the Chinese view was less concerned than the Western over what was alien because the Son of Heaven was in any case superior to all rulers and peoples and their status therefore might easily shift back and forth through various degrees of proximity to his central authority. It is noteworthy that, today, through the long and gradual historical process of cultural assimilation, most of the "alien" ethnic minority groups in the traditional Chinese world have become part of the Chinese vis-a-vis a foreign state. When referring to this phenomenon, I will use the term "non-Han" to replace the term "alien" which is commonly used by Western scholars, in order to avoid the confusion.

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5. Confucianism and the Chinese World Order The culturally-based organizing principle of superordinationsubordination in the Sinocentric world order does not mean that the Chinese were innately more prone to arrogance than any other peoples. As Schwartz points out, claims of universal kingship had been made by many empires of early times. Also, the superordination-subordination structure was used in East Asia between non-Chinese regimes in situations in which the rulers of China did not participate at all.74 To that extent, what happened in ancient China just conformed to the general pattern of early civilization of human society.D What was unique about the Chinese case is that the development of the traditional Chinese world order throughout centuries, though pre-Confucius in origin, was strongly and progressively fortified by the refinement of the Confucian concept of a moral social order, which warranted methods amounting to a justified avoidance of certain of the principles that would otherwise have governed the Chinese foreign relations. To be sure, Confucianism is not a religion. Instead, it is a school of political and ethical philosophy founded by Confucius (551-479 B.C.) and his disciples. As it was reinstated in the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 24) as the state ideological orthodoxy, Confucianist cosmopolitan outlook became integrated into the practical aspects of social and political life in China and formed the most dominant political and cultural force in shaping the traditional Chinese view of world order. Confucius lived in the so-called Spring and Autumn period (770-476 B.C.) when the ^hou Dynasty disintegrated into vassal states. Because the rule of the ^hou king became a rule in name only, each of these vassal states claimed to be an independent sovereign in its relations with others. All the vassal states fought among themselves and with the peripheral barbarian tribes for hegemony. This situation, lamented by Confucius as "libeng yuehuai" (the collapse of observances of propriety and the ruin of music), caused tremendous political and social disorder in the Chinese world.

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Fairbank, above n.l, 9. Benjamin I. Schwartz, The Chinese Perception of World Order, Past and Present, in Fairbank, above n. 1, 277. As the rule of the hou emperor was declining, any powerful duke could use the emperor's name to order others. The usurp of the duke power by ministers and overstep of authority by assistants became pervasive. Zhang Guohua and Rao Xixian, above n.59, 47-50. Mencius later described: "Again the world fell into decay, and principles faded away. Perverse speakings and oppressive deeds were rampant again. There were instances of ministers who murdered their sovereigns,

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The drastic changes during this period resulted in the growth and flourishing of various schools of social and political ideas known as the "hundred schools of thought," which competed with each other for solving political and social problems. What made the Confucian school stand out among others was its value of peace (ping) and harmony (he) as the ultimate goal of the order of tianxia culminating in the Son of Heaven. As advocated by Confucius himself, While there are no stirrings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, or joy, the mind may be said to be in the state of EQUILIBRIUM. When those feelings have been stirred, and they act in their due degree, there ensues what may be called the state of HARMONY. This EQUILIBRIUM is the great root from which grow all the humans acting in the world, and this HARMONY is the universal path which they all should pursue. Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things will be nourished and flourish. In the light of Confucian teachings, when this universal path was pursued, ...the world community was equally shared by all. The worthy and able were chosen as office-holders. Mutual confidence was fostered and good neighborliness cultivated. Therefore, people did not love their parents only, nor treat as children only their own children. Provision was made for the aged till their death, employment for the grownup, and the means of growing up to the young. Old widows and widowers, orphans, childless people, as well as the sick and the disabled were all well taken care of. Men had their proper roles and women their homes. While they hated to see wealth lying about on the ground, they did not necessarily keep it for their own use. While they hated not to exert their effort, they did not necessarily devote it to their own ends. Thus evil schemings stopped to appear and robbers, thieves and other lawless elements failed to arise, so that outer doors did not have to be shut. This was what is called Universal Commonwealth. 8

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and of sons who murdered their fathers." See The Chinese-English Bilingual Series of Chinese Classics, above n.35, 381-383. The Doctrine of the Mean in The Chinese-English Bilingual Series of Chinese Classics, above n.35, 24-27. Li Ji (Li Yun), as quoted in Frederick Tse-Shyang Chen, The Confucian View of World Order (with minor changes), in: Mark W. Janis (ed.), The Influence of Religion on the Development of International Law (1991), 32.

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Noticeably, what Confucius portrayed about world order was not only the proper norm in human relations but also in relationships between man and nature. All Confucian teachings may be seen as aimed at achieving these norms characterized by peace and harmony. The Book of Great Learning, a Confucian canonical text, regarded as "the gate by which first learners enter into virtue," pronounced four steps which people should take as the way leading to these norms. Before the accomplishment of these four steps, people should make sure to start with rectifying their hearts by making their thoughts sincere through investigating things and acquiring complete knowledge. Accordingly, Their hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated. Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their States were righdy governed. Their States being righdy governed, the whole empire (tianxia) was made tranquil and happy. In a hierarchical and nonegalitarian society, however, these four steps, as Fairbank notes, constituted, in effect, the means of education and indoctrination from which the right standards of behavior would be instilled, and in return, peace and harmony would be promoted between the rulers and ruled. Therefore, no matter how idealized such a philosophy of peace and harmony might sound, they served as a political and social doctrine designed to justify and perpetuate the conservative status quo. In the realm of foreign relations, such socio-political status quo was to be preserved within the Chinese world order through a symbolization of universal peace and harmony. It was also essentially the Sinocentric universal state based on the principle of superordination-subordination which prevailed in the Chinese hierarchical and anti-egalitarian domestic social order. As Confucius himself advocates, The duties of universal obligation are five,...[They are] tJiose between ruler and subject, between father and son, between husband and wife, between elder brotiier and younger, and those belonging to the intercourse of friends.8'

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The Book of Great Learning, in The Chinese-English Bilingual Series of Chinese Classics, above n.35, 2-5. Fairbank, above n. 1, 6. The Doctrine of the Mean in The Chinese-English Bilingual Series of Chinese Classics, above n.35,40-41.

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Thus, if "affection between father and son, righteousness between the ruler and the ruled, separate function between husband and wife, proper order between old and young and fidelity between friends" could be maintained, peace and harmony could be achieved. As one Confucian exponent later claimed, If a society follows the order in which subjects serve their ruler, son serves his father, and wife serves her husband, society will be in peace and harmony, otherwise, the society will be in chaos. This principle will perpetuate forever. The cornerstone of the Confucian world view, as the outgrowth of the cultural preeminence of early Chinese civilization, was the concept of the universethe entire cosmoas an unbroken, orderly stasis-continuum. The Confucian view conceived the world as being, which is by definition different from becoming. Process, change, competition, and progress were therefore all concepts unnatural to Confucianism, none had temporal relativism, a cornerstone of Confucian thinking. Virtue, as reflected in social hierarchy and inequality, was thereby absolute and enduring. Stability and orderthe highest virtues in the cosmological continuumwere secured through the maintenance of hierarchy and the performance of ritual ceremonies. Thus, the Confucian world outlook placed emphasis on the righteous life on earth and felt no need for seeking the ultimate reality. In practice, it always directed the thoughts of the Chinese to the pragmatic ordering and refining of human relations. However, an excessive reliance on peace and harmony as the regulatory norm of the social process poorly equipped the Chinese to play a role in international politics, which became more and more based on Social Darwinism. The concept of the balance of power or alliance was also alien to the Chinese official world, since there never had been an ally of equal status or strength in Sinocentric international relations. The hierarchical and antiegalitarian image of Confucianism made Chinese officials and intellectuals incapable of conceptualizing foreign relations in egalitarian terms. As a result, the Chinese expected the Western powers to make whatever adjustments were necessary to fit their relations into the hierarchical and anti-egalitarian

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no

84

The Work of Mencius, Teng Wen Gong, Part 1, in The Chinese-English Bilingual Series of Chinese Classics, above n.35, 358-359. Zhang Guohua and Rao Xixian, above n.59, 331. Mark Mancall, China at the Center: 300 Years of Foreign Policy (1984), 22-23.

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framework of the Chinese world order. Ensuing confrontation between the two mutually-exclusive systems resulted in the advancing Western system eclipsing the Chinese system, and when China was forced to entered the Western family of nations, it became an inferior member.
6. The Role of Law in the Chinese World Order

Within the traditional Chinese world order, law as a means of social control in the term's modern sense never attained the prestige and importance that it gained in the West, although for well over two-thousand years China had maintained and developed a very sophisticated system of legal codes and of institutions for their application. In light of the precepts of Confucianism, the conduct of social relations should rely on the ritual norms (It), instead of being governed by a set of rules that are backed up by state-imposed sanctions in case of non-compliance and are, so to speak, exterior to each individual. In other words, people should first and foremost learn and then internalize the rules of appropriate behavior through a painstaking process of education, suasion, and socialization. Only when a person proved extremely recalcitrant or when the educational system failed, would it be necessary to use severe punishment of law. Therefore, law in the eye of Confucianism was not deemed a major social achievement and a symbol of rectitude. Instead, it was regarded as a rather regrettable necessity, principally employed by the state as the last resort to maintain social order. When society was functioning peacefully and harmoniously, law was something to be avoided, because resort to law was seen as essentially an admission of the loss of virtue and failure in human and communal relations. More laws did not make for a better or more peaceful and harmonious society. As advocated by Confucius and his disciples, to maintain the peace and harmony of the Chinese world order, emphasis should be placed on the merits of government by education, persuasion, and moral example. The ruled should be taught what was right and wrong with the li so that they would behave properly according to their conscience and not merely because of the threat of punishment. The rulers themselves should also try to behave virtuously, so as to set good examples for their subjects to follow. In this regard, Confucianism stressed that government should be able to win the Comprehensive legal codes were enacted in both the Qin and Han dynasties. However, the oldest surviving code today is the Tang code, which was promulgated in die seventh century A.D. The Tang code also laid down the foundation on which the later codes of the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties were developed. See Zhang and Rao, above n.59.

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hearts of the people rather than securing their outward submission through the use of law. This is because the emphasis on law would lead people to think only in terms of their self-interest and make them more litigious and loopholehappy (by trying to manipulate the laws to suit their own interests), and would also divert attention away from the more important work of moral education. As Schwartz noted, "in a society dominated hyfa Paw], the people as a whole will all develop the peculiar talents of the shyster lawyer and the sense of shame will suffer." In a society where people were governed by li, however, disputes and conflicts easily would be resolved through friendly negotiation, mediation and mutual compromise. People would not assert their self-interest in an utterly acquisitive manner but would instead adopt an attitude of selfrestraint and conciliation so as to arrive at a common understanding with other parties. In this way, peace and harmony would be achieved. Litigation would be avoided, and a system of explicit legal rules rendered unnecessary. Thus, in the traditional Chinese world, the role of law was considered only secondary as well as supplementary to ritual norms. This attitude accounts for some salient features of the legal concern of the traditional Chinese world order. Firstly, until the beginning of this century, there had existed no jurisprudential distinction between criminal law and civil law. The written codes as well as decrees addressed mainly matters which would be classified under criminal law and administrative law in the light of modern standard. In these circumstances, private law for personal and property relations among individuals was conspicuously under-developed. Disputes concerning personal and property matters were usually settled informally by virtue of mediation, conducted by respected leaders or elders of family clans, villages, and guilds in the light of customary rules and prevailing notions of morality. Thirdly, there was no formal separation of judicial power from other powers nor was there the doctrine ofjudicial independence. Fourthly, the legal profession and education in the term's modern sense did not exist. Last, but not least, the concept of the rights of the individual or of the people was conspicuously lacking. The traditional Chinese legal system was based on people's duties and obligations rather than their rights and interests. Thus, there was no conception of individual rights enforceable against the state or other authorities. As Schwartz has succincdy described, Individuals have legitimate interests, to be sure, and in the good society these interests will be taken care of (in accordance with requirements of B. I. Schartz, On Attitudes Toward Law in China, in: M. Tatz (ed.), Government under Law and the Individual (1957), 27.

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Chinese JIL (2002) the individual's social status). To surround these interests with an aura of sanctity and to call them 'rights,1 to elevate the defence of these individual interests to the plane of a moral virtue, to 'insist on one's rights'is to run entirely counter to the spirit of li. The proper predisposition with regard to one's interests is the predisposition to yield rather than the predisposition to insist."87

In this regard, the emperor had an absolute power to rule and the people were under an absolute obligation to obey. As discussed earlier, the emperor was the highest legislative, judicial and executive authority. He made laws, which were binding on all but not on himself. The only restraints on his exercise of power were political ethics, rationality, and precedent, none of which, as shown by history, could always check the caprice of the ruler. Under such a system of the rule of man, the possibility of popular participation in government affairs and legislative process was precluded. Since the ruled could only be the objects of the ruler's whims and could only hope but had no right to assert that the ruler would be good and benevolent, they felt so impotent vis-a-vis the law and the governmental authorities that they developed a phenomenal behavioral syndromethey either withdraw and subjugate or defy and rebel. The Chinese people, as noticed by a commentator, never learned how to treat government officials as ordinary human beings equal to themselves. "The officials were either benevolent guardians or high-handed oppressors. They were [either] to be obeyed or [to be] revolted against but not checked and supervised."

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Schwartz, id., 32. Chang Wei-jen, Traditional Chinese Attitudes toward Law and Authority, in: A Symposium on Chinese and European Concepts of Law (held in Hong Kong, under the auspices of the Chinese Law Programme, Center for Contemporary Asian Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong, March 20-25, 1986), 31. In traditional Chinese legal philosophy, there was no lack of elements which emphasized the ruler's need to have regard for the well-being of the people. Chinese scholars identify these as the ideas of minben zhuyi (the people-as-the-basis doctrine). Mencious, Confucius' most important disciple, for example, has been frequendy quoted to say that, in the order of importance of governance, "The people are of first importance; the state is the next; the ruler is the least important. In relation to the emperor's responsibility to Heaven and the interpretation of the Mandate of Heaven, Confucian classics also maintained that "Heaven sees as the people see, Heaven hears as die people hear." Even a right of revolution was asserted against tyrannical rulers in extreme situations. A successful rebellion meant that the original Mandate of Heaven had been forfeited and a new mandate had been bestowed upon another virtuous person, usually the leader of the rebellion. Cited in Albert

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Until the onslaught of Western imperialistic invasions in the nineteenth century, the proclamations of continuous and solitary splendor of the Chinese world order remained persistent and unchallenged by genuine peers. In other words, the growth of the Chinese view of the outside world was by and large indigenous in the sense that it had owed very littie to cultural exchange from other civilizations. True, China was aware of the Roman Empire, but the contact had not in any way resulted in a political impact on Chinese statecraft. When ancient Chinese civilization reached its peak by the time of the Tang Dynasty, most of Europe was just emerging from the Dark Ages. On the other hand, China's knowledge about the outside world developed not because Chinese craved for information, but generally because foreigners coming to China brought information that struck the Chinese as delightfully quaint. These circumstances further contributed to confirm the Tightness of the Sinocentric world outlook. Thus, even though cultural imports from the outside world continually came to China throughout history, no such imports had ever been recognized at any time as the products of higher civilization. Such a statement needs to be qualified, however, when examining two major implants from outside the Chinese cultural sphere. The first is Buddhism, which entered China from India during the late Han Dynasty, a period of political and social disunity and upheaval, and was until modern times "the major, almost the only strong foreign influence affecting the Chinese culture, and the only one which left a permanent mark." As Schwartz suggests, "[T]he fact that millions of Chinese looked to a source outside the Chinese cultural orbit for salvation and for highest wisdom must certainly have shaken the general cosmology on which the Chinese perception of world order rested."92 While the influence of Buddhism on Chinese art, literature and religion was great and lasting, however, the Indian perception of H.Y. Chen, An Introduction to the Legal System of the People's Republic of China (1992), 10-11. Mancall, above n.84, 11. In the opinion of the authors of The Modernization of China, there were three major cultural imports to China, namely, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. However, Chinese scholars generally recognize the first and the last ones. This is because Islam mainly took root in China's border provinces of the west and spread throughout China as a pervasive Chinese minority religion and culture. Gilbert Rozman, above n.58, 24. Fitzgerald, above n.7, 10. Schwartz, above n.75, 279.

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91 92

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world order as expressed in Buddhist teaching turned out to be devoid of political imperative, and, as a result, had little impact on the long established Chinese cosmology. This might be due to the underlying philosophical difference between Buddhism and Confucianism. While the state of Nirvana as advocated in Buddhism shares in a sense with the Confucian ideal of peaceful and harmonious universe, the process of entering this state was, nevertheless, through soul-transmigrations and reincarnations which would take a long time and many lives as well. Furthermore, the ultimate goal of Buddhism personal annihilation or total submergence in the primal unitycertainly runs counter to the Confucian idea of world order and the Great Path leading to it. Thus, anti-Buddhist campaigns were "marked by a most vehement and absolutist reassertion of the Chinese image of world order."93 As a result, in contrast to the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity, the introduction of Buddhism to China had more the character of acclimatization than a true Buddhist conquest of the Chinese world view.94 The influence of Buddhism was further weakened by the fact that India, the cradle of Buddhism, never became a politically coherent society; in no way was it comparable with China which remained far more often united and wellorganized from the time of the Tang Dynasty. In fact, Buddhist shrines in India were falling into neglect by the time of the Tang Dynasty. A second major import was Christianity, which was brought to China by Jesuit missionaries in the seventeenth century when European learning quickened the interest of the Chinese intelligentsia in the progress of physical science in the non-Chinese world. Among these missionaries were many scholars of great distinction in the field of sciences of the West. Their knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, geography, and physics was more advanced than it was in China. They introduced to the Chinese the Western sciences of astronomy, mathematics, architecture, geography, and cartography. They translated Chinese classics and historical works into Western languages. In addition to imparting scientific learning to the Chinese, the missionaries' major undertaking was to convert China into Christianity. Their success in this respect, however, turned out to be limited, even nonexistent. The Chinese never felt that their bridge to the interest in Western sciences required the abandoning of the major tenets of their view of world order, for scientific principles were seen as universal rather than culturally bound to the men who imparted them. The very fact that the Chinese had
93
94

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Id., 280.
Fitzgerald, above n.7, 11.

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never had any overriding religion eventually defeated the missionary


, 95

enterprise. Also, as Fitzgerald suggests, the Christian religion, in all its forms, was foreign. To the Chinese this was already a serious failing. Accepting this foreign learning implied that the wisdom of China was deficient, and that the foreigner had something better to offer. This certainly ran counter to the timehonored assumption of Chinese cultural superiority. Foreigners, even though some of them had valuable knowledge in limited fields, were, after all, members of distant barbarian peoples who could not be expected to be the equals to the Chinese in any respect. In addition, the governing ideological orthodoxy in China was Confucianism, and any questioning would threaten the legitimacy of existing authority and was thus ruthlessly suppressed. As a result, while their introduction of scientific knowledge was highly appreciated by the imperial court, their influence was limited only to a small group of Chinese scholars and officials in the ruling circles. They left little imprint on China's political institutions, social structure, or economic systems. Despite thriving throughout the entire seventeenth century, missionary activities were later restricted, confined to a few bases, and eventually forbidden.
8. Factors o/Wbn-Han Conquests

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As noted earlier, the source of power to maintain the Chinese world order was basically non-military. In view of the fact that there were periods when China had to accept the military supremacy of the surrounding barbarians, the chief concern was how to maintain Chinese superiority. As demonstrated by Fairbank's work, solutions included cessation of contact; indoctrinating the non-Han rulers in the Chinese view by cultural-ideological means; buying them off by marriage, honors or material inducements or both;

95

Note here that trained in the European tradition and soaked in its history both theological and lay, the missionaries could not realize that the Chinese simply lacked some of the assumptions of Western culture. The Chinese were unfamiliar with the ideas of revelation, infidelity, heresy, and "false gods." Id., 29-30. During the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736-95), the missionaries merely continued to perform useful work in their own accepted roles as technical and scientific assistance for the Qing court in the time-honored tradition of alien service within the realm of the Sinocentric world order. In the provinces, however, persecution grew, and the number of Christians fell dramatically. By the time the pope dissolved the Jesuit order in 1773, the history of the Catholic attempt to convert China could be read only as a record of failure.

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using one barbarian against another through diplomatic maneuvers and, at the extreme, accepting barbarian rulers at the apex of the Chinese world. 7 For example, when the Han emperor Gaozu (206-193 B.C.) lost the battle to the Xiongnu, he adopted the suggestion of his minister that peace be bought at the price of marrying a Chinese princess to the chieftain of the enemy. By doing so, the future chieftains of the Xiongnu would be his grandsons and great grandsons and hence, less likely to be rebellious. A more glowing example of the above-mentioned alternatives was the relationship between the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and Liao, an ethnic minority nation. The Song Emperor ^henzong made an agreement with the Liao king by which he consented to treat the Liao Empress Dowager as "an aunt," and the Liao king agreed to treat the Song Emperor as an "elder brother." In addition, the Song agreed to supply the Liao with 100,000 taels of silver and 200,000 rolls of silk annually. For 160 years ad hoc envoys were exchanged between the two on an almost equal footing on such occasions as New Year's Day, royal birthdays and deaths, and the ascension to the throne of new emperors and kings. Yet, only in the Chinese way of life could non-Chinese rulers rule over the Chinese world. The vitality of the Sinocentric world order was therefore even reinforced by the non-Han conquests. The Mongols and Manchus respectively seized the whole of China through military forces, and established their rulesYuan (1279-1367) and Qing (1644-1911) dynastiesfrom top down. But nothing in these non-Han conquests sufficed to convince the Chinese that their long-established Chinese world view was inadequate. Being culturally less advanced, these non-Han conquerors soon found themselves incompetent in running a country of great wealth and high civilization. They had been superior in military matters, but in these alone. For the details of constructive administration, they had to adopt and adapt a Confucianism-based superstructure.102 Ironic as it seems, the non-Han conquerors subdued China militarily, but in the end they themselves became victimized by the glory of Chinese civilization. The relative short life of the Mongol rule may have been due to a violent breach in Chinese traditions. In order to avoid the fate of Mongols, the Manchus, who had been strongly influenced by Chinese culture, had to be very careful to champion the

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Fairbank, above n.l, 13-14. Hsu, above n.25, 11. As for the origin of the Manchus and the Qing Dynasty, see Hsu, above n.4, 19-28. Fitzgerald, above n.7, 26. 101 Id. 102 Samuel S. Kim, China, the United Nations and World Order (1978), 22.

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grandeur of Chinese civilization. It is therefore not surprising that when European imperialist expansion reached China in the mid-nineteen century, its evident superiority in military power "did not impress the Chinese as proof of cultural equality, but tended to show them in an unfavorable light."101 In addition, economic factors also contributed to strengthen the Chinese self-image of world order. Up to the nineteenth century, the Chinese economy had basically been agrarian and self-sufficient and tenaciously resisted the importation of products through foreign trade. The lack of commercial impetus coupled with perennial concerns about land frontiers and the military security of Inner Asia had always directed the attention of the Chinese rulers to the continent. As a result, maritime potentials had rarely become a priority. This may pardy explain why the great maritime expeditions led by keng He between 1405 and 1433 abrupdy came to an end, and were never resumed. Although foreign trade developed, it was not because the Chinese thirsted after foreign goods but rather foreign merchants came to China to trade. Also, the trade routes ended far to the south, and were in the hands of private traders who dealt with principalities dimly seen and poorly understood in Beijing. This led Chinese officials to develop a strong mentality that the distant barbarians had nothing of value to communicate. To them, the fact that foreign merchants came to China to trade despite difficulties and distance might have indicated the importance of trade with China for the countries concerned. Thus, their ultimate resource lay in the power to stop that trade altogether.107 Until the mid-nineteenth century, the Chinese world stood aloof from the mainstream of world affairs. It was uninterested in seeking outside values, ideas, and goods as well. It was unprepared to face the impending challenge coming from another system which carried its own normative expectations. III. The Tribute System
As the foregoing survey has indicated, the concept of the Chinese world order was based on die notion of a Sinocentric universal state, colored with By the mid-nineteenth century, the triumph of Chinese civilization over the Manchu was nearly complete, with the abolition of Manchu even as a secondary official language. Id. Fitzgerald, above n.7, 26. Gilbert Rozman, above n.58, 26. 106 Id. 107 Id., 27.

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the assumption of cultural and normative superiority over less advanced neighbors. It was organized on hierarchy and anti-egalitarianism, and legitimized by orthodox Confucian culturalism. Within this order, there existed only civilization and barbarity. In the sense that "civilization was an empire without neighbors,"' the Chinese empire was not a nation-state in the modern sense of the term. Rather it was "the administration of civilized society in toto." Therefore, what was established within the Chinese world order was but an indigenous family of nations with its own rules that "cannot be explained in modern terms of international law.""0 In seeking to understand the operational aspect of the traditional Chinese view of world order, Western Sinologists have come up with a special term, namely, the "tribute system," to describe the sum total of complex, practical, and institutional expressions of the Chinese diplomatic practice. The tribute system was a natural outgrowth of the cultural superiority of early Chinese civilization."2 Its origin can be traced back to the ancient Chinese practice whereby the emperor "invested" ifeng)fiefs,titles and authority in a number of hereditary "vassals" {fan), who in turn were obliged to present to the emperor their local products {fang wu) as "tribute" (gong), which had originally meant a sort of tax payments. As inherited from history, paying tribute to the Chinese emperor was gradually developed into a political system and was applied to the relations between China and all non-Chinese nations which desired to enter relations with China. As formalized by the Ming Dynasty and perfected by the Qing Dynasty,"5 the tribute system was refined into a highly ritualistic performance which operated as an institutional mechanism to translate into diplomatic practice the ideological assumptions, values and beliefs which underlay the Chinese world order." The tribute system survived even after the Opium War with Britain, which marked the beginning of the disintegration of the aged Chinese world order, and petered out slowly as the unequal treaty regime took hold of

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Mancall, above n.84, 13. Id. " Id., 13. '"id., 13-14. John King Fairbank and S.Y. Teng, the Traditional Role of Tribute, in: King C. Chen (ed.), The Foreign Policy of China (1972), 14. Fairbank, above n. 1, 7; see also, Zhang and Rao, above n.59, 45. " 4 Fairbank and Teng, above n.l 12, 18-22. " 5 T.F.Tsiang, above n.31, 131. Hsu, above n.4, 182; see also, Mancall, above n.84, 14-20.
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Chinese foreign relations. The last tributary mission was sent by Nepal in 118 1908, the eve of the Chinese Revolution. The tribute system was a comprehensive institution under which all types of contacts between China and non-Chinese countries were supposed to take place. Yet the tributary relationship was strictly bilateral in that the tribute receiver was always China, and the bearer always a non-Chinese state that desired to participate in the China-centered family of nations. Also, the rights and duties involved in the tributary relationship were reminiscent of Confucianism-sanctioned proper relationship between individuals, namely, ruler and subject, father and son, husband and wife. The tribute system can be likened to a family unit. Within the system, China, occupying the position of patriarch, took the leadership. Depending on a given situation, the Chinese emperor had authority for sending envoys to officiate at the investitures given by the imperial court to the rulers of tributary states, conferring on them the imperial patents of appointment and noble titles in the hierarchy of Imperial China, and granting to them official seals for use of correspondence. China also had responsibility for assisting tributary states in times of foreign invasion or natural disaster. In return, tributary states, who came into contact with China as the part of the family but in a subordinate position, were obliged to honor China as the superior state by presenting periodic tribute of local products and tribute memorials of various sorts on appropriate statutory occasions as well, by requesting the investiture of their rulers, and by dating their communications by the Chinese calendar-based or the reign of the emperor." 9 As the Chinese emperor maintained supreme authority over all rulers and peoples of tributary states, he was seated in his palace, usually the Forbidden City, to receive the envoys of tributary states, who had to take specially-designated routes in traveling to and from China. Entry into the emperor's presence and presentation of tribute to the emperor had to follow the correct performance of ritual ceremonies of which the most important and solemn part was the so-called three kneelings, of which each was accompanied by three kowtows (san gui jiu kou li). In the Chinese view, this performance

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John King Fairbank, The Early Treaty System in the Chinese World Order, in Fairbank (ed.), The Chinese World Order: Traditional China's Foreign Relations, above n. 1,258. John King Fairbank and S.L. Teng, Ching Administration: Three Studies (1960), 165-169. Hsu, above n.4, 182. Also, Fairbank has elaborated the main elements of the tribute system of the Qing Dynasty. See Fairbank, above n.l, 10-11.

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symbolized the recognition not only of China's superior civilization but of civilization itself, of which the highest point was the Chinese emperor. Thus, refusal to perform these rituals was tantamount to an insult to the universal scheme of things, an unnatural act that could not be tolerated by the emperor since it was his role to maintain the peace and harmony of universe. The rigidity of the tribute system was especially reflected in the Collected
Statutes of the Qing Dynasty (Da Qing Huidian), which were issued both as a record

of administrative practice and as a guide to bureaucratic day-by-day activities. In the Collected Statutes were prescribed regulations in specific terms on such matters as the frequency and size of tributary missions, the designated points of entry and departure, as well as the routes to be traveled in China by each mission, the appointment of Chinese envoys to deliver imperial edicts to the rulers of tributary states, and ritual requirements to be observed at the court. Each state that entered relations with China was required to follow these rules. Between 1662 and 1911, over five-hundred tribute missions called at the Qing court from sixty-two different countries.12 As recorded in Fairbank's work, Korea collected tribute four times a year, and presented the tribute all together at the end of the year. Liuqiu (Ryukyu) twice every three years, Annam (Vietnam) once every two years, Siam every three years, Burma and Laos every ten years. This survey indicates that the closer the relationship between China and a tributary state, the larger and more frequent the mission. Because the Chinese view of world order was devoid of graduated relationships, the Qing court insisted that die tribute system applied not only to the peripheral states of Asia but also to all other states which wanted to establish relations with China. Therefore, even if the Western trading nations did not formally belong to the system, the Collected Statutes still listed them alongside other regular tributary states, requiring them to be treated as though they were tributary bearers if they came to China on their own.126 Given the sporadic nature of these missions, however, the Western trading nations were precluded from maintaining a fixed schedule for bringing tribute in view of

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121
122

Fairbank and Teng, above n.l 12, 15. Id., 14.

Masataka Banno, China and the West 1858-1861: The Origins of the Tsungli Yamen (1964), Z-\. 123 Mancall. above n.84, 15. 124 Fairbank, above n. 1, 11.
19;

Hsu, above n.4; 182. Hsu, above n.25, 14.

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their great distance from China. Of the seventeen early Western missions to China from 1655 to 1795 (six from Russia, four from Portugal, three from Holland, three from the Papacy, and one from Britain), all but the last, under Lord Macartney, yielded to the Chinese demand for the kowtow to the Chinese emperor, albeit reluctantly.128 Although the rigidity of the tributary system in China's relations with Western officials was uncompromising (with the Macartney mission as the only exception129), it did not mean that traders in their private individual capacity could not visit or even reside in China. On the contrary, until the Opium War, traders from the Western maritime nations were allowed to reside in Macao and to conduct trade in Guangzhou (Canton).130 Russians also lived in Beijing almost continuously after 1727.'3' However, this apparent contravention of the tribute system was interpreted as a special imperial favor towards men from afar. But private Western traders were prohibited from seeking entries into any direct relations with Chinese officials. If they had complaints, "they could only 'petition' through the Chinese monopolistic merchants and the Customs Superintendent, known as the Hoppo."132 In the face of constant Russian challenge, Qing policy and practice constituted a marked exception from relations with the Western maritime nations. It concluded its first equal treaty, the Treaty of Nerchinsk, with Russia in 1689, which set the eastern border between the two countries. After the Treaty of Kiakhta of 1727, Russians were allowed to maintain an Orthodox Church in Beijing with a language school attached to it.'35 Although Russian missions to China were recorded as tribute bearers, and although they performed Kowtow to the Chinese emperor, Russia was not officially listed as a tributary state in any of the five editions of the Collected Statutes.'3 On the other hand, the Chinese envoys to Russia performed the Kowtow to the Russian

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Id. Id.,5. For the Macartney mission, see Hsu, above note 4, 206-214. 130 Id., 14. 131 Mancall, above n.84, 23. 132 Hsu, above n.25, 14-15. 133 Hsu, above n.4, 150-166. 134 Id., 162. 135 Id., 165.
136

127

Id., 164. Also see Immanuel C.Y. Hsu, Russia's Special Position in China during the Early Ch'ing Period, in: Hsu (ed.), Readings in Modern Chinese History (1971), 113-123.

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ruler. Russian traders were also treated very well under the two treaties. They were allowed to come to Beijing every three years in groups of two hundred, and although they paid their own way, their goods were brought in duty-free. In a nutshell, Qing policy and practice concerning its relations with Russia demonstrated a remarkable degree of capacity to compromise the rigidity of the system to the realities of power. Under the tribute system, the Chinese emperor also sent his envoys to foreign nations to show compassion to those at a distance, to bring them into the tribute system, and to confer the rulers of these foreign nations the imperial seal. Of many Chinese envoys dispatched for this purpose, the most famous one was perhaps the aforementioned Zheng He's seven maritime expeditions between 1405 and 1433 during the Ming Dynasty. As has already been noted, these expeditions took the Chinese envoys to India, the Persian Gulf, and the East African coast almost a century before the more well-known Portuguese navigators reached those places by sea around Africa. The motivation of these expeditions is believed to have lain in the desire of the Ming court to perfect its claim to rule all men by showing that no one was left outside the Chinese world order. The immediate achievement was splendid. Most of the forty nations that Zheng visited sent back tributary envoys to China. During the Qing period, imperial missions were dispatched only to the three important tributary states of Korea, Liuqiu, and Annam, and as a rule, this was occasioned in wake of the newly throned tributary king sending a special envoy to Beijing to request investiture. Certainly, the tribute system did not operate in the light of the principle of sovereign equality, which, as part of the fundamental principles of the contemporary international law, directs political and economic transactions between states on the basis of reciprocity. On the contrary, the periodic presentation of tribute by a non-Chinese state followed by the performance of the required ritual ceremonies functioned as the acknowledgement of China's
inn

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137 138
139

Id. Id., 165.

This is an exemplary example, as noticed by Fairbank, that the traditional Chinese world order suffered from a chronic problem of how to square theory with fact, the ideological claim with the actual practice. This phenomenon may be explained by the fact that the traditional Chinese perception of world order was richer in cultural symbolism than in political dynamics. Fairbank, above n. 1, 3. John King Fairbank, The United States and China (reprinted in 1983), 149-151. Wang Gungwu, above n.29, 51-60. 141 Id., 183.

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cultural superiority and the Chinese family of nations headed by the Son of Heaven. It also worked as a reminder of the tributary bearer's inferiority in power and culture. In return, non-Chinese nations "were given their place in the all-embracing Chinese political, and therefore ethical, scheme of things." Although such a system made no "realist" sense, it served a vital symbolic function by exemplifying and legitimizing the myth of the universal state governed by the Son of Heaven. As Fairbank suggests, even during the golden era of the Sinocentric world order, "China's external order was so closely related to her internal order that one could not long survive without the other."143 In other words, even imperial China with all its pretensions of normative self-sufficiency could not really live in isolation; it needed outlandish barbarians in order to enact, validate, and institutionalize the integrity of its universal overlordship: whoever wished to enter into relations with China was supposed to acknowledge the supremacy of the Chinese emperor and obey his commands. The persistence of the system was mostly revealed in Qingh unresponsiveness to a continuing threat from the expansionist and dynamic West during the first half of the nineteenth century. It was thus not until 1861 after the Western powers forced China to agree to permanent diplomatic residence in Beijing that the Qing court began to recognize the Western states on equal terms as required by international law. Corresponding to this unresponsiveness was the distinctive character of the mechanisms under which the tribute system was managed. Because the tribute system constituted the operational part of the Sinocentric world order, which was presumed to reproduce itself in a concentrically larger expandable circle as the correct cosmic order, there was no awareness of the necessity for the establishment of a foreign office in its modern sense within the Chinese bureaucracy to centralize the management of foreign affairs, for "the existence of a foreign office in a state presupposes an awareness of the necessity for relations with other more or less equal states." During the Ming time, the tributary affairs were under the supervision of the Reception Department of the Board of Rites, the highest government office that was committed to the maintenance and correct execution of the rituals that were of central importance to Confucianism-based world order. Also, a department of the Board of War, the government's military office, was charged with responsibility for the management of tributary relations when
142

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Fairbank and Teng, above n. 112, 15. Fairbank, above n. 1, 3. 144 Cited in Hsu, above n.25, 13.

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145

they involved certain aboriginal tribes along China's cultural frontiers. This administrative structure was later modified and refined by the Qing Dynasty when it set up Li Fan Yuan, or the Barbarian Control Office, as the institution to specially handle Mongolian, Mohammedan, and Russian affairs while leaving tributary relations with East, Southeast, and South Asia to the jurisdiction of the Board of Rites.'46 In addition to this organizational structure, the power to deal with trade relations with the Western maritime nations was entrusted to the governor-general at Guangzhou (Canton), who managed foreigners through the Hoppo, the superintendent of maritime customs and the cohong, the guild of Chinese merchants. It is especially important to note that the tribute system functioned as a defensive mechanism in social nature: "it translated barbarian impingements on Chinese society into social terms comprehensible to the Confucian Chinese, thus minimizing fluctuations like a kind of conductor-reductor that filtered barbarian pressures into a Confucian conceptual context."147 To this extent, the system served as a perfect process within the boundary sphere between the "purely barbarian" and the "purely Chinese." As mythically assumed by the Chinese, barbarians could not help but be transformed (laihua) by the awe-inspiring virtue of Chinese civilization. From this it followed that the barbarian who wished to be transformed and so participate in the benefit of civilization had to recognize the supreme position of China's culture. As Mencius advised, "I have heard of men using the doctrines of our great land to change barbarians, but I have never yet heard of any being changed by barbarians."' 4 A corollary of cultural transformation was the doctrine of nonintervention in, and non-exploitation of, the barbarians. As indicated earlier, the Confucian proposition as to barbarians was to win their submission

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145

Mancall, above n.84, 16-17. Id., 17-19. In addition to these two main organs, Huitong Siyi Guan, or Common Residence for Tributary Envoys, supervised by a senior secretary of the Board of Rites was designed for reception and accommodation of tributary envoys. See Hsu, above n.25, 13-14. And even the Board of War was involved with the task of escorting the tributary envoys to the frontiers. See Wang Tieya, International Law in China: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, in: 221 Recueil Des Corns (1990II), 224. ' Cited in Mancall, above n.86, 16. 148 Id.
149

The Works of Mencius, Teng Wen Gong, part 1, in The Chinese-English Bilingual Series of Chinese Classics, above n.35, 360-361.

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through benevolent and virtuous concerns for their welfare. As advised by the
Book of History,

Be kind to the distant, and cultivate the ability of the near. Give honor to the virtuous and your confidence to the good, while you discountenance the artful:so shall the barbarous tribes lead on one another to make their submission.150 As indicated earlier, the tribute system was by no means a system which facilitated imperialistic expansion, exploitation and oppression, as compared with the Western colonial regimes' thrust upon the Asian and African nations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. On the contrary, the tribute system in general imposed nothing on foreign peoples who chose to remain outside the Chinese world. As mentioned earlier, during the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese maritime expeditions reached as far as the eastern coast of Africa. Although China's precedence over the West at that time in naval architecture, navigation, and the nautical arts in general was clearly manifested, the Chinese simply lacked the type of expansive urge that the Western powers demonstrated a century later. As far as tribute bearing nations were concerned, China never made a profit out of the tribute system in pure economic terms since all tributary travel expenses and maintenance of the missions in China were borne by the Chinese government. Given the frequency, size and travelling distances of these missions, maintaining tributary relations in effect was a considerably expensive business. In addition to the enormous cost for the operation of the system, the Chinese emperor's gifts were usually more valuable than the tribute he received.'53 Yet, barbarians always had to be watched with vigilance in order to prevent their infiltration into the heartland of China and their mixing with the Chinese populace, acts that threatened to adulterate the established way of Chinese life. This laissez-faire and defensive attitude towards barbarians later crystallized into a policy of segregation and of constant precaution. Thus, when the tributary envoys called upon China, they were escorted over designated routes, closely watched over, and were subject to many restrictions. They were not allowed to purchase Chinese weapons or books while in die
b0 151
152

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Cited in Hsu's work. Hsu, above n.25, 7. T.F. Tsiang, above n.31, 131.

Hsu, above n.4, 183. F.T. Tsiang, above n.31, 131. 134 Hsu, above n.25, 10.
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capital, lest they make trouble or become too wise, and they were not allowed to roam about freely in the streets without securing permission from the proper Chinese authority, who would then specially guard the streets they were to pass through. On the part of the tributary states, the imperative of the tribute system was multi-dimensional. For the rulers who maintained very close relations with China, this was the system which operated to recognize their legitimacy at home, heighten their prestige before their peoples, and offer them protection against foreign invasion and natural disaster. For others, particularly those from the Inner Asian and Outer zones, their association with China as junior tributary states provided them with enormous trade opportunities. As a rule, each tributary mission was allowed to be accompanied by a large number of traders, and trade followed immediately upon the presentation of tribute to the emperor at the capital. Sometimes, trade was even conducted by the mission itself. In these cases, trade was also permitted at the frontier. For instance, market places were set up on the SinoKorean and Sino-Mongolian frontiers, and in ports along the China coast. Bearing in mind that Chinese court bore all expenses of the trip, including accommodations while the tributary mission stayed in Beijing, commercial transactions as such were certainly highly profitable.D Motivated by the tremendous commercial value of the tribute system, those who might see their relationship with China in far different terms at their end accepted the tribute system, only superficially or tacitly, at least in part, as a matter of expedience to advance trade benefits.'5' Thus, as Fairbank and Teng concluded, the tribute system served benefits for both sides, the moral value of the system being the more important in the minds of the rulers of China, and the material value of trade in the minds of the tribute bearers.158 To the extent that the system functioned as an institutional expression of the time-tested Chinese view of world order, trade

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!6

Hsu, above n.4, 182-183. However, it should not be understood that the presentation of tribute by a specific country was a prerequisite for commercial exchange between a country and China. Trade might take place along the frontier without the presentation of tribute. The British East India Company traded at Canton regularly until the Opium War. Mancall, above n.86, 76. Fairbank, above n.l, 12.
158

Fairbank and Teng, above n.l 12, 17. However, they warn that this conclusion may be an over-simplification which runs counter to the whole set of ideas behind die system, and it also overlooks the interesting possibility, which deserves exploration, of an imperial economic interest, for instance, in the silk export trade.

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permission given to tributary states was intended to be a mark of imperial bounty and a means of keeping the barbarians in the proper state of submissiveness.'5 On the part of tributary states, the fact that the China trade was lucrative sufficed to justify their subjection to whatever humiliation was entailed in the observances of the ritual requirements. In such a case, however, the submission of tributary states to the Chinese world order worked in reverse, because it was actually bought and paid for by the trade conceded by China. It is apparent that the tribute system left no room for the principle of sovereign equality. Although such system cannot be said to be of neither crusading nor colonial nature, it created a formidable barrier to a foreign policy based on the concept of equality between or among sovereign states as understood in the term of international law.' ' As Kim rightly observes, "The burden of adjustment always fell on the tributary states."'62 It was this system of the "family of nations" that the Western powers encountered when they began to expand to East Asia in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The stage was set for conflict and confrontation as more and more Westerners arrived in China. They could not accept this system ideologically or institutionally without sacrificing valued principles of state sovereignty and diplomatic relations based on the European system of international law. The West mistook what was a culturally-dictated and politically-oriented institution in China for purely political and legal reasons. Hence, the arrival of each Western mission in China invariably sparked an occasion for quarrel. Western nations felt that their submission to the tribute system was a humiliation and disgrace, and they insisted on application of the European system of international law as the governing norms for their relations with China. Yet, the fact that the Kowtow ceremony had been performed by envoys from several Western nations erroneously impressed China that even those Western nations had submitted themselves to the supremacy of the Son of Heaven. Accordingly, it could hardly see any reason to sacrifice this cherished system simply because of the argument of the Western barbarians. The Chinese advanced equally rhetorical logics: "We have not asked you to come; if you come you must accept our ways," as put by Hsu. Inevitably, the Chinese world and the Western one, with their distinct claims of superiority F.T. Tsiang, above n.31, 131. Fairbank and Teng, above n. 112, 17. 161 T.F. Tsiang, above n.31, 130. 162 Kim, above n. 102, 46. Hsu, above n.4, 185.

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based on different world outlooks, collided head on. Without the support of military forces, yet anxious to achieve trade benefits, early Western envoys usually yielded grudgingly to the Chinese practice. Beginning from the late eighteenth century, however, the circumstances changed drastically. The Industrial Revolution had generated vastly increased surplus production capacities in the West, which was in turn transformed into a powerful drive to seek and open new markets as well as sources of raw materials abroad. Released from the Napoleonic Wars, Western nations, notably Britain, with the wild ambition for an imperialistic empire where the sun never set, resolved to force open China's door and come to China on its own terms.

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