Many Western analysts and international relations scholars take the intellectual and historical foundations of statecraft for granted. They invoke the “Thucydides trap” when pondering whether the world will be able to accommodate China’s rise and cite Machiavelli when thinking about Beijing’s practice of realpolitik. While these perspectives are important and useful, they tend to interpret the problem of Chinese global power in analytical terms derived only from the Western intellectual and historical experience. Chinese foreign policy thinkers know the Western canon, of course. But China has its own rich intellectual tradition that informs its statecraft just as deeply as the Western tradition informs that of North America and Europe.
The Chinese strategic canon contains sophisticated debates that cover most of the categories that comprise modern international relations. There are, for example, concepts analogous to Western ideas of both liberal internationalism and of realpolitik, or realism. But it is also important to understand at what points Western and Chinese concepts diverge. I argue that while Chinese and Western views are quite similar on the subject of realism, they differ on the subjects of international cooperation and the rules-based order. This mismatch is important because the strategic goal of the United States over the past three decades has been to somehow induce Beijing to abandon its own concept of a hierarchical international order and to submit to a rules-based and liberal one. A look into the Chinese strategic canon, specifically the story of “Zhu Zhiwu Persuades Qin,” shows why this goal is unattainable. Läs artikel