By Eric Vandenbroeck and co-workers

Recently published by academic publisher Routledge titled Hegemony with Chinese Characteristics: From the Tributary System to the Belt and Road Initiative, by Asim Doğan analyzes the Chinese-centered globalization ‘from below’ brought about by China’s entrepreneurial migrants and conceived of as a projection of Chinese power in the Belt and Road Initiative partner states. It identifies the features of this globalization ‘from below,’ scrutinizes its mutually reinforcing relationship with China’s globalization ‘from above,’ and shows that these two globalizations are intrinsically related to the construction of a new international order. It outlines how the actors in China’s globalization ‘from below’ include Chinese emigrants who are located in informal transnational economic networks. It reveals that Beijing has enacted many laws that compel these emigrants to contribute to the development of their country of origin but also influences them through the successful promotion of a specific type of deterritorialized nationalism; and that China is ready to impose harsh punitive actions on political elites in partner states which fail to protect its migrants or limit their economic activities. Finally, it argues that China’s globalization ‘from below’ is fundamentally different from the non-hegemonic globalization ‘from below’ represented by, among others, Lebanese and East Indian traders, and that China’s globalization ‘from below’ is rather a self-interested national strategy intended to support the construction of a Chinese-centered international order.  

Although presented as an entirely new foreign policy gambit, the BRI, in fact, builds on the policies of Xi's predecessor. With the intent of being a challenge to Pax Americana that some say emerged primarily due to China's concern with the Taiwan problem is far more ambitious than its antecedents. Thus in two 2013 speeches, Xi presented the BRI as a grand scheme to improve connectiv­ity, trade, and infrastructure from Asia to Europe.

Xi strongly believes in what he calls “laws of history,” He requires his diplomats to believe in them. Also, in February 2021, Xi Jinping again stressed the significance of studying  history that "led the people to create a new Chinese civilization with a long history.” 

Starting by referring to the importance of the “Century of Humiliation” and what we referred to as China’s National Narratives in our conclusion, of Can a potential future Pacific War be avoided? Doğan postulates that his findings confirm that, besides divergences, there are many similarities between the two systems he investigates. China, adjusting some of its imperial policies and values to the modern age and in some aspects being inevitably transformed by modernization, is still carrying significant characteristics of its historical political mentality and strategies. Therefore, Belt and Road Initiative is not a simple economic cooperation plan but an attempt to construct a regionally intensified but globally extended, comprehensive Chinese hegemony. This “Hegemony in Chinese Characteristics” can be named “Neo-Tributary System” due to its similarities with the historical one. Given this subject has an important history, I first like to start by taking a closer look at the Chinese tributary system, which was closely related to what we earlier covered in our  'mandate of heaven' case study as seen in the context of ancient Rome and early Europe.

This includes a discussion that started afther historian John King Fairbank (today honored by the Fairbank Center) referred to “a set of ideas and practices developed and perpetuated by the rulers of China over many centu­ries which to Fairbank was an extension of the Confucian hierarchic and non-egalitarian social order of China.1 According to Fairbank, the more the culture-based theory of Chinese superiority was accepted by actors in the periphery, the more likely they were to participate in the tribute system.  Fairbank's culture-based graded hierarchy model categorizes China’s neighbors into three zones based on the extent to which they accepted Chinese Confucian culture as well as their geographic prox­imity to China. Fairbank here singled out Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and Ryukyu as having resided in the Chinese cultural area, an area influenced by the civilization of ancient China. These societies, according to Fairbank, formed the Sinic zone, followed by the Inner Asian zone and the Outer zone (the latter even­tually comprising japan, other states in Southeast and South Asia, and Europe). In the Fairbanks model, it is noteworthy that Japan was catego­rized as part of the Sinic zone and was eventually moved to the Outer zone, whereas Korea remained part of the Sinic zone during the Qing period. Not surprisingly, this resulted in an at times heated exchange with several scholars who reconnected with an older tradition of scholarship that identified itself with Manchu studies.

The new Qing scholars Evelyn Rawski, Mark Elliott, and Pamela Kyle Crossley challenged the widely accepted idea that the Chinese always assimilated (Sinification) their conquerors, so the Manchu Qing was also assimilated and adapted into Chinese culture. Upon the newly opened Qing official documents in Chinese and Manchu languages, they dis­covered that Manchus were actually very pragmatic on this issue. They had devel­oped a sense of Manchu identity by managing the country in Central Asian style as much as the Confucian style.

It was a Manchu-centric system in which Han China was an essential part, but still a part of the vast country, among the others, Mongolia, Manchuria, Central Asia, and Tibet. The new Qing inter­pretation has challenged Fairbanks's theory of the Sinocentric Tributary System, which he claimed was built on the hierarchic and non-egalitarian Confucian base. The new Qing challenged Fairbank further by suggesting different ideas on important points. First, the name “China” not only referred to Chinese Confucian culture or identity, but the “others” included in it as well. Second, no form of Tributary relations can explain the complex structure of rela­tions, changing based on time and region. The Qing emperors did not mold themselves on the typical Confucian “Son of Heaven” model. They were “Chakravartin” to the Buddhists, and “Khan” to the nomadic Mongolians, also Son of Heaven to Hans. They hold multiple identities, using each identity in the relevant region to make the ruling of those societies possible.

This whereby Chinese scholars like Joe Tin Yau Lo in The Quest for Legitimacy in Chinese Politics A New Interpretation (2019) argued that:

"The concept of the Mandate of Heaven was first used to support founding kings of the Zhou dynasty {1045-256 BC) and justify their overthrow of the despotic Shang dynasty (1600-1046 BC). This phrase has since been used to justify the legitimacy of rulers of the vast Chinese empire, including non-Han ethnic monarchs such as the Mongolian Yuan dynasty (1271-1368 AD) and the Manchu Qing dynasty (1644-1911 AD). The Mandate of Heaven has been a well-accepted idea among the people since it advocates removing despots and compels rulers to rule well and justly. Scholars in China have frequently invoked the concept as a way to fight against the abuse of power. Moreover, the Chinese view of history is cyclical nor linear; Ik nee, it never aims at a predestined end. With this cyclical view, legitimacy is, in fact, a never-ending process of moral self-adjustment. The institutional arrangement cannot settle the question of legitimacy once for all."2

Here then, Chinese hegemonic authority was seen as an outcome not just of China’s material power but of a com­bination of less powerful actors' domestic legitimation strategies and their resonance with Chinese hegemonic ideology. Among others exemplified by the fluc­tuations in Korea’s and Japan’s responses to Chinese hegemonic author­ity. Thus, during the Ming, Korea’s responses fluctuated along the spectrum, moving from compliance to challenge and back to compli­ance. In contrast, Japan’s responses, which had begun as defiance, shifted to high compliance before going back to low compliance and outright challenge. By some seen as sort of a prelude to what became much later became the idea of a Pan-Asianism, In 1592, with an army of approximately 158,000 troops, which included a naval campaign, Toyotomi Hideyoshi launched what would end up being the first of two invasions of Korea, with the intent of eventually conquering Ming-dynasty China.2

Hence Japan distanced itself from China and began to act as a new center of a miniature international order. Korea is seen as forced to willingly accept Qing hegemony after being invaded twice, in 1627 and 1636. Which according to Korean scholar Ji-young Lee allows one to presume that the existing American hegemonic order might have to stay in power despite the rise of Chinese power, depending on responses by other East Asian powers seeking to attend to their domestic political needs.3

Asim Doğan proceeds with; The Tributary System is not a definition explaining all relations that China developed with all foreign states at all times. In theory, it covers a period of more than two thousand years of the history of relationships. However, its ideal structure is reached in the historical period of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, specifically matured between the years 1425 and 1550. Fairbank and Teng named the relationship type they observed as a system of values and rules that China developed in East Asia, which deserve attention as one historical solution to problems of the world organization.- China, being the center of cultural influence in the region, has intensely influenced Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and the small island kingdom of Ryukyu by its relatively advanced culture. 

The Chinese Emperors accepted foreign envoys in the same procedures as the ceremonies for domestic feudal lords, submitting tributes. This was the mentality of ancient Chinese for­eign relations, reflecting the domestic submission structure outward, due to the Tianxia concept of unity, whose jurisdiction covered the entire Earth.

Similar to what we have seen in our earlier study about the relationship between imperial Russia and China, one of the arguments offered by the Qing where for example (what must have been offensive that Empress Catherine II if they became known in Europe) were based on the idea that it was ridiculous for that woman of yours [suweni emu hehe niyalma] to compare herself to the Qianlong emperor: We have never heard of the lord of a foreign kingdom being a woman, not a man we laugh and have no words to continue such a discussion.



Tianxia (天下) is a Chinese term for an ancient Chinese cultural concept that denoted either the entire geographical world or the metaphysical realm’s, and later became associated with political sovereignty. In ancient China, tianxia denoted the lands, space, and area divinely appointed to the Emperor by universal and well-defined principles of order. The center of this land was directly apportioned to the Imperial court, forming the center of a world view centered on the Imperial court and went concentrically outward to major and minor officials and then the common citizens, tributary states, and finally ending with fringe 'barbarians'. Thus the Chinese Emperors accepted foreign envoys in the same procedures as the ceremonies for domestic feudal lords, submitting tributes. This was the mentality of ancient Chinese for­eign relations, reflecting the domestic submission structure outward, due to the Tianxia concept of unity, whose jurisdiction covered the entire Earth.

On their behalf, the non-Chinese rulers or envoys had to follow some symbolic rules and rituals with the domestic local rulers if they wanted to join the Chinese world order of the Tributary System. The performance of rituals was critical, signifying the Confucian principle of Rites in meeting with the Son of Heaven. The symbolic ritual was three kneelings and nine prostrations, “kow-tow.” The practical outcome of submission would be as follows:

The tributary ruler would be granted a patent of appointment and an official stamp for use in correspondence. He would be granted a noble rank in the Chinese state hierarchy. He would start to use the Chinese calendar and the dynasty’s reign title. He had to “present a symbolic tribute memorial of various sorts on appropriate statutory occasions.” He was required to present a symbolic tribute of local products from their country. His convoys would be accompanied by the imperial posts to the imperial court. After the kowtow, he would receive imperial gifts in return. He was granted some rights of trade at the borders and in the capital city. Any ruler who followed these pro­cedures could take his place in the Chinese world order.

In the late Ming and early Qing periods, the Tributary System was a matured foreign policy system compared to the previous Chinese experience. The earlier Chinese methods of dealing with the barbarians, as defined in the section on Hua-Yi Distinction, also known as Sino–barbarian dichotomy, is a Chinese concept that (as we have seen earlier) differentiated a culturally defined "China" from cultural or ethnic outsiders varied during the long history of their confron­tation.4

According to Doğan, after the “Age of Humiliation” and the Mao time “Ideological Age,” China has been transformed in many ways. China left its priority of “Exporting Maoist Ideology” adopted flexible and pragmatic policies to continue the economic growth, followed a more peaceful and cooperation-based policy with neighbors and beyond. Transformation in the economy brought a rapid transformation in society, though the political transformation is not in that much. Today’s China was quite different from China 40 years ago. Although the government’s priority is still to keep the party control and authoritarian regime to continue and legitimize its use of power, it has a lot of advancement in leaving the wrong ideological policies in the past as well. While spending many sources abroad like setting up “Confucius Institutes” to develop Chinese influence, domestically, it promotes the revival of its historical pride. There is a huge curiosity among Chinese people about Chinese history, old texts, Confucianism, Taoism, etc. It seems like China once again returning to its historical values after the devastating turmoil. This is what the “rejuvenation of China” rhetoric is about. This process repeated itself a lot of time during the whole of Chinese history.

For Chinese bureaucrats, politicians, scholars, and the public in the grassroots, “Zhongguo” (China) carrying much more meaning than a nation-state. Chinese people do not just have language, territorial, cultural and historical ties with their countries. China is at the center of the philosophy of life and the source of aspects of cultural, social, and religious existence for Chinese people. 


The potential weaponization of BRI

Yet also what began as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road has expanded into space, cyberspace, and global health. BRI now includes multiple deep-sea ports in strategic proximity to vital sea lanes and maritime chokepoints in the terrestrial and maritime domains. Several BRI port projects in the Indo-Pacific do not appear commercially viable, raises questions about Beijing’s motives for investing in these infrastructure assets.

The Chinese government’s steadfast insistence that the BRI is purely peaceful, “win-win” development initiative has been met with skepticism in many quarters. The rapid pace of China’s military modernization, its program of civil-military fusion, and its increasingly assertive posture throughout the Indo-Pacific have fueled suspicion about BRI and its strategic utility to China. Some critics warn that projects like Hambantota port in Sri Lanka or Gwadar port in Pakistan are part of a “String of Pearls” network of potential naval bases along the shores of the Indian Ocean.

It is certainly true that the maritime domain is critical to China’s economic development and security. Since 40 percent of China’s gross domestic product is derived from foreign trade. More than 60 percent of trade and 80 percent of China’s imported oil moves by sea, it’s no surprise that the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN’s) budget has grown significantly, or that its strategy has shifted beyond China’s coastal waters toward the protection of vital sea lanes and its overseas interests. The PLAN’s area of operations has now expanded beyond the so-called “second island chain,” which stretches from Japan to Guam and Indonesia. It's first – and thus far only – overseas base in Djibouti is located at the entrance to the Bab-el-Mandeb strait leading to the Suez Canal and European markets.

Along the Maritime Silk Road, BRI port projects bolster the PLAN’s ability to operate further afield. BRI ports in the Indo-Pacific are not naval bases per se, but they often have dual-use commercial and military functionality. Beijing calls “civil-military fusion” as now codified in-laws and regulations requiring overseas infrastructure projects to be built to PLA military specifications and mandate that Chinese-owned businesses support PLA operations. Labeled “strategic strongpoints” by Chinese planners, these ports incorporate features that boost their potential military utility and expand the PLA’s logistics network to facilitate power projection further from China’s shores.

But to look at these “strategic strongpoints” in isolation is to miss the real danger: they are components of a suite of infrastructure, economic and other assets being assembled by Beijing that serve as platforms for influence and leverage in BRI host states. That includes the Digital Silk Road, with Huawei networks and “Smart Cities” surveillance technologies. It also includes the “BRI Space Information Corridor,” with the Beidou satellite system. And the BRI’s terrestrial, maritime, digital, and space elements are combined with financial and trade ties, active diplomacy, and rapidly expanding Chinese military engagement and arms sales throughout the Indo-Pacific region. As “Weaponizing the Belt and Road Initiative,” a September 2020 Asia Society report by one of the authors, points out, these trends are contributing to the emergence of a Sinocentric ecosystem that will do far more to hamper the United States’ ability to operate effectively in the region than Chinese military bases ever would and is reminiscent of a map we published in an earlier article.

In fact, Chinese laws mandate that even overseas infrastructure be designed to meet military standards. These laws authorize the military to commandeer ships, facilities, and other assets of Chinese-owned companies. China’s push for civil-military integration builds in dual-use commercial and military functionality in BRI infrastructure and associated technologies.

Thus it could be that Beijing’s approach seeks to lay the groundwork for military utilization without raising red flags. Many BRI ports are built along with a “port-parks-city” development model that integrates the port with industrial parks and support industries like shipbuilding and resupply services that enhance the port’s capacity to support Chinese vessels, including navy ships. The presence of Chinese state-owned and private enterprises, often with operational control of port management, augment the potential military utility of the port.

Thus as an example of weaponizing its BRI, China is not just building overseas naval bases; it is developing ports with dual-use functionality from the South China Sea into the Indian Ocean and the Middle East. These ports are “Strategic Strongpoints” close to maritime chokepoints and critical sea lanes. They are designed to support the Chinese military’s logistics network and improve its ability to operate further from home.

In the case of the Philippine-controlled area of the South China Sea, two recent commentators cited rare earth minerals crucial to China’s tech ambitions as another motive.

Adding up the above it can be argued that the levers of influence that accrue from the BRI network enable Beijing to exercise persuasion or coercion, to operate in a more compliant and advantageous environment. This dovetails with China’s systematic push to expand its influence in multilateral rule-setting institutions and some cases to create new ones. BRI’s many belts and roads seem to lead toward a regional (or even more extensive) ecosystem that structurally favors China’s interests. 

One of  Doğan's hypotheses is that historical Chinese pride is one of the decisive factors in Chinese conduct of foreign relations. Is China going to be an aggressive and offensive hegemon? The main reason would be its pride, derived from the mentality of the Civilization State. And this directly leads into the topic of a second book I like to discuss here, and that apparently was published at the time Doğan's went through its editing process, hence both books appear to be written parallel to each other and where Doğan's book focuses on the historical background leading up to addressing the relation of “One Belt and One Road” and educational development by China as covered in Higher Education and China’s Global Rise: A Neo-tributary Perspective by Su-Yan Pan and Joe Tin Yau Lo.


The legacy of Sino-centrism and the mentality of Chinese greatness in academia

Using a neo-tributary perspective like Doğan does Su-Yan Pan and Joe Tin Yau Lo, two specialists in their field, identify the diplomatic role of higher education in the People's Republic of China (PRC) politico-economic development and how China’s self-identity has shaped the role as a great power in the world.

The authors propose an explanatory framework in ‘neo-tributary' terms and iden­tifies four analytic categories for conceptualizing China’s power strategy: Chinese exceptionalism, trade and diplomatic linkages, cultural assimilation, and image building. This analytical framework goes beyond hard/soft power categories and considers the relations between the past and present, re-contextualized in the conditions surrounding China's claim to global power status. It sheds light on the influence of traditional mentality in shaping the nation’s contemporary diplomacy. It considers the operational mechanisms that allow state-sponsored organizations (c.g., Chinese universities and research institutes) to act as net­work weavers and cultural diplomats, armed by formally or informally regulated institutions and conventions, to build up and expand the international network needed by a nation-state to diffuse its economic and cultural influences.

The neo-tributary framework here thus advances an understanding of how the PRC state adjusts its higher education policies to realize renewed international pres­tige, while at the same time coping with external and internal challenges to its legitimacy due to changing international and domestic circumstances. China's educational paradigm mirrors the state’s power strategy in world politics. By serv­ing the state's diplomatic relations and national image building, Chinese univer­sities have increased their international profiles. Still, they have remained continuously dependent on foreign-trained personnel for cutting-edge research and scientific publications, rather than cultivating innovation from indigenous knowledge and domestically trained personnel. Moreover, China has reasons to celebrate its ‘brain gain’ successes - i.e., the ability to import highly educated international human capital possessing the knowledge, skills, and/or potentials on which China relies tor economic growth, political stability, and global com­petitiveness.

From an international relations (IR) perspective, not all games are zero-sum, and nations might employ hard and soft resources to achieve their goals. As indicated by Doğan's recent approach, it has become fashionable to view China as developing significant soft power capabilities. Origi­nally, "soft power’ referred to one's ability to affect other countries' behaviors by persuading them to adopt one’s goals or perspectives; it is thus inherently consensual. Hard power, in contrast, is exercised mainly through actual or threat­ened military force or institutional pressure, payments, or bribes and is fundamentally coercive. ‘[Culture], political values (and] foreign policies’ arc a country’s primary soft power resources, and their attractiveness enable actors to realize favorable outcomes ‘because oth­ers want what [those actors] want.' The term excludes financial incentives, diplomatic pressure, and other hard forms of influ­ence favoring non-commercial, non-financial (and of course non-military) elements that might make one population sympathetic to another.

China conceptualizes soft power more broadly, to include "not only popular culture and public diplomacy but also more coercive economic and diplomatic levers like aid and investment and participation in the multilateral organizations'. The term is used in multiple ways and has multiple interpretations. At the policy level, ‘soft power’ refers to actively promoted national building projects. In 2007, then-president Hu Jintao asserted that China must use both hard and soft power to demonstrate its increased international status and influence. Improving China’s soft power through cultural development was a major practical issue facing China. Since then, there have been widely varying assessments of China’s soft power capabilities and how they can and should be expanded. Chinese scholars and society both acknowledge the uncertainty of many sources of Chinese soft power, pending the ultimate trans­formation of China’s state, society, culture, economy, and politics; to improve China's global position, economic support should be the ‘hard’ basis on which ‘soft’ power is built.

Analyzing China’s rise from a soft power perspective may be conceptually mis­leading. China’s concept of soft power includes both coercive and consensual elements and often takes the form of a cultural, economic, or national image­building project, rather than simply being attractive. Moreover, China’s tendency to see economic incentive as soft power is problematic, as an economic power is often considered coercive, regardless of how benign the underlying intent; pro­viding financial aid, donations and services to developing countries can create dependencies that allow tor gross manipulation, albeit monetary rather than military (Hunter, 2009), and funding conditions or limitations can turn ‘carrots' (attractive power) into ‘sticks’ (coercive power). Such tensions and paradoxes can be observed in China’s soft power projection which ‘relics more on (non­military) coercion and inducement than on attraction’ and ‘tends to use utilitar­ian soft power resources in a coercive and rigid way.’

The tributary system, most often associated with imperial China s foreign rela­tions, began to develop during the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) and remained the primary institution regulating Chinese foreign relations until dying mid-nineteenth century. Its mechanisms, institutions, and ways of governance evolved. It recognized and reinforced China’s East Asian hegemony by conceptualizing China as the Middle Kingdom (below heaven but above the world); lesser (tributary) states were required and expected to acknowledge China s superiority by paying tribute to its emperor and adopting Chinese diplomatic etiquette and practices, in exchange for permission to trade in designated markets for a specific period. Trade followed diplomacy and, to Chi­nese thinking, subdued foreigners and ‘barbarians’ through cultural assimilation.

The term neo-tributary identifies and interprets the legacy of the tributary mentality and strategies, as manifested in China’s contemporary international engagements. Four analytic categories comprise the neo-tributary framework:

1.  The perception of Chinese greatness as a motive

2.  Trade and diplomatic linkages as economic means

3.  Cultural assimilation as a political strategy

4.  Image building as legitimacy defense

Thus categories are drawn by analogy from the imperial tribute system and how the analogy between past and present is re-contextualized in conditions surrounding China's nascent global power status.

The attempt to synthesize official Marxism, Xi Jinping thought, and Confucianism was reflected in June 2019, when the organ of the CCP Central Committee, Qiushiposted an article asking people to be confident in “the culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” According to its definition, this culture is “an organic whole composed of outstanding Chinese traditional culture, the revolutionary culture, and advanced socialist culture.” This statement vindicates the longstanding observation that the CCP has been increasingly interested in using “traditional culture” to strengthen its legitimacy since the 1990s, even though the Party authority seldom mentions Confucianism in its official documents.

This revival of Confucianism has become part of the Zeitgeist of contemporary China. At the core of this project, what lies at the core of this project is to redefine the relationship between the Communist Party, the Confucian tradition, and Chinese history, as Gan has done in his syncretism. Liu Xiaofeng, a professor of classics at Renmin University, promotes the idea that the CCP is the modern incarnation of premodern Confucian literati-bureaucrats superior intellectual and moral virtues entitle them to function as the grand tutor of the people.  In contemporary China, argues Liu, the task of the CCP is to uphold lofty moral ideals (moral politics or “the Kingly Way”) to resist the nihilism and relativism of liberal modernity, exemplified by way of life and normative political ideals of the United States.

The underpinning rationale for the tributary system was Sino-centrism, which led China to demand foreign acknowledgment of its superior place globally and pursue prestige and legitimation, which informed its non-coercive diplo­matic approach. Although Sino-centrism no longer informs China’s sense of superiority, an underlying belief in Chinese great­ness continues to shape its thoughts, as manifested in China’s self-identification as a great power (daguo).

In November 2006, China’s primary state-owned television broadcaster, CCTV, ran a 12-part documentary, The Rise of the Great Powers, which examined how nine nations (Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, and the US) became great powers. The series aired domestically and internationally and voiced the state’s determination to study ‘'the experiences of nations and empires it once condemned as aggressors bent on exploitation, and its ambition to be again recognized as a great power.

The idea of China as a multifaceted and/or comprehensive great power was stressed by the Hu Jintao government (2003-2013) in its pursuit of scientific development’ and ‘harmonious society. Two possible factors affected this devel­opment; First, after the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the socialist bloc, the PRC state sought to escape the same late and repo­sition China's international standing as a great power. Former President Jiang Zemin (2002) outlined a vision of enhancing China's comprehensive national power (zongheguoli) the combined weight of the country’s economic, diplo­matic, military, cultural, natural, and human capital resources) to survive inter­national competition. Second, in a timely fashion, Nye's concept of soft power was introduced into China and found a receptive audience. Scholarly discussions expanded the original Conceptual framework to formulate the domes­tic and foreign policies necessary to reposition China's international standing.

For the PRC state, soft power is a component of its national defense against domestic and international challenges, not simply an appeal to the attractiveness of its values/ideas. Chinese scholars suggested that the former Soviet Union, which had been as powerful as the US for a time, lost its status due to its flawed soft power, a lesson China should not neglect. The discussions captured the attention of Hu’s think tank. Hu’s administration accepted Chinese intellectuals’ warning that to achieve great-power status, China needed to build both its hard power, as an effective means of securing national interests, and its soft power, to refine the ‘China threat’ theory and secure a stable and peaceful international environment for China’s rise.

Contradicting books and opinions about 'the rise of the West' I will next present a case study showing that including during the 19th century China and Europe were basically similar in nearly all significant economic indices, including standard of living, market development, agrarian productivity, and institutional structures that affected growth.


1) Asim Doğan,  Chinese Characteristics: From the Tributary System to the Belt and Road Initiative, 2021, 52.

2) Joe Tin Yau Lo in The Quest for Legitimacy in Chinese Politics A New Interpretation, 2019, p.3 ff.

3) On this, see Ji-young Lee China's Hegemony: Four Hundred Years of East Asian Domination, 2016.

4) Idem, Doğan, 53.


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