Collective Imaginations and International Order: The Contemporary Context of the Chinese Tributary System

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A large body of scholarship in Political Science suggests that the material power of a dominant state is critical for the stabilization of international order. Consequently, the relative decline of the United States and the ascendance of China raise concerns regarding the stability of the current international system. By contrast, culturalist accounts such as David Kang’s East Asia before the West submit that a stable order can be based on a shared cultural framework rather than material force. Despite their many contributions, the methodological design of such analyses—Kang’s included—do not allow us to attribute Chinese hegemony in the tributary system primarily to cultural factors. Examining the salience of cultural factors for international order requires a different research design that incorporates greater variation across history and regions and that recognizes the multivocality of imperial claims to authority.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHarvard Journal of Asiatic Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017


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