China's historical grand strategy: defensive or offensive?


AssassinsMace

Lieutenant General
The same question can be said of the West and we already know they tried to take over the world so it's pretty hypocritical for Westerners to ask this of China.
 
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Max Demian

Junior Member
Registered Member
China wasn't trying to annex its opponents, because both Song, Northern Han, and even Liao were ALL Chinese!
Can you please provide a source for Liao being Chinese? Based on what I am reading in the book, the Song consistently spoke of the Liao as barbarians. If we consult the Wikipedia page on the Liao Empire, we can learn that this was a multi-ethnic state:
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. The Khitan people who dominated in the Liao empire spoke a non-Chinese language and had culture and customs distinct from the Han.

I will again quote from the book, regarding the treaty of Shanyuan.

"The treaty also had symbolic significance. To formalize their peaceful relationship, the emperors of both countries thereafter addressed each other as “brother” and recognized one another’s status as equal actors in the international arena. The Song changed the names of places with derogatory overtones. For instance, Polu (“Breaking up the Caitiffs”) was changed to Xinan(“Faith and Peace”), and Pingrong (“Pacifying the Barbarians”) became Baoding (“Protecting the Peace”). Official documents began to address the Liao as the “Great Khitan state” (da qidan guo) or the “Northern Court” (beichao) rather than the “Northern Barbarians” (beilu). The demarcated borderline set by the Treaty of Shanyuan hardened the concepts of cultural identity,ethnicity, and loyalty, and the moral caliber of Han Chinese that crossed the
borders—voluntarily or involuntarily—to work in the Liao court would be questioned by future Chinese historians."

"Although the tribute system was predicated on the notion of Chinese superiority, the Treaty of Shanyuan presumed at least a relation-
ship of equality between the two nations. Such equality with neighbors was rare in Chinese history. The Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) had experienced a period of equality with the nomadic Xiongnu Empire, and the Tang dynasty established a marriage alliance with Tibet on an equal footing. These arrangements took place mainly because China lacked the military power to subjugate its adversaries into participating in the tribute system. Geopolitical reality forced the Song to acknowledge its lesser status, however humiliating or distasteful it might have seemed to the Chinese. As a matter of fact, countries like Korea, the Xi Xia, and other Inner Asian states all paid tribute at various times to the Liao Empire."
 

Max Demian

Junior Member
Registered Member
I am really confused about the purpose of this thread . What is it trying to tell us or what is op trying to understand ?
The point was to invite a discussion on the topic elaborated in my first post. Personally, it will help me get a counter-viewpoint on the conjectures made by the author of the book that I am reading.
 

Crang

Senior Member
Registered Member
Can you please provide a source for Liao being Chinese? Based on what I am reading in the book, the Song consistently spoke of the Liao as barbarians. If we consult the Wikipedia page on the Liao Empire, we can learn that this was a multi-ethnic state:
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!
. The Khitan people who dominated in the Liao empire spoke a non-Chinese language and had culture and customs distinct from the Han.

I will again quote from the book, regarding the treaty of Shanyuan.

"The treaty also had symbolic significance. To formalize their peaceful relationship, the emperors of both countries thereafter addressed each other as “brother” and recognized one another’s status as equal actors in the international arena. The Song changed the names of places with derogatory overtones. For instance, Polu (“Breaking up the Caitiffs”) was changed to Xinan(“Faith and Peace”), and Pingrong (“Pacifying the Barbarians”) became Baoding (“Protecting the Peace”). Official documents began to address the Liao as the “Great Khitan state” (da qidan guo) or the “Northern Court” (beichao) rather than the “Northern Barbarians” (beilu). The demarcated borderline set by the Treaty of Shanyuan hardened the concepts of cultural identity,ethnicity, and loyalty, and the moral caliber of Han Chinese that crossed the
borders—voluntarily or involuntarily—to work in the Liao court would be questioned by future Chinese historians."

"Although the tribute system was predicated on the notion of Chinese superiority, the Treaty of Shanyuan presumed at least a relation-
ship of equality between the two nations. Such equality with neighbors was rare in Chinese history. The Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) had experienced a period of equality with the nomadic Xiongnu Empire, and the Tang dynasty established a marriage alliance with Tibet on an equal footing. These arrangements took place mainly because China lacked the military power to subjugate its adversaries into participating in the tribute system. Geopolitical reality forced the Song to acknowledge its lesser status, however humiliating or distasteful it might have seemed to the Chinese. As a matter of fact, countries like Korea, the Xi Xia, and other Inner Asian states all paid tribute at various times to the Liao Empire."

They were regarded as weakly Chinese, on the fringes of the Chinese civilization state. Not Chinese enough, but not non-Chinese either. As mentioned before, the Song decided to leave the Liao on their own in what they saw as fringe territory. The Tibetan alliance was one of exchange, with Princess Wencheng sent for marriage, bringing in Buddhism to Tibet and slowly starting a strengthening link between Tibet and China proper. As mentioned before, the Song acknowledged its lesser status only to maintain the status quo, as they had consolidated most of China proper. It showed in that Liao and Song enjoyed a hundred years of peace thereafter (ergo some degree of pacifism). While Song wasn't theoretically militarily weak, its wars of formation had been of attrition - they had spent some 150 years regaining most of China, leaving the dynasty weaker than other Chinese dynasties (and it was later exhausted by warfare with Jin and the Mongols).
 

Hendrik_2000

Lieutenant General
Liao is founded by Khitan tribe in North east China and they raided the northern Chinese states But when Tang run supreme they were under the influence of Tang So you can say they are half Chinese Later on I think under their khan Aboiji they literally dissolve themselves into Chinese he himself give example by marrying Chinese princes and tell his people todo the same and adopt Chinese culture and way of life Even changing their name to Han name
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That is common practice actually along both northern and southern border of China Nomadic people attracted to Chinese culture and decide to become Chinese people talk about the pull of Chinese culture So Chinese is not a race never was but it is culture And anybody can join in if they adopt the Chinese culture and way of life. Liao or Khitan people don't exist anymore practically dissolve into northern Chinese
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They are Buddhist and they built magnificent buddhist temple and the only wood pagoda in existence in China is built by them
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AssassinsMace

Lieutenant General
Anybody read Stephen J Gould's Mismeasurement of Man? It was book about how Western science in history tried to intellectualize racism to legitimize classifying other races as inferior. That's what this is. They're trying to intellectualized an old racist trope that Chinese are about invading and conquering. Where in the opposite, the alt right who reject that the West ever committed human rights violations in the world and the white race should only be appreciated and rewarded for all they've done for the world.
 

PiSigma

"the engineer"
Can you please provide a source for Liao being Chinese? Based on what I am reading in the book, the Song consistently spoke of the Liao as barbarians. If we consult the Wikipedia page on the Liao Empire, we can learn that this was a multi-ethnic state:
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!
. The Khitan people who dominated in the Liao empire spoke a non-Chinese language and had culture and customs distinct from the Han.

I will again quote from the book, regarding the treaty of Shanyuan.

"The treaty also had symbolic significance. To formalize their peaceful relationship, the emperors of both countries thereafter addressed each other as “brother” and recognized one another’s status as equal actors in the international arena. The Song changed the names of places with derogatory overtones. For instance, Polu (“Breaking up the Caitiffs”) was changed to Xinan(“Faith and Peace”), and Pingrong (“Pacifying the Barbarians”) became Baoding (“Protecting the Peace”). Official documents began to address the Liao as the “Great Khitan state” (da qidan guo) or the “Northern Court” (beichao) rather than the “Northern Barbarians” (beilu). The demarcated borderline set by the Treaty of Shanyuan hardened the concepts of cultural identity,ethnicity, and loyalty, and the moral caliber of Han Chinese that crossed the
borders—voluntarily or involuntarily—to work in the Liao court would be questioned by future Chinese historians."

"Although the tribute system was predicated on the notion of Chinese superiority, the Treaty of Shanyuan presumed at least a relation-
ship of equality between the two nations. Such equality with neighbors was rare in Chinese history. The Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) had experienced a period of equality with the nomadic Xiongnu Empire, and the Tang dynasty established a marriage alliance with Tibet on an equal footing. These arrangements took place mainly because China lacked the military power to subjugate its adversaries into participating in the tribute system. Geopolitical reality forced the Song to acknowledge its lesser status, however humiliating or distasteful it might have seemed to the Chinese. As a matter of fact, countries like Korea, the Xi Xia, and other Inner Asian states all paid tribute at various times to the Liao Empire."
There is no such thing as Chinese historically, that is a 18th century European construct. Are turk speaking people in modern day krygstan Chinese? Of course they are when they were part of the tang dynasty. Is Russia Europe? That's the type of question you are trying to ask. Any nation or people that was part of China is Chinese, since Chinese is cultural and civilization melting pot that incorporate all these ethnic groups that came before. Even the Han is not a single entity since it's basically incorporated a while bunch of cultures and evolved to now.
 

tamsen_ikard

Junior Member
Registered Member
Here is a simple idea. There are no evil nations and there are no good nations. All nations will maximize its interests if their circumstances allow it. All nations will be maximally aggressive if their circumstances allow expansion. All nations will be maximally defensive if their circumstances show huge risk of reduction.

US can be maximally aggressive in its foreign policy cause it has no internal problems, huge wealth, no internal regions to pacify, no near neighbors that are not US client states. it has a strong central government ruled by people from single ethnic/European culture. New immigrants also get assimilated into this culture and do not cause separatism problems which could direct national energy to other areas.

China in the past did not expand beyond "China Proper" for thousands of years because its surrounded by regions that are not that productive, deserts, mountains. It is surrounded by regions that are very remote and hard to go to, thus much harder to control from the center, finally just controlling the core areas of China was already bigger than Europe and probably too much to control, thus existing government could not handle bigger land and population.

But most dynasties had phases when they had less problems and could expand much more from their core. Thus, Tang dynasty had huge land in the west for some time but song did not. ming dynasty also could not expand much. But Qing dynasty achieved strong internal cohesion and ability to expand. Which it did.

So, how aggressive will modern China be? As much its power, national cohesion and outside environment allow it.

Right now China's main focus is economic and technological parity with the west. They have rightfully identified that this world is dominated by a group of europeans and european settled countries who have colonized the world for 200 years and have been the dominant force even after decolonization.

So, their main focus is to bridge that gap and become equal to the so called europeans/whites. They must achieve equal GDP per capita, which means around 45K. They must achieve technological parity.

Another goal for China is to end internal threats. Thus, end separatism, end ethnic diversity to create a single Chinese cultural identity shared by all.

Only after achieving these two goals can they really focus on foreign policy goals. Their biggest foreign policy goal is to make China secure by ending the power of other powerful nations and groups. The biggest such group is white-europeans/euro settlers and their alliance.

Thus, their biggest goal next which will make them secure is to end the dominance of the europeans/euro settled countries. Which means kicking them out of East Asia first. China needs to achieve absolute military dominance in its backyard so that Europeans do not dare to fight China in its own backyard thus threatening China's economic and territorial well-being.

Forcing the white/european settled countries to focus on their own backyard instead of interfering in China's backyard can be one strategy as well. Which means China will have to take their influence and military to the backyard of US and Europe. They must forge strong relationship that live in those areas but under the thumb of europeans and Euro-settled countries. Thus, Mexico, Brazil could become strong allies in the distant future. Muslim countries in the Middle East and Russia are big threats near Europe as well and they will become natural allies of China as well.

Finally, once they achieve that goal of forcing those europeans to focus on their own backyard, then their next goal will be achieve complete dominance of its own baclyard. Thus, no more Japan or Korea being client states of US. They must be client state of China. They must consider China to be the source of culture and soft power. Thus, China must do a regime change in those countries, and if that is not enough. Then do a complete take over. South East Asia should be next target for Chinese dominance.

China must also focus on South Asia and Russia and end the threat of those countries too. Which means breaking India and Russia into small pieces if possible. If not possible, then do a regime change to bring governments that are friendly to China. If not then they can offer them to ally with China. Or they can force them to focus on their internal problems, thus fomenting rivalry with say Pakistan or even internal separatism.

Finally, in order to make China completely secure, they must break the European-euro-settled alliance. Make those countries start fighting each other. Even break countries into pieces. Such as breaking US and europe.

As you can see, there are many many huge tasks that China must do to secure itself. Whether China can do them depends on ability of the Chinese state, Chinese people, the inability of other states, internal problems of others states as well.

Its a constant struggle called geopolitics. How many of these goals will China be able to achieve? We don't know. But we can make guesses based on how the world is right now.

One thing I am certain, China will most certainly achieve the first goal which is China becoming as Rich as Europe and Japan. Which means China will also achieve the biggest GDP, 3-4 times bigger than US, biggest military budget, best technological military. What happens after that? I don't know. But my gut feeling says, the next few centuries will be dominated by China gaining power influence and slowly eroding and degrading the west.

China will do to the west, what they did to China. A century of Humiliation.
 
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Max Demian

Junior Member
Registered Member
There is no such thing as Chinese historically, that is a 18th century European construct. Are turk speaking people in modern day krygstan Chinese? Of course they are when they were part of the tang dynasty. Is Russia Europe? That's the type of question you are trying to ask. Any nation or people that was part of China is Chinese, since Chinese is cultural and civilization melting pot that incorporate all these ethnic groups that came before. Even the Han is not a single entity since it's basically incorporated a while bunch of cultures and evolved to now.
I think you are diverging from the core discussion: it was @solarz who said that Song wasn't trying to annex Northern Han and Liao land, because all three were Chinese. Now, if I follow you explanation and apply @solarz logic, then Germany also wasn't trying to annex Polish land in WW2, because both countries are European.

Anyway, the point of this thread is to examine to what degree can China's historical grand strategy be explained through Confucian pacifism and to what degree through structural realism.

@tamsen_ikard thanks for sharing your thoughts. This is very much a realist position, presented as one of two hypotheses of China's grand strategy in my first post.

What is structural realism:
"Offensive” structural realism holds that the anarchic international structure offers many incentives for states to pursue expansionist, offensive strategies. The best way for a state to be secure in an anarchic world is to maximize relative power. Because every state has some offensive capability and cannot be certain about the intentions of others, in an anarchic system with no recourse for help, states inevitably fear the prospect of getting harmed by others. The danger of being the weaker side in international politics is well captured in the Melian dialogue described by Thucydides over two thousand years ago: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” States must provide for their own security if they expect to survive. In a self-help world, power is the best guarantor of security, and the essential currency for states to obtain what they want. Strong states generally have higher chances of survival and of prevailing over other states. As John Mearsheimer points out, in an anarchic world marked by uncertainty and fear, “states quickly understand that the best way to ensure their survival is to be the most powerful state in the system.” States strive to maximize their share of relative power over others, because the more power a state has, the more secure it will be. Hence, states constantly look for opportunities to alter the existing balance of power in their favor.

The logic of anarchy dictates that states harbor revisionist intentions toward each other, making war possible. This does not mean that they act on those intentions anytime or anywhere. States are not reckless expanders. Instead, they rationally calculate the costs and benefits of each opportunity to expand. Although certain states may appear to pursue a status quo policy during a particular time frame, this is either because they do not have the capability to alter the existing balance of power or because they are facing a stronger adversary—they may be biding a more propitious time. Once states have the material wherewithal, they will strive to tilt the existing balance of power in their favor.
 

Crang

Senior Member
Registered Member
I think you are diverging from the core discussion: it was @solarz who said that Song wasn't trying to annex Northern Han and Liao land, because all three were Chinese. Now, if I follow you explanation and apply @solarz logic, then Germany also wasn't trying to annex Polish land in WW2, because both countries are European.

Anyway, the point of this thread is to examine to what degree can China's historical grand strategy be explained through Confucian pacifism and to what degree through structural realism.

@tamsen_ikard thanks for sharing your thoughts. This is very much a realist position, presented as one of two hypotheses of China's grand strategy in my first post.

What is structural realism:
"Offensive” structural realism holds that the anarchic international structure offers many incentives for states to pursue expansionist, offensive strategies. The best way for a state to be secure in an anarchic world is to maximize relative power. Because every state has some offensive capability and cannot be certain about the intentions of others, in an anarchic system with no recourse for help, states inevitably fear the prospect of getting harmed by others. The danger of being the weaker side in international politics is well captured in the Melian dialogue described by Thucydides over two thousand years ago: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” States must provide for their own security if they expect to survive. In a self-help world, power is the best guarantor of security, and the essential currency for states to obtain what they want. Strong states generally have higher chances of survival and of prevailing over other states. As John Mearsheimer points out, in an anarchic world marked by uncertainty and fear, “states quickly understand that the best way to ensure their survival is to be the most powerful state in the system.” States strive to maximize their share of relative power over others, because the more power a state has, the more secure it will be. Hence, states constantly look for opportunities to alter the existing balance of power in their favor.

The logic of anarchy dictates that states harbor revisionist intentions toward each other, making war possible. This does not mean that they act on those intentions anytime or anywhere. States are not reckless expanders. Instead, they rationally calculate the costs and benefits of each opportunity to expand. Although certain states may appear to pursue a status quo policy during a particular time frame, this is either because they do not have the capability to alter the existing balance of power or because they are facing a stronger adversary—they may be biding a more propitious time. Once states have the material wherewithal, they will strive to tilt the existing balance of power in their favor.

Sorry the analogy fails. Liao was in constant tension over Chineseness, whereas Poland has never seen itself in Germanic terms. Stop trying to analogize Europe and China. They are different civilizations. Confucian pacifism does not exist on the same dimension as structural realism and should be left to different arenas. Have you read the Analects of Confucius?
 

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