East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute

Morris Rossabi
Content Type
Journal Article
Political Science Quarterly
Issue Number
Publication Date
Fall 2011
Academy of Political Science
David C. Kang seeks to use history to understand the present, a laudable objective, and to predict the future, a risky venture. After a study of five centuries of commerce and diplomacy in East Asia, he concludes that "Although China may already be.the largest economic and military power in East Asia, it has virtually no cultural or political legitimacy as a leading state" (p. 169) and "there is almost no chance that China will become the unquestioned hegemon in East Asia" (p. 171). Such astonishing speculation is, at the very least, uncertain. Who could have predicted that China in its chaotic 1930s and 1940s or even in the more-stable 1980s would be in such a dominant position in 2010? Even the most astute experts on China cannot ascertain whether the so-called Middle Kingdom will not become the "unquestioned hegemon in East Asia." Speculation about the future is tricky.
Political Geography
China, East Asia