The Eurocentric conventional wisdom holds that the West is unique in having a multi-state system in international relations and liberal democracy in state-society relations. At the same time, the Sinocentric perspective believes that China is destined to have authoritarian rule under a unified empire. In fact, China in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (656–221 BC) was once a system of sovereign territorial states similar to Europe in the early modern period. Both cases witnessed the prevalence of war, formation of alliances, development of the centralized bureaucracy, emergence of citizenship rights, and expansion of international trade. This book, first published in 2005, examines why China and Europe shared similar processes but experienced opposite outcomes. This historical comparison of China and Europe challenges the presumption that Europe was destined to enjoy checks and balances while China was preordained to suffer under a coercive universal status.
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'Victoria Hui is perhaps the only person in the international relations field capable of writing such a sophisticated comparative history of the Chinese and European state systems. This book is pioneering in its efforts to 'bring Asia in' to the study of macro-historical change in world politics. She demonstrates expert command of Chinese and European sources, international relations theory, and social science research design. The result is a provocative argument about the importance of strategic amorality, ruthlessness, and resource mobilization in state building, and about why ancient Chinese states outperformed European states in these areas.' Alastair Iain Johnston, Harvard University
'Victoria Hui has successfully executed a stunningly bold macro-historical comparison, while bringing to light the workings of a fascinating international system. Scholarship on state making and system transformation in ancient China and modern Europe – and, indeed, in other international systems, past, present, and future – must contend with her arguments and evidence.' William Wohlforth, Dartmouth College
'Dr Hui offers us a challenging reinterpretation of modern European history by a bold and original comparison with the period of state formation in China. In doing so, she challenges some dominant theories both in the theory of state formation and in international relations theory. The boldness of the method will provoke controversy, but nothing could be more valuable, for both historians and political scientists, than to understand European history in comparative perspective. This unusual work will be of great interest, not only to students and scholars of European and Chinese history, but also to those concerned with understanding contemporary global politics.' Michael Freeman, University of Essex
'It is rare to encounter an analysis as attentive to detail and method, yet broad in the scope of its implications as that by Victoria Tin-Bor Hui. … it invites its readers to pursue further the ideas discussed on its pages.' Political Studies Review
There is a common belief that the system of sovereign territorial states and the roots of liberal democracy are unique to European civilization and alien to non-Western cultures. This book, first published in 2005, explains why China and Europe's development of state systems began similarly but experienced opposite outcomes.
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