69 Tribute, Asymmetry, and Imperial Formations: Rethinking Relations of Power in East Asia James L. Hevia University of Chicago In organizing the conference “History and China’s Foreign Relations,” John Wills set two difficult tasks for the participants. The first was to consider the role of the academy in U.S. policy-making toward China and surmise whether academics were more influential in John Fairbank’s day than today. The second involved a consideration of the models or theoretical constructs used for characterizing China’s relations with other countries. Although there is much to say about the relation between area studies and the state, 1 my focus will be on the latter topic, models and theories of foreign relations. In giving us our charge, Wills, asserting that the “tribute system” was a wreck and wondering if there was anything to be salvaged from it, asked participants to address what he considers a more fruitful approach to Chinese foreign relations, an asymmetrical systems approach pro- posed by Brantly Womack. Womack develops a framework for under- standing asymmetrical relations of power in his recent book China and Vietnam: The Politics of Asymmetry . 2 In order to evaluate Womack’s theo- retical contribution and determine if
Journal of American-East Asian Relations – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2009
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