Professor Tonio Andrade recently authored an opinion piece for The Washington Post examining brewing tensions in the South China Sea. Andrade, who published The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History with Princeton this year, urges U.S. policy makers to reckon with the histories of Chinese expansionism in the Eastern Hemisphere despite past and present claims otherwise. Check out the excerpt below and read the full article, “For U.S. leaders, confronting China is a dangerous game,” here.
What’s intriguing is that the timing of these bouts of expansive warfare was similar: They each occurred about 40 or 50 years after the dynasty was founded, after domestic control had been consolidated. And why did the Ming and Qing dynasties engage in such expansion after achieving domestic consolidation? In a word, security. In each case, leaders justified their military action with reference to China’s historic vulnerability. Only by achieving unquestioned preeminence in its hemisphere — or, as Chinese leaders put it, in the earthly realm — could China guarantee safety and security for its people. Expansion was meant to foster peace.