China at the Center: 300 Years of Foreign Policy

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China at the Center: 300 Years of Foreign Policy

By Mark Mancall
Free Press, 1984
540 pp. $29.95
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One of the West's leading Sinologists takes us through the past three centuries of Chinese foreign policy within the context of traditional Chinese attitudes and beliefs-a broad sweep which offers a rare panoramic view missing in more specialized and contemporary studies. The first section deals with what the author sees as the coherent worldview of the Chinese Empire up until the Western onslaught in the nineteenth century. The second section covers the period 1900-1949, and a briefer section sketches the developments since 1949. In the final section, Mancall argues that the whole essence of China's external relations rests on a fundamental dichotomy between "us" and "them": in the traditional period this was conceived of as civilization versus barbarism; in the contemporary world, "them" is sometimes the Americans and sometimes the Soviets. Mancall also points out that because the Chinese see history as a process they are more patient than Americans, who see foreign policy in terms of present national interest.