In This Review

East Asia at the Center: Four Thousand Years of Engagement With the World
East Asia at the Center: Four Thousand Years of Engagement With the World
By Warren I. Cohen
Columbia University Press, 2001, 516 pp

Cohen, a distinguished diplomatic historian, has boldly taken up the challenge of writing an account of 4,000 years of East Asian foreign relations. The familiar ups and downs of the Chinese dynasties provide the main framework of his story, but he also focuses on the patterns of interstate relations. Although the big picture is filled with political and military developments and their exotic, long-forgotten details, Cohen also looks into the cultural factors of state relationships, from religion to art to cuisine. He reconstructs with insight Chinese power's expansion into and contraction from nomad territories and the extensive Chinese contacts with the rest of the world before Marco Polo; he recounts with evenhandedness the West's arrival by sea, imperial China's decline, and Japan's rise. His conclusion traces the story through the Cold War to the economic rise of East Asia. A superb and readable introduction to the region's history.