This lecture employs the idea of the tributary system—most often associated with China’s international relations from antiquity—to interpret how America relates to the rest of the world. Professor Khong argues that the United States has instituted the most successful tributary system the world has ever seen. As the epicenter of the most extensive network of formal and informal alliances ever built, the United States offers its allies and partners (or tributaries) military protection as well as economic access to its markets. In return, America seeks two types of tribute: first, that it be recognized as the dominant power or hegemon, and second, that others emulate its political forms and ideas. This lecture will provide a stimulating new lens through which to think about the U.S.-China relationship and challenges for Asia-Pacific security in the 21st century.
Yuen Foong Khong is Li Ka Shing Professor of Political Science at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. Prior to joining the School in August 2015, he taught at Oxford (1994-2015) and Harvard (1987-1994) Universities. He is the author of the acclaimed Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965 (Princeton, 1992). His recent publications include “The American Tributary System,” The Chinese Journal of International Politics (2013) and “The United States Response to China’s Rise,” International Security (2013/2014). Professor Khong is visiting ANU as an SDSC-RSAP Distinguished Visitor.