How Hierarchic was the Historical East Asian System?

International Politics

Author/s (editor/s):

Feng Zhang

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:

Feng Zhang, ‘How Hierarchic was the Historical East Asian System?’, International Politics, 51(1) 2014: 1-22.

Hierarchy is becoming a central topic in recent International Relations scholarship, and the historical East Asian hierarchy offers an important case study. This article provides a first-cut analysis of the degree variation in regional hierarchy. It distinguishes three levels of Chinese hierarchy in China’s relationships with Korea, Japan and the Mongols in ‘early modern’ East Asia (1368–1800). Regional relations during this period were on the whole more hierarchic than anarchic, but anarchy was also impressive in each of the relationships during certain periods. Theoretically, the analysis suggests questioning the diametrical assumption of hierarchy/anarchy as the organizing principle of international politics. For policy, it notes why a new Chinese hierarchy is unlikely to appear in the foreseeable future.

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