- Paperback: 294 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 4, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521525764
- ISBN-13: 978-0521525763
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #536,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe
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"Victoria Hui is perhaps the only person in the international relations field capable of writing such a sophisticated comparative history of the Chinese and European state systems. This book is pioneering in its efforts to bring Asia ina to the study of macro-historical change in world politics. She demonstrates expert command of Chinese and European sources, international relations theory, and social science research design. The result is a provocative argument about the importance of strategic amorality, ruthlessness, and resource mobilization in state building, and about why ancient Chinese states outperformed European states in these areas." Alastair Iain Johnston, Harvard University
"Victoria Hui has successfully executed a stunningly bold macro-historical comparison, while bringing to light the workings of a fascinating international system. Scholarship on state making and system transformation in ancient China and modern Europe and, indeed, in other international systems, past, present, and future must contend with her arguments and evidence."
William Wohlforth, Dartmouth College
"Dr. Hui offers us a challenging reinterpretation of modern European history by a bold and original comparison with the period of state formation in China. In doing so, she challenges some dominant theories both in the theory of state formation and in international relations theory. The boldness of the method will provoke controversy, but nothing could be more valuable, for both historians and political scientists, than to understand European history in comparative perspective. This unusual work will be of great interest, not only to students and scholars of European and Chinese history, but also to those concerned with understanding contemporary global politics."
Michael Freeman, University of Essex
"It is rare to encounter an analysis as attentive to detail and method, yet broad in the scope of its implications as that by Victoria Tin-Bor Hui. Her book embarks on a macro-historical study of world politics and provides a sophisticated comparative history of the Chinese and European state systems... It is the kind of book that is bound to trigger debate and it invites (if not beckons) its readers to pursue further the ideas discussed on its pages."
Emilian Kavalski, University of Alberta, Political Studies Review
"Victoria Hui's stimulating book represents an important contribution to the fields of political science, sociology and history that can be read with profit by Europeanists and Sinologists alike." - Thomas Ertman
There is a common belief that the system of sovereign territorial states and the roots of liberal democracy are unique to European civilization and alien to non-Western cultures. This view has generated popular cynicism about democracy promotion in general and China's prospect for democratization in particular. This book shows that China in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (656-221 BC) was once a system of sovereign territorial states similar to Europe in the early modern period. This book examines why China and Europe shared similar processes but experienced opposite outcomes.
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Top Customer Reviews
Then an examination is conducted of Europe and why a similar situation did not arise of one state ultimately becoming strong enough to overcome the balance of power to unify Europe. In contrast to Qin, Victoria Hui argues early European kingdoms employed self weakening methods, that may have enabled swift short term raising of military strength but at the expense of long term loss of state revenue and loss of state power to intermediaries. The classic examples include taking out loans from merchants (often secured against future tax revenues), tax farming, and use of hired mercenaries. It is argued these short term expedients were the easiest ways in the more heavily monetized economy of Europe at the time, as compared to the Warring States period of ancient China. So whereas Qin and its neighbors were forced to extend the state apparatus wider and deeper to the local level to extract extra taxes and levies for its wars, in turn building up the centralized state and national armies, European rulers ended up dissipating their power through inefficient and unreliable mercenary forces, and landing themselves so deeply in debt that the ruler could become effectively hostage to others.
The second part of Victoria Hui's argument centers on the use of ruthless strategems. While both Europe and ancient China had its fair share of intrigues, alliances, and treacheries, she argues that Europe never reached the scale of bloodshed that the Chinese Warring States reached, not just in the numbers of killed but the purpose of war. The wars of national annihilation did not take place in Europe, and ended up in usually exchanges of territory or settling of succession issues. Tying in to her first point, Victoria Hui argues that the self weakening expedients practiced by the monarchs of early Europe led to inconclusive wars and states weakened to the point that no major state could get sufficient advantage over another to the point of truly being able to conquer and absorb another major state. The example of Napoleon is used as an example where a European power did attempt to adopt self strengthening measures that lead to a brief period of dominance in Europe, but which ultimately could not be sustained due to the long term weaknesses inherited from the self weakening measures of pre-Revolutionary France.
All in all it is a fascinating work and undermines some of the underlying assumptions of some followers of international relations today, which is dominated by a viewpoint that is very Western in focus and which assumes that a self balancing Westphalian system is the "natural" or stable state of affairs. The unification of the Chinese Warring States into one state and one dynasty demonstrates how fragile a balance of power can be, how it is not necessarily a stable equilibrium, and how a tipping point can be reached beyond which one state emerges as the "universal Leviathan". Victoria Hui is good in that she does not make any particular value judgments or moral arguments about either state of affairs, merely that the differing outcomes in China and Europe show how neither outcome can be viewed as "obvious" or "inevitable" in a system of competing nation states.
Two stars if one wants intellectual exercise.
Where this book does work really well is as history. Comparing the two era gave me a window in understanding the motives of the participants in Ancient China, so I understood the general flow of the history much better.