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Empire and Righteous Nation

600 Years of China-Korea Relations

Odd Arne Westad



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Belknap Press
12 January 2021
From an award-winning historian, a concise overview of the deep and longstanding ties between China and the Koreas, providing an essential foundation for understanding East Asian geopolitics today.

In a concise, trenchant overview, Odd Arne Westad explores the cultural and political relationship between China and the Koreas over the past 600 years.

Koreans long saw China as a mentor. The first form of written Korean employed Chinese characters and remained in administrative use until the twentieth century. Confucianism, especially Neo-Confucian reasoning about the state and its role in promoting a virtuous society, was central to the construction of the Korean government in the fourteenth century. These shared Confucian principles were expressed in fraternal terms, with China the older brother and Korea the younger. During the Ming Dynasty, mentor became protector, as Korea declared itself a vassal of China in hopes of escaping ruin at the hands of the Mongols. But the friendship eventually frayed with the encroachment of Western powers in the nineteenth century. Koreans began to reassess their position, especially as Qing China seemed no longer willing or able to stand up for Korea against either the Western powers or the rising military threat from Meiji Japan. The Sino-Korean relationship underwent further change over the next century as imperialism, nationalism, revolution, and war refashioned states and peoples throughout Asia. Westad describes the disastrous impact of the Korean War on international relations in the region and considers Sino-Korean interactions today, especially the thorny question of the reunification of the Korean peninsula.

Illuminating both the ties and the tensions that have characterized the China-Korea relationship, Empire and Righteous Nation provides a valuable foundation for understanding a critical geopolitical dynamic.
By:   Odd Arne Westad
Imprint:   Belknap Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 210mm,  Width: 140mm, 
ISBN:   9780674238213
ISBN 10:   0674238214
Series:   The Edwin O. Reischauer Lectures
Pages:   216
Publication Date:   12 January 2021
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Odd Arne Westad is Elihu Professor of History and Global Affairs at Yale University. A Fellow of the British Academy, he is the author of Restless Empire: China and the World since 1750 and The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times, which won the Bancroft Prize.

Reviews for Empire and Righteous Nation: 600 Years of China-Korea Relations

The relationship between China and Korea is one of the most important, and least understood, in Asia. With the wisdom and clarity we have come to expect from Westad, this book illuminates the long history of these two neighbors. He tells a story both of closeness brought about by Confucianism and Communism and of prickliness that comes from two fierce and rival nationalisms, providing compelling insights on the future of this volatile partnership. -Rana Mitter, author of China's Good War In this incisive and engaging overview, Westad offers a new framework for understanding China and Korea that weaves their interconnected histories together in a concise, thoughtful way. The themes of 'empire' and 'righteous nation' offer some excellent insights into both the differences between the two countries and their long, complex relationship. -Gregg Brazinsky, author of Nation Building in South Korea Westad offers a sweeping historical overview of what is arguably the most important relationship in Asia today, that between China and the Korean Peninsula. How that relationship is managed and plays out in the coming years is central to questions of national and regional interests as well as to global issues of war and peace. Unique in its broad perspective and engagingly written, this is a timely must-read primer on the China-Korea relationship in its longue duree and its impact on and implications for our world today. -Carter J. Eckert, author of Park Chung Hee and Modern Korea A smart and engaging work, with a provocative, sweeping narrative that is a pleasure to read. Anyone interested in Sino-Korean relations and the current standoff on the peninsula would be well advised to start with this book. -Andre Schmid, author of Korea Between Empires, 1895-1919 Valuable and wide-ranging...As two thousand years of history have shown, China's role in Korea is a complex one. Westad's short and stimulating study provides many clues to understanding that relationship. -J. E. Hoare, Literary Review

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