Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
Empire and Righteous Nation

Empire and Righteous Nation

600 Years of China-Korea Relations

Odd Arne Westad

ISBN 9780674238213

Publication date: 01/12/2021

Request exam copy

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.

Praise

  • 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

Author

  • 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.

Book Details

  • 216 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

Recommendations