Will a rising China adjust to the geopolitics defined by the UN and the established powers, or seek to change the rules to suit its own interests? Western answers to this question often pay too little attention to China’s long history of foreign relations, while Chinese ones risk developing a ‘Sino-speak’ of Chinese Exceptionalism (Callahan 2012). China’s conversion to the fictional but useful ‘Westphalian system’ of equal sovereign states is relatively recent, while its Sino-centric experience of unequal relations is very ancient. The equally ancient experience of China’s southern neighbors in managing relations with the behemoth, as well as with each other, is arguably a more helpful guide to a plural global future. Anthony Reid’s presentation postulates abandoning Sino-centric simplifications like ‘the tribute system’ or ‘Chinese world order’ in weighing the lessons of Asia’s past.
Anthony Reid is a Southeast Asian historian, now again at the Australian National University after serving as founding Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at UCLA (1999-2002) and of the Asia Research Institute at NUS, Singapore (2002-7). His recent books include Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450-1680 (2 vols, 1988-93; Chinese translation 2010), Imperial Alchemy: Nationalism and Political Identity in Southeast Asia (2010), and A History of Southeast Asia: Critical Crossroads (2015). This talk derives from a book he edited with Zheng Yangwen, Negotiating Asymmetry: China’s Place in Asia (NUS Press, Singapore, 2009).
Professor Tansen Sen
, Director of the Center for Global Asia, will be introducing Anthony Reid.