War, Peace, and China's Soft Power: A Confucian Approach

Diogenes 56 (1):26-40 (2009)
Abstract
The contemporary Chinese intellectual Kang Xiaoguang has argued that Chinese soft power should be based on Confucian culture, the most influential Chinese political tradition. But which Confucian values should form the core of China’s soft power? This paper first explores the coexistence of state sovereignty and utopian cosmopolitanism through an analysis of Confucian tradition up to contemporary Chinese nationalism. It insists on the exogenous roots of the cosmopolitan ideal and its relations with the ideal of a harmonious political order and a global peace. Then, it compares the philosophy of ‘all-under-heaven’ in its classical and contemporary forms, with Mencius’ theory of a ‘hegemon’, a theory that still informs the moral language that Chinese intellectuals use to evaluate foreign policy, especially regarding morally-justified warfare. It ends on a reflection on the role that Mencius’s theory of just and unjust war can play in the contemporary Chinese context and to help understanding and defining the stance of China in the international geo-political context
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