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Sovereignty in China’s Perspective


Yonghong Yang

This book explores China’s perspective on sovereignty. The concept of sovereignty is universal, however, the understanding of it varies in different states and due to cultural backgrounds, history or the composition of ethnic groups. In order to comprehend China’s current perspective on sovereignty, the author connects Chinese historical ideas with the current international society. She locates misunderstandings of China’s past and present which could cause misjudgment of China’s perspective on sovereignty. Hence, the author analyzes China’s imperial history concerning sovereignty and foreign policies. She surveys the cultural, political, administrative and legal roots of the ancient empires because of their great influence on its current political arrangements. In addition, the study examines the divergence between the European and Chinese understanding on human rights.

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Chapter 1. The Concept of Sovereignty



It is always rather practical or convenient to trace the origin of a theme when exploring a dynamic concept in contemporary academic discourse. It is typically believed that the Westphalian Peace Treaties are the first step to understanding the notion of sovereignty. In the Middle Ages, Europeans believed that all humans lived under the same laws and morals. They existed under the combined spiritual and temporal guidance of both the Pope and the Emperor. Meanwhile, the Chinese were convinced that the emperors had the Mandate of Heaven to rule the world. Under the theory of the Christian Commonwealth, power was organized in terms of overlapping, concentric circles. While Westphalia ended the old epoch in Europe, at the same time, it replaced the Christian Commonwealth and opened a new epoch. During this new epoch sovereign states were deemed equal and became major subjects of the new, so-called international community. About two hundred years later, Westphalia sovereignty spread to China through guns and cannons. It crashed down on the China-central world as China struggled to regain its sovereignty. This chapter focuses on the introduction of general ideas of sovereignty and the non-intervention principle for the purpose of elaborating upon China’s evolving understanding of sovereignty.

Section 1. The Westphalian Sovereignty

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