Sovereignty in China, A Genealogy of a Concept Since 1840 examines the contested notion of “sovereignty” and how it was appropriated by Chinese diplomats and intellectuals over the course of the past two centuries. Despite the strong critiques of sovereignty in the 1990s, since the global expansion of international law over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, sovereignty has defined and continues to constitute, the normative framework against which countries and polities define themselves. When, alongside international law, sovereignty was introduced into other normative political systems, as in China, the term acquired different meanings and was articulated by local agents in a variety of ways that departed from Western conceptualizations. Employing the method of conceptual history, my book examines China as a legitimate shaper and breaker of international norms and concepts and as a creator of its own modern history. It traces the formation and emergence of a new Chinese international identity through discourses of sovereignty. The book helps to contextualize the globalization of the Western normative order in the 19th and 20th centuries by nuancing the often too Eurocentric history of international law. The work shows the colonial and imperial nature of international law and how sovereignty, which should guarantee the principle of equality, in reality, has been often manipulated to serve different purposes both by Western powers and China. It also shows the non-linear path of the development of international law and globalization.
The Confucian admonition that one needs to study the past to understand the present is especially apt when it comes to China and sovereignty. Fortunately, Dr Maria Adele Carrai’s new book provides a superb genealogy of Chinese approaches to sovereignty over time, from historic times to the present, that will be a key departure point on this important topic for years to come.
– William P. Alford – Jerome A. and Joan L. Cohen Professor of East Asian Legal Studies and Director of East Asian Legal Studies, Harvard University
Carrai’s innovative conceptual history of ‘sovereignty’ in China explores the changing meanings of international law and its structures of authority and legitimacy through three periods of dramatic Chinese political transition. This is a study not only of Chinese reception and adaptation. It provides a foundation for scrutiny of China’s active participation in shaping our present international legal order.
– Madeleine Zelin – Dean Lung Professor of Chinese Studies, Columbia University
This is a stimulating, learned, and readable analysis of the many uses the malleable concept of ‘sovereignty’ has served in China’s relations with the world for almost two centuries. It offers invaluable assistance for parsing the rhetoric of both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump in the current East-West contest for domination.
– Jerome A. Cohen – Faculty Director of US-Asia Law Institute, New York University
This study provides a much-needed concise history of the genealogy of sovereignty as a central concept of modern international law and politics in the context of Chinese transformation and Sino-foreign encounters since the mid nineteenth century. Its nuanced analysis of Chinese specificity and agency in shaping international legal and political history will be of great interest to scholars of China, comparative politics, and international history.
– Li Chen – University of Toronto
Sovereignty occupies the conceptual heart of the Chinese Communist Party’s bid to claim for China its rightful place in the world and to justify its international policies. By showing how this concept emerged and what it means today, Carrai sets out the rhetorical terrain across which those who wish to enter into conversation with official China will have to make their way.
– Timothy Brook – Republic of China Chair, Department of History, University of British Columbia
Chapters discuss as-yet-unexplored cases from the ground in brand new studies based on fieldwork by leading academics, as well as providing alternative readings of the rationale behind the BRI. Questions about connectivity and the financial implications of Chinese investments are addressed, taking a balanced approach that demonstrates the complexity and nuance of these issues, and the far-from-linear impact that the BRI is having on global governance.
This incisive book will be critical reading for scholars and policy makers working on China and global governance. It will also provide useful insights for officials and practitioners working in BRI countries and international institutions, think-tanks and NGOs.
A fascinating collection of detailed and data-driven studies that brings valuable on-the-ground insight into China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its global impacts. Sets the standard for future research on this important topic.
– Elizabeth Economy, Council on Foreign Relations, US
This book offers balanced and thoughtful insights on important aspects of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, such as its impact on global institutions and governance and the implications for project host countries from Southeast Asia to Africa. The chapters usefully shed light on the complex interplay of economic, strategic, political, and cultural factors that combine to make the Belt and Road both a transformative initiative and an enigma.
– Danny Russel, Asia Society Policy Institute, US
This is an outstanding analysis of the nature of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and its implications for global governance, backed up by penetrating and insightful case studies. Its comprehensive and compelling account of the subject is bound to receive widespread readership from the academic and policy-making community.
– Emil J. Kirchner, University of Essex, UK