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5 Benevolence on the Border

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Chapter Summary

Until recent times, Western scholarship has interpreted military strategy and international relations in realist paradigms. In recent decades, largely out of dissatisfaction with realism, military historians have adopted cultural approaches to account for the foreign and security policies of states. The most powerful attack on the supposed pacifist nature of Chinese strategic culture has come from Alastair Johnston. Through a careful study of the Seven Military Classics and Ming memorials addressing security on the northern border, he believes he has found a consistent Chinese strategic culture. In the memorial, Wang Yangming first explained that the Office of the Supreme Commander in Guangxi and Guangdong had been established for the purpose of governing indigenous people, the Yao 瑤 and Zhuang 壯 as well as marauding bandits. This chapter explores connection between diverging imaginaries and underlying implicit conceptualizations of moral order and the differing strategic preferences of the two commanders.

Keywords: Alastair Johnston; Chinese strategic culture; Guangdong; Guangxi; militarism; Wang Yangming; Zhuang



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