The China Order

Centralia, World Empire, and the Nature of Chinese Power

By Fei-Ling Wang

Subjects: Asian Studies, Chinese Studies, International Relations, Cultural Studies, History
Paperback : 9781438467481, 342 pages, July 2018
Hardcover : 9781438467498, 342 pages, September 2017

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Table of contents

Tables and Figures

Introduction: The China Order

Arrangement of the Book

1. The Centralia: The Origin and the Basics

The Chinese Nomenclature: More than Just Semantics
China as a World: Ecogeography Shapes the Mind
The Chinese Peoples and the Chinese Multination
History and the Writing of History in China
The Precondition: The Pre-Qin China
The Glory and Peacefulness of the Warring States

2. The Qin-Han Polity and Chinese World Empire

Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism
The Qin Polity: The Chinese Totalitarianism
The Qin Tianxia: A World Empire Order
The Qin-Han Polity and the China Order
The Fused Confucianism-Legalism
The Consolidation and Expansion of the China Order
The Recurrence of the China Order and the Great East-West Divergence
The Evolution and Refinement of the China Order
From the Second Great Disunion to the Ultimate China Order
The Qing World Empire

3. The Forsaken Turn: The Song Era

The Song: An Uncommon Qin-Han Empire
Song’s Chinese World
Chanyuan Treaty: China’s Peace of Westphalia
Chanyuan System: A New World Order for Eastern Eurasia
Chanyuan System in the Chinese Mind
The Splendid Song: The Chinese World under the Chanyuan System
Song Era: The Peak of Ancient Chinese Civilization

4. The China Order: An Assessment

The China Order: The Characteristics
The China Order versus the Westphalia System
Ideal Governance for the Rulers at Exorbitant Expenses
Great Incompatibility and Long Stagnation
Deadly Sisyphus, Inescapable Inferno
Why the Stagnation: A Pausing Note on Monopoly

5. The Century of Humiliation and Progress

The Decay and Fading of the China Order
Westernization: The Way to Survive
The Unusual Fall of the Qing Empire
The ROC on the Chinese Mainland: An Era of Opportunities
Late-Qing and the Republican Eras: A Reassessment

6. Great Leap Backward

The ROC: A Tenacious but Transforming Authoritarianism
The Rise of the CCP
Mao and the Mandate of the People
Guns, Ruses, and Promises
The PRC: A New Qin-Han State
Post-Mao: The Qin-Han Polity Changes and Continues
Suboptimal Performance, Rich State, Strong Military

7. The China Struggle Between Tianxia and Westphalia

The Tianxia Mandate
Mao’s Global War for a New China Order
Rescued and Enriched by the Enemy
Opening and Hiding: To Survive the End of the Cold War
The China Dream: Rejuvenation and Global Governance
Epilogue: The Scenarios


Examines the rising power of China and Chinese foreign policy through a revisionist analysis of Chinese civilization.


What does the rise of China represent, and how should the international community respond? With a holistic rereading of Chinese longue durée history, Fei-Ling Wang provides a simple but powerful framework for understanding the nature of persistent and rising Chinese power and its implications for the current global order. He argues that the Chinese ideation and tradition of political governance and world order—the China Order—is based on an imperial state of Confucian-Legalism as historically exemplified by the Qin-Han polity. Claiming a Mandate of Heaven to unify and govern the whole known world or tianxia (all under heaven), the China Order dominated Eastern Eurasia as a world empire for more than two millennia, until the late nineteenth century. Since 1949, the People's Republic of China has been a reincarnated Qin-Han polity without the traditional China Order, finding itself stuck in the endless struggle against the current world order and the ever-changing Chinese society for its regime survival and security. Wang also offers new discoveries and assessments about the true golden eras of Chinese civilization, explains the great East-West divergence between China and Europe, and analyzes the China Dream that drives much of current Chinese foreign policy.

Fei-Ling Wang is Professor of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His books include Organizing through Division and Exclusion: China's Hukou System and China Rising: Power and Motivation in Chinese Foreign Policy (coedited with Yong Deng).


"Wang's The China Order offers an elegant analysis of 'what China is' and what China's rise represents." — Journal of Chinese Studies

"The strengths of the book lie in its obvious erudition (including, for example, a 68-page bibliography of items in Chinese and English), the clarity of the overall revisionist argument, at a time when much commentary in English at least tends to well-established nostrums based on either liberal or realist postulates, and its extremely useful dissection of much of the terminology in which current debates about China's foreign policies are conducted." — Pacific Affairs

"…[Wang's] presentation and documentation of his argument is so thorough and devastatingly masterful that anyone who wants to talk about a 'China model' really should be required to read this book." — China Quarterly

"…a magisterial history of what the Chinese people, and both their Chinese and non-Chinese rulers over the centuries, have thought about how the entire world should be arranged." — Claremont Review of Books

"…[a] thought-provoking volume … Highly recommended." — CHOICE

"An original, important, well-researched, and powerfully argued exploration of the virtues and vices of the Chinese state from its ancient past to its likely future." — Edward Friedman, University of Wisconsin, Madison

"A masterpiece. Wang provides a grand, sweeping, even epic review of two thousand years of Chinese history. His argument is compelling and well documented; the richness and variety of sources—Chinese and English—he cites is breathtaking. The book is likely to end up on the reading list of every serious student of China's position in the world for many years to come." — Daniel C. Lynch, author of China's Futures: PRC Elites Debate Economics, Politics, and Foreign Policy

"This imaginative and provocative grand tour of Chinese cosmological order and geopolitical strategy, past and present, is destined to become a classic." — Ming Xia, author of The People's Congresses and Governance in China: Toward a Network Mode of Governance