Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk: Sovereignty in China’s Academia

  • Sow Keat Tok
Part of the Critical Studies of the Asia Pacific Series book series (CSAP)


The last chapter argued that it is crucial to place the concept of sovereignty in its historical context, and particularly in the Chinese case, to look at how sovereignty became internalised in the Chinese mindset. As this book stands, it is necessary to consider the context in which the concept operates. China’s historical and cultural memories remain relevant in the way China sees its sovereignty, and how Beijing manages its sovereignty policy today. Under the influence of tianxia, sovereignty, as an imported concept, has retained elements of both traditional Chinese and Westphalian orders.


Chinese Language State Sovereignty Territorial Dispute Chinese Writing Chinese Academic 
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  1. 2.
    The Confucius teachings, while not founded on serving the officialdom, nonetheless have discussed at great lengths the relationship between learning [xue], conduct [li] and the government [zheng]. Only a person of high moral principles, acquired through learning and manifested through proper conduct, is fit for government. Some examples include, “when a man in office finds that he excels in his duties, then he studies; when a student finds that he excels in his studies, then he takes office.” [shi er you ze xue, xue er you ze shi] (Confucius, 2007, chs. 19–13[author’s translation]);Google Scholar
  2. “if one focused on self-cultivation, an official post would come therein” [yan gua you xing gua hui lu zai qi zhong yi] (Confucius, 2007, chs. 2–18 [author’s translation]); orGoogle Scholar
  3. “one should focus on the way rather than the ends—if one tills the land, he will get fed by the fruits of his labour; if one studies, he will gain a salary through an official position” [junzi moudao bu moushi geng ye nei zai qizhong yi; xue ye lu zai qizhong yi] (Confucius, 2007, chs. 15–32 [author’s translation]). These analects link learning to officialdom.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    The concept of dao is underpinned by a huge body of literature and philosophical thought that can be traced back to the Spring and Autumn Periods (8th–5th centuries BC), and depending on the school of thought, it could have different meanings. For example, the orthodox Daoist (Taoist), as in Laozi (Lao Tzu) would consider the concept non-definable. This book does not engage this debate and adopts an uncritical definition of “the way” or “eternal truth” (Elwell-Sutton, 1937, pp. 86–97; Graham, 1989).Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    A catalogue search conducted on 21 March 2009 in the National Library of China has returned no result on translated versions of the works authored by the above-named contemporary theorists on sovereignty. Some of the more recent translated Western works that are held by the library includes J. Hoffman (2005). Sovereignty [zhuquan] (Lu, B., Trans.). Changchun: jilin renmin chubanshe, 2005;Google Scholar
  6. Yu, H., et al. (Eds.) (2004). Destating a State? Famous Western Scholars on Globalisation and Sovereignty [guo jiang bu guo? xifang zhuming xuezhe lun quanqiuhua yu guojia zhuquan] (Yu, H., et al., Trans.). Nanchang: jiangxi renmin chubanshe;Google Scholar
  7. J. A. Camilleri and J. Falk (2001). The End of Sovereignty? The Politics of a Shrinking and Fragmenting World [zhuquan de zhongjie? riqu “suoxiao” he “suipianhua” de shijie zhengzhi] (Li, D., Trans.). Hangzhou: zhejiang renmin chubanshe. Most interestingly, one of the more recent translations on sovereignty held in the library’s collection wasGoogle Scholar
  8. C. E. Merriam’s 1900 doctoral dissertation History of the Theory of Sovereignty since Rousseau (2006)—it again manifests the view the Chinese fixation on classical and modernist writings on the topic in China. Nonetheless it is important to note that the English texts of these authors are also held in the collection, and are available for public viewing.Google Scholar

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© Sow Keat Tok 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sow Keat Tok
    • 1
  1. 1.Asia InstituteThe University of MelbourneAustralia

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