A Command-Chain of Brothers: Kinship in Chinese Foreign Policy

Book title: Kinship in International Relations

Publisert: 11. sep. 2018

If kinship matters as a foundational concept in international relations, and if kinship is a socially constituted concept, two key claims for which this volume argues, one would assume that when kinship is constituted differently, the concept will also frame international relations in a differing way?

A tacit Eurocentric assumption is underpinning many of the treatises on the importance of kinship. The concept of brotherhood in particular, is commonly regarded as a
structuring concept that is fundamental and intuitively recognizable for the entire‘brotherhood of man’. That Western concepts of brotherhood, intimately connected to the rise of the Westphalian state order, are now widespread as a frame of reference, should not preclude us from investigating how differently constituted kinship relations may be relevant, both historically and in contemporary
international relations. In particular, this should hold true in a world where two of the three largest economic powers, namely China and Japan, are societies where kinship relations traditionally are constituted differently in some core aspects.

This chapter investigates these questions through an exploratory study of Chinese foreign policies, and how the traditional Confucian brotherhood concept may have been intertwined with how foreign relations have been talked and
thought about in two key eras of Chinese history; first in the case of imperial China’s struggle with neighbouring states demanding equal relations, second with regards to China’s long transition into the Westphalian state system. Following on this is a brief look on how Chinese kinship concepts might have relevance for even current-day Chinese foreign policy.