Cover image for East Asia at the center : four thousand years of engagement with the world
East Asia at the center : four thousand years of engagement with the world
Cohen, Warren I.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Columbia University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
xviii, 516 pages : maps. ; 24 cm

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DS511 .C786 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A common misconception holds that Marco Polo "opened up" a closed and recalcitrant "Orient" to the West. However, this sweeping history covering 4,000 years of international relations from the perspective of China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia shows that the region's extensive involvement in world affairs began thousands of years ago.

In a time when the writing of history is increasingly specialized, Warren I. Cohen has made a bold move against the grain. In broad but revealing brushstrokes, he paints a huge canvas of East Asia's place in world affairs throughout four millennia. Just as Cohen thinks broadly across time, so too, he defines the boundaries of East Asia liberally, looking beyond China, Japan, and Korea to include Southeast Asia. In addition, Cohen stretches the scope of international relations beyond its usual limitations to consider the vital role of cultural and economic exchanges.

Within this vast framework, Cohen explores the system of Chinese domination in the ancient world, the exchanges between East Asia and the Islamic world from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, and the emergence of a European-defined international system in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The book covers the new imperialism of the 1890s, the Manchurian crisis of the early 1930s, the ascendancy of Japan, the trials of World War II, the drama of the Cold War, and the fleeting "Asian Century" from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s.

East Asia at the Center is replete with often-overlooked or little-known facts, such as:

* A record of persistent Chinese imperialism in the region

* Tibet's status as a major power from the 7th to the 9th centuries C.E., when it frequently invaded China and decimated Chinese armies

* Japan's profound dependence on Korea for its early cultural development

* The enormous influence of Indian cuisine on that of China

* Egyptian and Ottoman military aid to their Muslim brethren in India and Sumatra against European powers

* Extensive Chinese sea voyages to Arabia and East Africa--long before such famous Westerners as Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus took to the seas

East Asia at the Center 's expansive historical view puts the trials and advances of the past four millennia into perspective, showing that East Asia has often been preeminent on the world stage--and conjecturing that it might be so again in the not-so-distant future.

Author Notes

Warren I. Cohen is Distinguished University Professor of History at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) and Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Cohen, a prolific and estimable historian of America's relations with Asia, here explores the historical resonances of the modern system. From the prehistoric formation of political units in East Asia a mature international system arose that was centered on the Chinese Han and Tang dynasties, though Central Asia, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia each rejected or even dominated China at times. This system was successively disrupted by the Mongols, the coming of Islam, the capitalist maritime world system, and the Japanese empire's disastrous attempt to take up the mantle of imperialism from the colonialists. The Cold War and the resurgence of East Asian economic power led to the challenge of the new century. Specialists may quibble that Cohen relies more on narrative than structural analysis or theoretical exploration, but general readers and students of world history will find this stimulating and informative. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries.DCharles W. Hayford, Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 The Emergence of an International System in East Asia
In the beginning there was China
Other rooms, other voices
Empire of the Han, challenge of the Xiongnu
The diffusion of power
Southeast Asia
2 Shadows over Tang Splendor
The Sui
The Years of Tang Ascendance
Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia
3 East Asia Uncentered
Late Tang
The Tibetan Factor
The demise of the Tang Dynasty
Northeast Asia
Southeast Asia
The Song reunify China
Southeast Asia in Turmoil
4 The Mongol Ascendancy
Chinggis Khan and his sons
Khubilai Khan and the Chinese
Asian Resistance to Khubilai as Universal Ruler
The last days of the Yuan
5 The Resurgence of Chinese Power and the Coming of Islam
Rise of the Ming
Koreans, Japanese, and Ryukyu Islanders
Southeast Asia and the spread of Islam
Ming China on the eve of the Portuguese intrusion
6 Europe and Japan Disrupt the East Asian International Order
Arrival of the Portuguese
The Ming under Siege
The Rise of Japanese Power
Other Europeans: The Arrival of the Dutch and the English
Southeast Asia: Magnet for the West
Last Days of the Ming
7 The Great Qing Empire
Rebuilding of the "Chinese" empire
Japan and Korea
Southeast Asia in flux
Approach of the British empire
8 Triumph of the West
The British are coming
The Yanks are coming
France's quest for glory
Russia as a Pacific power
And then there were the Dutch
9 The Ascendance of Japan
Restoration and self-strengthening in China
The Meiji Restoration
Japan ascendant
The United States as an East Asian Power
The Boxer War
In the light of the Rising Sun
10 Challenge to the West
Development of the Japanese empire
The Rise of Chinese nationalism
Nationalism elsewhere in East Asia
Washington and Moscow look to East Asia
Nationalist revolution in China
Crisis in Manchuria
11 War and Decolonization, 1932-1949
In the beginning it was Manchuria
China imperiled
War comes to Asia
Japan's Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere
The war ends in East Asia
Decolonization in Southeast Asia
12 The Cold War in Asia
The occupation of Japan
Revolution in China
War in Korea
Southeast Asia and the Cold War
China, Taiwan, and the United States
13 The Resurgence of East Asian Economic Power
Japan as # 1
Little Dragons
Southeast Asia
China joins the world market economy
The Japan that can say no
14 On the Eve of the 21st Century
Disaster at Tiananmen
Democracy comes to Taiwan
The Korean peninsula: democracy and nuclear weapons
Red star over Hong Kong
Crisis in Southeast Asia
Closing Thoughts
Further Reading