Chapter Title: CHINESE HEGEMONIC AUTHORITY: A Domestic Politics Explanation

Chapter Title: CHINESE HEGEMONIC AUTHORITY: A Domestic Politics Explanation

Book Title: China’s Hegemony Book Subtitle: Four Hundred Years of East Asian Domination Book Author(s): JI-YOUNG LEE Published by: Columbia University Press. (2017) Stable URL:

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A Domestic Politics Explanation

W hy do actors accept, defy, or challenge hegemonic au- thority? Variations in the way neighboring states re- sponded to Chinese hegemony were not just a result of

China’s material power. They also derived from domestic political needs in conjunction with Chinese ideological and symbolic resonance. This chapter presents a domestic politics explanation for the workings of Chinese hegemony, focusing on the relationship between East Asian powers’ domestic legitimation strategies and varying degrees of com- pliance with tribute practices. I begin by considering how the field of international relations (IR) has typically treated hegemony as a prod- uct of one actor and its activities, and I suggest that we rethink the concept of hegemony in a more sociological way than IR scholars typi- cally have. I then elaborate my argument about the role of domestic politics in actors’ compliance behaviors and the shaping of Chinese hegemony.


Much of the IR scholarship on hegemony is “socially un-interesting.”1

Most well-established theories of hegemonic order are based on an un- derstanding that the preponderant state is the one that builds and

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maintains order by using its material power. 2 Consider Christopher Layne’s articulate definition of hegemony: that it is about raw, hard power and the dominant state’s ambitions; that it is linked to a single great power that exercises material power to impose its will in build- ing order in the system; and that it represents a structural change from anarchy to hierarchy. 3 William Wohlforth similarly equates the con- centration of material power with a “de facto hierarchy.”4 In this materialist definition of hegemony, hegemonic order is devoid of au- thority, and hierarchy is nothing but a certain state of distribution of material power. The question of legitimacy is irrelevant or epiphe- nomenal to material power at best.

While giving priority to material power, other rationalist theorists have taken the preferences of secondary states into account but have done so chiefly by extrapolating the secondary actors’ cost-benefit cal- culations from the dominant state’s power and interests. According to Robert Gilpin, hegemonic stability is a product of the preponderant state’s projection of material resources in the form of public goods, as well as its participants’ rational calculations of accepting the status quo.5 G. john Ikenberry’s liberal hegemony focuses on the preponder- ant state’s decision to turn raw power into legitimate order by using rules and institutions, which creates voice opportunities for weaker states. 6 Unlike those who follow the materialist approach, many liberal and neoliberal institutionalists consider that the reciprocal nature of hegemonic rule creates legitimacy. From this rationalist perspective, hegemonic authority cannot be reduced to material power, and thus it can exist even after the decline of the hegemon’s material power on the basis of the rational choices that actors make in the absence of coercion?

The rationalist-constructivist synthesis view of hegemony is a deeply insightful one, but the existing arguments similarly assume that the ideational properties of the preponderant power are “transmitted” to the less powerful. 8 Even when scholars consider hegemonic power and social interaction together, socialization is understood as a one-way process.9 For example, Ikenberry and Charles Kupchan show that the hegemonic strategy of socialization involves elites in secondary states accepting the dominant power’s norms and value orientations, which

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then facilitates compliance.10 In this approach, legitimacy is to some extent limited to the normative content of hegemonic ideas, and he- gemonic authority hinges on cost-benefit calculations that other ac- tors make to accept the content of such hegemonic ideology and value orientations.n Martha Finnemore argues that unipoles face a practi- cal need to legitimate preponderant power and end up diffusing it, thus allowing less powerful actors to have some influence over the shaping of the orderY Note here that these scholars perceive the notion of le- gitimacy as a task of turning brute force into acceptance based on the dominant state’s activities.

Therefore, when it comes to the notion of hegemonic authority, the dominant logic in the literature rests on the idea that less powerful actors are “recipients” of the dominant state’s incentives-both mate- rial and ideational. When the preponderant state offers incentives to other actors, the raw power becomes legitimate authority, thus creat- ing a hierarchical order. The term authority is a by-product of a single actor’s presocial properties, such as power or culture, and of less powerful actors’ rational calculations. According to this logic, what turns material power into authority is the rationality of less powerful actors, who make cost-benefit calculations to accept incentives.

This same logic can be found in the hierarchy literature.U David Lake’s contractualist perspective defines hierarchy as “the extent of authority exercised by the ruler over the ruled.”14 Lake explains hier- archy in terms of a mutually beneficial social contract, where the less powerful grant legitimacy and compliance in return for the pre- ponderant state’s provision of order.15 Authority is produced when a deal makes cost-benefit sense to the less powerful state as well as to the predominant state. The less powerful can freely choose to comply and grant legitimacy if they prefer the provision of order to the loss of a certain degree of sovereignty.

Yet, an understanding of the varying responses to Chinese hege- monic authority in early modern East Asia suggests a more nuanced view. If actors can walk away freely and have a choice whether to grant legitimacy, it is not actually authority. Contrary to Lake’s view of au- thority as a mutually acceptable outcome of cost-benefit calculations, Chinese hegemonic authority resulted when defiance by actors was not

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socially possible. In other words, compliance is constrained by the ac- tors’ sense of what is considered socially acceptable and available- legitimacy-in the first place.16 Lake treats legitimacy as something that can be granted based on an individual actor’s cost-benefit calcu- lations. In this book, I use the term legitimacy to mean “largely unspoken but deeply shared understanding”17 about social life, an understand- ing that shapes people’s thoughts and actions. It is similar to a sense of duty, ethics, or an ethos that is not necessarily based on a calculation of the penalty for noncompliance. According to Patrick jackson, legiti- macy emerges from “the aggregate patterns of social action in a given context rather than individual decisions made by people living in that context.”18 Mlada Bukovansky similarly posits that legitimacy is not some conception of right but “the norms of a specific cultural system at any given time.”19 It arises from often unthinking yet widely held notions shared among actors in specific social contexts as to how the world works and how politics should function. The concept of legiti- macy is therefore based on what makes sense to people rather than what is rational; these two concepts are analytically different.20

Legitimacy “constitutes and empowers political authority.”21 When we take a sociological view of legitimacy, we can view hegemonic au- thority as the kind of power that draws the boundaries of socially ac- ceptable behaviors while constituting the “unspoken realities” of who gets to shape the realm of”this is how things are.” In the case of early modern East Asia, one way of understanding hegemonic authority is to see it as a process of dominating the ways in which the world is represented based on hegemonic ideas, culture, or value orientations- “symbolic domination”-as discussed in chapter 1. Such hegemonic domination establishes the range of behaviors and actions that are le- gitimate in international politics. Hegemony-in early modern East Asia and perhaps elsewhere-involves not just the projection of the dominant state’s material or ideational attributes onto others but also legitimation, “the process of drawing and (re) establishing boundaries, ruling some course of action acceptable and others unacceptable,” to use jackson’s definition. 22 Therefore, hegemony is not simply about who claims the position of preponderant material power but also about set- ting the parameters of international legitimacy.

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Working broadly within the constructivist tradition, I argue that ac- tors’ pursuit of domestic political legitimation was at the heart of Chi- nese hegemony and the variations in compliance by other states. In this section, I present hypotheses about responses to Chinese hegemony that highlight the role of domestic politics. The degree of receptivity to hegemony is a product of the combination of actors’ domestic regime needs and the degree to which hegemonic ideologies resonate with local notions of legitimacy in their own societies.

I develop this domestic legitimation argument in three analytical moves. First, I explain that I view hegemony in a sociological way and show the role that other, less powerful actors play in such a conceptu- alization. Second, I elucidate the nature of the relationship between le- gitimation and hegemony. The idea here is that hegemonic authority requires the process of legitimating power in and through social in- teractions. Third, I show specific causal links through which domes- tic politics are linked to variations in the way actors comply with hegemony.

Hegemony as a Social Process

A sociological approach to hegemony is based on the idea that a politi- cal order is not a creation of one actor but rather emerges through a web of social interactions. The key to understanding hegemonic au- thority in a “socially interesting”23 way is to examine how the atti- tudes of those who accept it are shaped in and through social relations in the domestic as well as international realms. As Robert Latham pos- its, hegemony is not simply about the leadership of the preponderant state but also about its ability to “shape practices and ideas in the in- ternational realm.”24 Based on the experience of Chinese hegemony in Asia’s past, there are at least two ways to think more sociologically about hegemony. One is to take a practice-oriented approach, building on Pierre Bourdieu and others’ theory of practice. 25 The other is to view hegemony through a neo-Gramscian insight as manifested by broad-

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based consent. I do not claim that these two approaches are the only ways to view hegemony in a sociological way but rather present them as possibilities.

The kind of hegemonic power that imperial China held was focused on defining the parameters of the dominant mode of international le- gitimacy while “facilitating and constraining social action” in early modern East Asia. 26 More than the domination by the use of brute power, this type of “symbolic domination”-the hegemon’s ability to establish its own view of the world as the norm-was more salient when it came to the day-to-day workings of Chinese hegemony in interaction with domestic political conditions in other states. 27 In this view, the no- tion of power is not simply associated with instruments that powerful actors use to alter the independent, free action of the less powerful. 28

Rather, “power’s mechanisms are best conceived … as boundaries that, together, define fields of action for all social actors.”29

Several sociologists have shown that the notion of practice is linked to social order. 30 Practice brings internal ideas, beliefs, and norms into the open, making them public and visible through “doings,”31 allowing scholars to elucidate theoretically aspects of social life that are gov- erned not by rational calculations but by habits without reflection.32

In recent years, IR scholars have paid increasing attention to the concept of practice. As Emanuel Adler and Vincent Pouliot articulate, the concept of practice has widened the purview of international poli- tics by viewing international politics in terms of “socially organized ac- tivities.”33 Practice is defined as “socially meaningful patterns of action which, in being performed more or less competently, simultaneously embody, act out, and possibly reify background knowledge and dis- course in and on the material world.”34 Indeed, it is through various international practices that one finds concrete expressions of hege- monic authority. For example, whose diplomatic recognition matters the most to a newly created state? Whose currency do most countries peg their currencies to? Who decides which country hosts the next nu- clear summit meeting?

Adler and Pouliot treat practice as encompassing all theories of IR, including individualist, rational-choice theories.35 But considering the concern that such a broad approach can imply that practices are

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rationally determined outside a specific social context,36 I use the phrase “tribute practices” to refer to a reservoir of socially acceptable behaviors tied to the specific social context of early modern East Asia. 37

When associated with the notion of practices, this understanding helps explain how hegemonic order emerges and is maintained through so- cial interactions that feel natural to contemporaries. A practice-oriented approach thus links the concept of hegemony to the agreed-on para- digm, and this relationship in turn informs notions of what is legiti- mate and acceptable in social life. When one takes a practice-oriented approach, hegemony can be defined as the domination of the socially possible through practice, thereby collapsing the binary divide between culture and material power in explaining hegemonic order. According to Clarissa Rile Hayward,

Because of the pivotal role practices play in delimiting the ways people in specific social contexts might act that are recognized, deemed worthwhile, respected, and praised by some collectivity, the boundaries comprising them, along with the institutional bound- aries that sustain and regulate them, deserve a central place in the critical analysis of power.38

Similar to the notion of “soft power”39 or the notion of “a third- dimensional power,”40 my view of hegemonic power is one that shapes the preferences of other, less powerful actors based on the idea that there are certain ways of doing things that members share and take for granted in every society. The Chinese empire’s symbolic power was “not so soft,” rendering a “nonphysical but nevertheless coercive form of power”41 through the taken-for-granted practice of naming and legitimating other rulers engaged in domestic power struggles.

The early modern East Asian experience also speaks directly to a neo-Gramscian conceptualization of hegemony, which views legiti- macy as being embedded in the very notion of hegemony.42 In a neo-Gramscian conceptualization, hegemony emerges from social in- teractions through which people come to “regard the existing struc- ture of power and authority as established, natural, and legitimate.”43

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According to Robert Cox, hegemony refers to “universal norms, insti- tutions, and mechanisms that lay down general rules of behavior for states and for those forces of civil society that act across national boundaries.”44 Therefore, hegemony is a form of domination not by using brute force but by establishing the institutional, ideational, and moral contexts in which actors pursue their interests. Coercion is “always latent but is only applied in marginal deviant cases.”45 Typ- ically, the dominant view in IR is that a hegemonic order weakens or ceases to exist when the dominant state’s material power declines or passes to another state. But in a neo-Gramscian conception, hege- mony weakens when legitimacy and the ensuing broad-based con- sent are undermined.

Whereas Cox focuses on production and class relations in thinking about social relations, Ted Hopf expands the domain of hegemony to encompass the masses and the taken-for-granted ideas that they have about sociallife.46 Hopf’s plausibility probe on “common sense constructivism” is broadly similar to “symbolic domination” as artic- ulated through a Chinese hegemony example in chapter 1 of this book. Hopf notes that one of Gramsci’s key insights is that the success of a hegemonic project hinges on the degree to which hegemonic ideas that advance certain actors are “veiled in language that presents [those ideas] as if they were advancing the universal interests of the people in general.”47

Hopf’s argument suggests the importance of constructivists’ in- sights on the notions of “discursive fit” or “ideological resonance” in everyday life when considering why hegemonies enjoy varying degrees of authority.48 His example of Russia’s response to Western hegemony is instructive in this regard. He notes, “Russia’s place in Western hege- mony depends on whether Russian political elites can convince Rus- sian masses that democratic neoliberalism is compatible with their implicit sense of a good, just, and normal daily life.”49 As Mark Haas’s study on the role of ideology in great power politics shows, 5° foreign policies are affected not necessarily by the content of hegemonic ide- ology but by the ideological distance between the hegemon and other actors.

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Legitimation as Power Politics

These two intellectual traditions of viewing hegemony capture the character of Chinese hegemonic order in the following three ways. First, unlike in the materialist view of hegemony, a country does not auto- matically become a hegemon by virtue of preponderant power but instead needs legitimation of its identity as such. Such legitimation is intricately linked to the identification of one actor as being entitled to command whereas others are required to obey. 51 In early modern East Asia, the identity of the Chinese emperor as the Son of Heaven was constructed through social interactions; other actors’ compliance with tribute practices-coming to pay tribute (as opposed to receiving), re- ceiving the Chinese title (as opposed to granting), and using the Chinese calendar (as opposed to their own)-recognized “a sense of [China’s] unique identity.”52 For both imperial China and its East Asian neigh- bors, tribute practices were about “one’s way-of-being in the world to others,”53 implicated in the social forces of that specific cultural con- text of the “civilized versus barbarian distinction.” According to ]ens Bartelson, an act of recognition entails an ability to “distinguish and identify something as being itself and not something else.”54 The ruler of imperial China was constructed as the Son of Heaven through cere- monial actions, practices, and writings, all of which created and recog- nized the identity of imperial China as hegemon. In a non-Asian history context, S. R. F. Price notes that “the Roman emperor” was constructed through the endless embassies from cities to emperors. 55

The relationship between legitimation and identification is “ubiqui- tous” at the domestic level. 56 In early modern East Asian societies, con- tenders for power invariably pursued the cultivation of a distinguished identity in the eyes of their peers, ministers, and subjects. In the words of Rodney Barker, “legitimation is an activity in which rulers engage. They possess a distinguishing, specific monopoly of the right to rule, of ‘legitimacy.’ “57 In early modern East Asia, as at other times and in other places, these legitimating activities and practices of rec- ognition took on additional importance at times of greater need for asserting legitimacy, such as in the presence of domestic rivals con-

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tending for rulership, during factional politics, after civil wars, and in the process of building a new political order.

Second, the exercise of symbolic power controls social relations through the use of identity for strategic purposes, a mechanism of rec- ognition. Following Pierre Bourdieu’s logic, hegemony often includes an ability to recognize other actors for who they are while “confer[ ring] the legitimate naming” on their identities. 58 In other words, by being perceived as “legitimate demands for recognition, deference, obedience, or the services of others,”59 the authority lies in the symbolic power associated with giving recognition to other actors’ identities in social interactions. Under this definition of hegemony, the concepts of power and authority are blurred.60

Third, and relatedly, hegemonic order building entails a process through which a certain mode of legitimacy becomes dominant. 61

Legitimation is a binding action and, as such, the acceptance of au- thority is “instrumental” as well as normative.62 When one perceives hegemonic authority in this way, a hegemon’s power is measured not simply by “the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do.” 63 Rather, an important aspect of hegemonic power is about using cultural resources for strategic purposes, “rendering some activities permissible while ruling others out of order.”64

Consider Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who is often referred to as a national hegemon. In the late sixteenth century, he accomplished the unifica- tion of Japan, thus terminating the anarchy of the Warring States period, during which fiercely independent regional lords possessing personal armies had vied for national primacy. After Japan’s unifica- tion, Hideyoshi built a new political order centered on constraining former enemies’ freedom of action, legitimating his identity as the sole authority holding the monopoly on order in the country. The Sword Hunt Edict, for example, announced that “the farmers of the various provinces are strictly forbidden by His Highness [Hideyoshi] to have swords, daggers, bows, spears, firearms, or other kinds of weapons in their possession.”65 Hideyoshi ordered his former rival regional lords to implement the edict and to bring him confiscated weapons. Other measures of legitimating himself as a ruler entailed constraining the

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most formidable former enemies’ freedom of action. Hideyoshi pre- cluded their preparation for war against one another as well as against him; he banned the formation of personal coalitions among them; he required them to seek his permission even in matters of marriage; and he proclaimed himself to be the arbiter of disputes between re- gional lords.

At the international and the domestic levels, material power and legitimacy are therefore not reducible to each other, but legitimation- the process of acquiring legitimacy as the holder of authority-is an integral part of managing unequal power relations. In other words, hegemonic stability and regime stability are expressed and reinforced by broad-based consent, rendering the use of force and coercion mar- ginal. At the same time, legitimation itself can be a crucial part of coercion.

Domestic Rivals and Hegemonic Authority

In early modern East Asia, Korea tended to show a relatively high level of participation in tribute practices, whereas Japan tended to remain at the margins of the hegemonic order. Throughout the 500-year Choson period, every Korean ruler except two received investiture as the king of Korea from imperial China; only Ashikaga Yoshimitsu re- ceived investiture as the king of]apan.66 Why did the tribute system flourish in Sino-Korean relations but not in Sino-Japanese relations? I argue that Chinese hegemonic authority is an outcome of other actors’ legitimation strategies for domestic power struggles. Whereas other East Asia IR history scholars have focused on structural and systemic factors such as Chinese culture and power, I focus on the role of do- mestic politics, elucidating how top leaders who were engaged in power struggles in the domestic realm took advantage of the hegemon’s sym- bolic power strategically in ways that enhanced their position against their opponents. Compliance was thus a function of domestic author- ity and regime needs, in conjunction with the resonance of hegemonic ideology with local notions about legitimacy. Whether, and to what extent, certain actors found hegemonic ideology-the symbolic power of the hegemon-useful is an empirical question.

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Before I explore this logic in detail, two clarifications about my do- mestic legitimation argument are in order. My argument is compati- ble with rational-choice approaches but goes beyond an interest-based argument that is exogenously given. An actor’s choice of strategy is in- formed by what is socially possible and acceptable in that given cul- tural and social context. Each society in early modern East Asia had its own way of constructing authority, which corresponded to local notions about legitimacy. just as political actors in power struggles in early modern Europe were bound to legitimate their ruler identity “in the name of God,”67 in early modern East Asia, the Chinese identity as hegemon had to be legitimated through the discourse of”the Mandate of Heaven,” based on the Confucian hegemonic ideology of a “civilized versus barbarian distinction.” This identity as the “Son of Heaven” in turn enabled imperial China and its rulers to hold symbolic power to legitimate rulers in neighboring states-hence, the practice of investi- ture from the Chinese emperor.

By the fifteenth century, Japanese and Korean societies were dis- tinctively different social settings, ruled by samurai warriors in japan and by Confucian scholar-officials in Korea. In japan, any warrior who wished to establish himself as the national hegemon, or shogun, had to receive the title from the Japanese emperor, distinguishing himself from warrior rivals. All the great leaders of]apan in the early modern period legitimated their action in this way as they built their identity as the shogun at the top of the warrior hierarchy, sanctioned by the symbolic power of the japanese emperor in conjunction with the shinkoku idea of viewing] a pan as the “country of gods.”68 In other words, these two societies had their own logics when it came to legitimating power, based on which Chinese symbolic power and cultural resources held different meanings for domestic struggles for power.

Therefore, the outcomes of compliance decisions with Chinese hegemony may be consistent with rationalist explanations. But as jackson aptly puts it, “People do what they do because it is in their interest to do so. But this is not particularly interesting from a socio- logical perspective. What is far more interesting is how interests are shaped by the social context into which they are inserted.”69 Without considering the intersubjective understanding of what such practice

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of receiving the Chinese title meant in that specific domestic social context, rationalist approaches do not provide an adequate answer as to whether compliance serves or hurts the interests of top leaders in the neighboring states. In Korea, the Confucian ways of viewing the world and organizing social relations formed the boundaries of Korea’s socially possible behaviors domestically, resonating with im- perial China’s logic of identifying the Chinese emperor with Confucian morality. Receiving investiture was taken for granted as a means of legitimating rulership within Korea. Korea’s surprisingly consistent acceptance of Chinese hegemony resulted from the fact that Korean leaders were vulnerable to attacks from their subordinates and politi- cal rivals in the absence of such recognition from the Chinese emperor.

In contrast, the Japanese emperor had a monopoly in naming court ranks and titles to powerful warrior leaders, temples, and Shinto shrines, providing the imperial institution with indisputable prestige throughout the country.7° Any domestic actor aspiring to legitimate his position had to be sanctioned by the country’s “highest deity and ulti- mate source of divine legitimation,” the Japanese imperial institution. Samurai warrior leaders were careful not to be branded “an enemy of the emperor.”71 The act of receiving investiture from the Chinese em- peror would have hurt a shogun’s legitimacy in the eyes of his rival regional warrior lords. Ashikaga Yoshimitsu’s acceptance of the title king of]apan from the Ming emperor was widely criticized soon after his death by his son and successor Ashikaga Yoshimochi and other court nobles, who called the act improper. Thus, exactly because Japan shared with China and other East Asian neighbors the social meaning of receiving investiture from the Chinese emperor, Japan was reluctant to receive a Chinese title.72

Like most constructivists, I do not deny that the struggle for power is a major feature of political life. But as Bukovansky eloquently states, “power resources can be discursive or symbolic as well as material. The parameters that delimit the identity of legitimate political authority or behavior are articulated in cultural terms, and these parameters constitute a dimension of power.”73 Symbolic power, hegemonic ide- ology, or culture alone is not sufficient to explain the workings of Chinese hegemony. However, Asian history strongly suggests that the

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concepts of authority and hierarchy cannot be fully understood with- out considering how actors use cultural resources for purposes of power politics.

Why Legitimation Matters for Domestic Power Struggles

Most IR theorists assume that the notion of anarchy is applicable at the level of international politics, whereas hierarchy characterizes domes- tic politics.74 However, there is no a priori reason why the reverse can- not be the case.75 Once we take into consideration the security dynamic of early modern East Asia, we can see international politics as being characterized by a stable hierarchy based on the symbolic authority of Chinese hegemony, under which the domestic politics of East Asian neighboring states moved through the spectrum from anarchy to hierarchy. When neighboring states experienced anarchic conditions in the domestic realm, in which multiple actors vied for power, the authority of imperial China could be of great value to contenders for power in domestic power struggles. Therefore, a crucial aspect of vary- ing degrees of compliance with Chinese hegemonic authority was the waxing and waning of the need for domestic legitimation in power struggles.

The causal logic of linking less powerful actors’ domestic political needs to the level of compliance here is well supported by several key insights in the literature. According to David Lake, the stability and legitimacy of the international hierarchy depends on how much do- mestic societies benefit from such authority relations.76 My argument contributes to this line of thinking: I focus on the role of domestic le- gitimation strategies to explain hierarchy but, unlike Lake, do so from a constructivist point of view. Broadly speaking, my argument inter- sects two bodies of literature in IR: one emphasizing the role of domes- tic politics for foreign and security policy77 and the other emphasizing the role oflegitimacy for strategic consequences.78

Instead of a state-centric view, I focus on the fact that rulers at the top of government live in two worlds-the worlds of international and domestic politics.79 The political survival of political leaders is at the heart of the relationship between the daily struggles of domestic

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politics and the high politics of international relations. 80 In early mod- ern East Asia, there were at least three political groups to consider in a given state: rulers (kings or shoguns in Korea and japan, respec- tively), political opponents and supporters of rulers (ministers, cous- ins of kings, royal family members), and subjects. Recall that rulers face two sets of boundaries of socially acceptable behaviors (two sets of legitimacy notions), one at the international level and one at the domestic level. Rulers and their supporters as central decisionmakers of foreign policy strive to reconcile these two imperatives while facing checks and balances from their political rivals and internal enemies and in the eyes of their subjects.

International relations scholars have long noted the effects of do- mestic politics on foreign and security policy, including states’ deci- sions to go to war and to form alliances or alignments in international politics. In particular, a group of scholars places political survival of the ruling elites and internal regime security-as opposed to the external balance of power-at the center of their analysis. 81 Michael Barnett and Jack Levy’s work on alliances and alignments points out that there is no a priori reason to think that external security threats are more important determinants than internal ones, such as matters of regime survival or stability.82 Steven David’s “omnibalancing” argument shows that third world leaders’ alignment behavior is determined by their political and physical survival considerations, and their decisions are based on which outside power is likely to help their domestic power position. 83

Within the realist school of thought, neoclassical realists have shown that actors’ responses to external security threats are filtered through domestic politics considerations. Randall Schweller argues that “whether states choose to balance against threats or to buck-pass (among other nonbalancing strategies) is not primarily determined by structural-systemic factors but rather, like all decisions that concern national defense, by the domestic political process.”84 More specifically, I note Schweller’s domestic factors-especially elite cohesion/fragmen- tation and the degree of regime vulnerability-for explaining “unan- swered threats.”85 He argues that when facing regime vulnerability and a legitimacy deficit, a regime will have to use scarce resources to co-

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Chinese Hegemonic Authority 7 I

erce or co-opt the opposition. The primary goal of the governing elites here is to counter challenges from their political opponents, be they the military, opposing political parties, or other powerful groups within the state. If we extend this logic, it is possible to argue that the governing elites might align more closely or join hands with the hegemon if such behavior would help strengthen their position against the opposition. In cases such as these, compliance with the hegemonic authority results from domestic political struggles and rivalries.

Scholars who deal with the diversionary use of force investigate the link between the domestic political context and foreign policy deci- sions regarding the use of force. 86 The idea at the heart of the litera- ture is that leaders use foreign adventure as a means of improving their domestic standing and internal authority, especially at times of domes- tic discontent. For example, Charles Ostrom and Brian job argue that when it came to acting as commander-in-chief, American presidents from Truman to Ford were influenced more by internal partisan poli- tics than by international balance-of-power considerations.87 Not all scholars agree, 88 but a significant body of research supports the idea that at times of internal problems, a leader’s ambition to stay in power can affect his or her behavior regarding foreign conflicts. The litera- ture on ethnic conflict shows that leaders play symbolic political games, manipulating for their own advantage certain emotions that their public holds vis-a-vis the foreign country.89

Another focus of IR scholarship literature that addresses my causal logic is on the role of legitimation in international politics. Although IR scholars from different schools of thought have long noted the im- portance of legitimacy in foreign policy processes, some constructiv- ists have begun to deal with the question more explicitly, asking how actors’ legitimation strategies produce independent causal effects on strategic consequences. Stacie Goddard and Ron Krebs suggest four specific causal mechanisms through which legitimation has an inde- pendent causal effect on grand strategy: defining the national interest, identifying threats, selecting remedies, and mobilizing publics and resources. Through her work on jerusalem and Northern Ireland, God- dard shows that actors’ legitimation strategies that began as a means

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72 Chinese Hegemonic Authority

to a political advantage have structural effects on constructing terri- tory as indivisible.90 She proposes three ways in which legitimation strategies give an actor a political advantage over an opponent: (1) through coalitional outbidding, (2) through delegitimization of the opponent, and (3) as a rhetorical commitment device.91 To put it another way, political leaders’ efforts to legitimate their position against their opponents in the domestic realm had direct effects on international outcomes; in the area of interest in this book, hegemonic authority. Theoretical insights of legitimation theory also speak directly to the debate within East Asia IR history research between realist and liberal- constructivist claims. This body of literature views the notion oflegiti- mation as a social process within a specific cultural and social context rather than viewing legitimacy as a normative claim, thereby shifting away from the dichotomy between power and culture, as discussed earlier.

Bringing together the bodies of literature on the roles of domestic politics and legitimation, I argue that actors’ domestic legitimation strategies have implications for the shaping of hegemony. In the fol- lowing chapters, I explain why and how different actors responded to Chinese hegemony differently. The literature on norm diffusion shows that international legitimation helps enhance domestic legitimacy.92

More specifically in the context of early modern East Asia, I show that external recognition by the Chinese empire, embodying a higher authority from such international legitimation, enhanced political leaders’ legitimacy within states.93 That is, once a particular actor, the hegemon, is accepted as being entitled to rule, external recognition granted to certain political leaders within the state can lend them le- gitimacy over their political opponents while providing them with a strategic advantage in the domestic realm. It is for this very reason that pre-eighteenth-century monarchs in Europe sought to use religious sanction as a means of acquiring domestic obedience.94 Once we accept the importance of domestic regime needs in security and foreign pol- icy behaviors of states, it is possible to see how strategic actors within a state might manipulate the symbolic power of the hegemon to accom- plish their goal of political survival, especially at times of domestic legitimacy deficit and regime vulnerability. This causal logic becomes

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Chinese Hegemonic Authority 73

clear especially when rulers face circumstances that challenge their political survival, including circumstances that entail internal enemies, which then affects compliance choices vis-a-vis the hegemon.95

It is important to remember that rulers in domestic politics, just like a hegemon in international politics, operate within their own specific cultural and social context. According to Goddard, “whether an actor’s claim is legitimate depends on whether it resonates with existing social and cultural networks.”96 By hegemonic ideological resonance, I refer to a condition under which the dominant mode of international legitimacy associated with the hegemon resonates with local notions of legitimacy, as in the case of Korea. By hegemonic ideo- logical dissonance, I refer to a condition under which the dominant mode of international legitimacy associated with the hegemon does not resonate with local notions of legitimacy, as in the case of Japan. By a logical extension, if hegemonic ideology and authority do not enhance-or if they hurt-leaders’ political survival, then leaders avoid complying with hegemony, refusing to accept related practices, sometimes at the expense of economic benefits. Thus, the links between domestic and international legitimacy are why my causal logic-actors’ domestic legitimation strategies-resulted in differing degrees of receptivity to Chinese hegemony.

More specifically, my hypotheses are as follows. First, under the condition of hegemonic ideological resonance, political leaders of less powerful states are likely to comply with hegemonic authority, because they seek to take advantage of the symbolic power of the hegemon to boost their legitimacy at home. Second, under the condition of hege- monic ideological dissonance, political leaders of less powerful states are likely to defy hegemonic authority, because they seek to avoid pos- sible attacks on their legitimacy from domestic rivals. Third, under the condition of hegemonic ideological resonance, political leaders who suffer from a legitimacy deficit or internal regime crises are likely to show a higher level of compliance, because they seek to take advantage of the symbolic power to enhance legitimacy against political rivals at home. Fourth, under the condition of hegemonic ideological disso- nance, political leaders who suffer from a legitimacy deficit or inter- nal regime crises are likely to challenge hegemonic authority, because

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74 Chinese Hegemonic Authority

they seek to manipulate the symbolic power of the hegemon and to use foreign conflict as a means to gain domestic support at home.


Acknowledging the complexities of gauging compliance, I define chal- lenge as a direct military challenge to China; defiance as a refusal to follow the Chinese “rules of the game” as manifested in tributary practices (i.e., having no hostile relations with China); and compli- ance as having official tributary relations with China and abiding by Chinese rules in tributary practices. To differentiate a “high” level of compliance from a “low” one, one cannot look only at the regularity and frequency of tribute-bearing missions sent to China; the content and tone of state letters and communications must also be analyzed.97 An important marker of high-authority relations was whether Japan and Korea accepted the Chinese title “king,” and used the Chinese calen- dar, while addressing themselves as a shin (subject) of the Chinese em- peror in state letters.

Figure 2.1 depicts the variations in relations between Japan and China and between Korea and China throughout the early modern period, which can be divided roughly into three periods: (1) the rise of the Ming empire and Ming hegemonic stability (1368-1592); (2) Japan’s challenge to Ming hegemony and the Imjin War (1592-1598); and (3) the Ming to Qing power transition and the Qing hegemony (the 1610s through the end of the eighteenth century). The figure also identifies points in history where these two pairs of relationships experienced major changes in compliance patterns.

Note the macro variation when comparing the broad pattern of Korea-China relations with that of]apan-China relations with regard to Chinese hegemonic authority under the Ming and Qing empires. On average, defiance characterizes Sino-Japanese relations; Korea maintained a consistently higher level of acceptance and participa- tion in the tribute system than Japan throughout the period under consideration.

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76 Chinese Hegemonic Authority

TABLE 2.1 Japan’s and Korea’s patterns of compliance during the Ming and High Qing periods

Japan Korea

Ming hegemony Low High

Imjin War (1592-1598) Challenge High (Hyper)

Qing hegemony Defiance High

What are also intriguing to note in table 2.1 and in figure 2.1 are the microvariations within each state, as shown in the varying patterns of compliance over time. Japan became an official tributary of the Ming empire in the early fifteenth century but sent official tribute-bearing missions only intermittently afterward throughout most of the fif- teenth and sixteenth centuries while maintaining a low level of com- pliance. In the late sixteenth century, Japan embarked on an outright challenge to Ming hegemony by invading Korea in an attempt to con- quer China. In the early seventeenth century, Japan sought no official relations with the Qing empire while defying China by creating a min- iature tributary order around itself. In Korea, variations over time were less dramatic, but Korea’s insistence on being a Ming tributary during the transition between the Ming and Qing empires is remarkable. Korea’s overall level of compliance with the Qing was lower than that with the Ming.

In the next three chapters, I use a structured and focused compari- son and process tracing in order to take a close look at the events shown in figure 2.1 that marked major fluctuations in Korea’s and Japan’s compliance patterns. Each chapter is designed to compare Japan and Korea in terms of their responses to China, as well as comparing vari- ations over time within each state. The case studies test my hypothe- ses presented earlier by using process tracing to see if the variations can be explained by Korea’s and Japan’s domestic political needs in combination with the resonance of Chinese symbolic power.

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Chinese Hegemonic Authority 77

In chapter 3, I investigate Korea’s remarkable fluctuations in the early Ming period-Korea’s acceptance ofMing tributary status (1370), its attempt at striking the Ming (1388), its request for Ming recogni- tion (1392), and its preparation for a military campaign against the Ming (1398). For Japan, I look at Yoshimitsu’s acceptance ofMing tribu- tary status (1404). In chapter 4, I explore Japan’s challenge to Ming hegemony (the Imjin War) and look at Korea’s unusually high level of compliance with the Ming in the late sixteenth century. Chapter 5, which focuses on a period that saw the emergence of Qing hegemony, marks Korea’s puzzling compliance with the declining Ming and its defiance against the rising Qing while Japan’s defiant behavior was taking shape. If my arguments are right, we should expect to see that all those instances of major fluctuations correspond to periods in which Japan and Korea were in need of extra legitimacy in the midst of in- tense power struggles at home and attempted to take advantage of the Ming recognition for purposes of domestic politics.

For empirical evidence, in addition to the records written by tribu- tary envoys discussed previously,98 I examine the official annals of both Korea and China-Chason wang) a sillak [~A~* .I. ~A ‘ff~ The veritable rec- ords of the Choson dynasty], Myongsa Chason YolchOn [Fl}J;I:_ ~A~¥1U14 Mingshi Chaoxian Liezhuan; Records on Choson in the veritable records of the Ming dynasty], and Ch’ongsaga Chason Yolchon U* ;!:_ {~ ~A~* 1U14 Qingshigao Chaoxian Liezhuan; Records on Choson in the veritable records of the Qing dynasty).99 These official dynastic sources are use- ful for analyzing debates within Korea and China. They help us under- stand why leaders made specific compliance decisions when they did by showing their perceptions and judgments as well as the domestic decisionmaking environment. Sources such as Zenrin Kakuhaki [f. flJ!F IE!l 1hE. Precious national records of our good neighbor] and Pioga [1i~ ~ A reflection on national defense] contain state letters and au- thors’ commentaries. Analyzing state letters is important in under- standing Asian hierarchy, because the letters sent to the rulers of China show how Japan and Korea situated themselves vis-a-vis China.100 Other important sources include personal letters, diaries, and essays by Japanese and Korean ruling elites who were involved in those events that marked major shifts in compliance behaviors. For

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78 Chinese Hegemonic Authority

example, I analyze personal letters by Hideyoshi (who invaded Korea) to his family members,101 as well as an essay by Yu Song-nyong, who was the prime minister of Korea and was responsible for dealing with the Ming during the Imjin War.102 As I test my hypotheses, I can also examine the standard power-based argument that military weak- nesses led Korea to comply with China, whereas japan could afford to balance against it. For example, the realist logic tells us that Korea should have terminated relations with the Ming by the 1610s and switched to the rising Qing empire. Examining these documents en- ables a researcher to see exactly why Korea supported the declining Ming.

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