Pax Sinica

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Tiananmen, the "Gate of Heavenly Peace", is the front gate of the Imperial City of Beijing, first built under the Yongle Emperor who also commissioned the Yongle Encyclopedia and the Ming treasure voyages. As a national symbol of China, Tiananmen features a giant portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong with two giant placards: the left one reads "Long Live the People's Republic of China" (中华人民共和国万岁; Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó wànsuì), while the right one reads "Long Live the Great Unity of the World's Peoples" (世界人民大团结万岁; Shìjiè rénmín dà tuánjié wànsuì).

Pax Sinica (Latin for "Chinese peace"; simplified Chinese: 中华治世; traditional Chinese: 中華治世; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Zhìshì) is a historiographical term referring to periods of peace and stability in East Asia,[1] Northeast Asia,[2] Southeast Asia,[1] and Central Asia[3] led by China. A study on the Sinocentric world system reveals that the multiple periods of Pax Sinica, when taken together, amounted to a length of approximately two thousand years.[4]

The first Pax Sinica of the Eastern world emerged during the rule of the Han dynasty and coincided with the Pax Romana of the Western world led by the Roman Empire.[5][6] It stimulated long-distance travel and trade in Eurasian history.[6] Both the first Pax Sinica and the Pax Romana eroded at circa AD 200.[6]

A resurgence of this term has happened in recent years, especially after 2010. The rapid rise of the People's Republic of China is seen by some analysts as a possible return to Pax Sinica, as the economy of China is set to be the largest national economy in the world, and already has in some aspects.[7][8][9][10]

Periods of historical Pax Sinica[edit]

Han dynasty[edit]

The first period of Pax Sinica came into being during the Han dynasty of China.[11] Domestically, the power of the emperor was consolidated following the devastation of the feudal system.[12] The Rule of Wen and Jing (文景之治) and the Rule of Ming and Zhang (明章之治) were periods of societal stability and economic prosperity. Externally, the Han dynasty neutralized the threat posed by the nomadic Xiongnu following a series of wars.[13] The boundaries of China were extended into what is modern-day western Xinjiang, South Korea (near modern Seoul), and Vietnam (around modern Huế).[14] The Silk Road emerged as a major route that connected the East and the West after the Han diplomat Zhang Qian established contact with the numerous Central Asian tribes and states, thus facilitating commerce and cultural exchanges.[15]

The Pax Sinica established by the Han dynasty is often compared to the Pax Romana of the Roman Empire.[11][16] The Pax Sinica of the Han dynasty ended following decades of internal turmoil that later led to the downfall of the Han dynasty and a period of fragmentation in Chinese history.

Tang dynasty[edit]

The Tang dynasty was one of the golden ages in Chinese history and presided over another period of Pax Sinica.[17] The Tang capital, Chang'an, was a major economic and cultural hub, and was the world's largest urban settlement at the time.[18] The Silk Road facilitated economic and cultural exchanges between China and the outside world, with Persians and Sogdians among those who benefited the most from such exchanges with China.[17] In the north, the First Turkic Khaganate was defeated and annexed;[19] in the west, the Tang dynasty extended its control as far as modern-day Afghanistan and the Aral Sea;[20][21] in the east, Tang control reached Sakhalin.[21] During its peak, the Tang dynasty maintained hegemony over 72 tributary states.[22] During this period, Chinese culture was revitalized and became more diverse and cosmopolitan.[17] The amount of interaction between China and Japan increased; Chinese influence on Japanese culture and politics became more prominent since the Tang dynasty.[23]

Yuan dynasty[edit]

The Yuan dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China ruled by ethnic Mongol and was the main successor to the Mongol Empire. While the Yuan dynasty is often considered a legitimate Chinese dynasty that bore the Mandate of Heaven, historians usually classify this period of peace under the Pax Mongolica.[24]

Ming dynasty[edit]

The Ming dynasty of China presided over another period of Pax Sinica.[25] This period saw the formal institutionalization of the Chinese tributary system, illustrating the great political power of China at the time.[26] The seven maritime expeditions led by Zheng He projected the imperial power of the Ming dynasty across Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and East Africa.[27] During this period, China also exerted a great amount of influence on the culture and politics of Korea.[28][29]

Qing dynasty[edit]

The Qing dynasty of China heralded another period of Pax Sinica.[30] At its peak, it ruled over the fourth largest empire territorially, constituting 9.87 per cent of the world's total land area.[31] The High Qing era was a period of sustained peace, economic prosperity and territorial expansion.[32] The multicultural and multiethnic nature of the Qing dynasty was fundamental to the subsequent formation of the modern nationalist concept of Zhonghua minzu. As the rulers of the Qing dynasty were ethnic Manchu, this period of peace is also sometimes known as "Pax Manjurica".[33][34][35]

Possible return and obstacles[edit]

A resurgence of the term has been observed in recent years, especially after 2010, as China has not been involved in any significant military conflict since the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979. The rapid rise of the People's Republic of China is seen by some analysts as a possible return to Pax Sinica, as the economy of China continues to expand into the largest national economy in the world. [7][36][9][10] A forecast by the British-based Centre for Economics and Business Research has stated that China is set to overtake the United States as the world's biggest economy by 2028, half a decade sooner than expected.[37]

China's economic development is tied to its large, working population and continuous, rapid industrialization, so much so that China has overtaken most Western nations in exports of finished goods and technological products. However, the aging of China's population could create challenging social issues, increase the risk of social instability, and limit its capabilities to act as a new global hegemon.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Deng, Yang (1997). Promoting Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation: Perspectives from East Asia. p. 12. ISBN 9780230380127.
  2. ^ Domínguez, Jorge; Kim, Byung-Kook (2005). Between Compliance and Conflict: East Asia, Latin America, and the "new" Pax Americana. p. 125. ISBN 9780415951258.
  3. ^ Lee, Joseph (1982). Wang Ch'ang-ling. p. 94. ISBN 9780805764659.
  4. ^ Smolnikov, Sergey (2018). Great Power Conduct and Credibility in World Politics. p. 112. ISBN 9783319718859.
  5. ^ Plott, John C. (1989). Global History of Philosophy. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 57. ISBN 9788120804562.
  6. ^ a b c Krech III, Shepard; Merchant, Carolyn; McNeill, John Robert, eds. (2004). Encyclopedia of World Environmental History. Vol. 3: O–Z, Index. Routledge. pp. 135–. ISBN 978-0-415-93735-1.
  7. ^ a b Elliott, Michael (2007-01-22). "China Takes On the World". Time Magazine. Archived from the original on January 14, 2007.
  8. ^ "[Image] balance of economic power 1AD – 2009". Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  9. ^ a b "Pax Sinica". The Economist. 2014-09-20. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2019-10-21.
  10. ^ a b "How is China shaping the global economic order?". CSIS China Power. 9 March 2016. Archived from the original on 20 September 2016. Retrieved 24 December 2020.
  11. ^ a b Morris, Ian (2014). War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots. p. 69. ISBN 9780374711030.
  12. ^ Grousset, René (1964). The Rise and Splendour of the Chinese Empire. p. 55.
  13. ^ Tan, Koon San (2014). Dynastic China: An Elementary History. p. 131. ISBN 9789839541885.
  14. ^ Grousset (1964). p. 60.
  15. ^ Grousset (1964). p. 85.
  16. ^ Auyang, Sunny (2014). The Dragon and the Eagle: The Rise and Fall of the Chinese and Roman Empires. p. 151. ISBN 9781317516880.
  17. ^ a b c Mahbubani, Kishore (2009). The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East. ISBN 9781586486280.
  18. ^ Brown, Cynthia (2012). Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present. ISBN 9781595588456.
  19. ^ Burnn, Stanley; Toops, Stanley; Gilbreath, Richard (2012). The Routledge Atlas of Central Eurasian Affairs. p. 15. ISBN 9781136310478.
  20. ^ Hallet, Stanley; Samizay, Rafi (1980). Traditional architecture of Afghanistan. p. 9. ISBN 9780824070595.
  21. ^ a b Gan, Chunsong (2019). A Concise Reader of Chinese Culture. p. 24. ISBN 9789811388675.
  22. ^ Cox, Michael; Dunne, Tim; Booth, Ken (2001). Empires, Systems and States: Great Transformations in International Politics. p. 52. ISBN 9780521016865.
  23. ^ Embree, Ainslie; Gluck, Carol (1997). Asia in Western and World History: A Guide for Teaching. M.E. Sharpe. p. 352. Japan culture tang dynasty.
  24. ^ Zhao, George (2008). Marriage as Political Strategy and Cultural Expression: Mongolian Royal Marriages from World Empire to Yuan Dynasty. ISBN 9781433102752.
  25. ^ Horner, Charles (2010). Rising China and Its Postmodern Fate: Memories of Empire in a New Global Context. p. 34. ISBN 9780820335889.
  26. ^ Cheng, Weichung (2013). War, Trade and Piracy in the China Seas (1622-1683). p. 11. ISBN 9789004253537.
  27. ^ Naidu, G.V.C.; Chen, Mumin; Narayanan, Raviprasad (2014). India and China in the Emerging Dynamics of East Asia. p. 123. ISBN 9788132221388.
  28. ^ Lee, Soyoung; Kim, JaHyun; Hong, Sunpyo; Chang, Chin-Sung (2009). Art of the Korean Renaissance, 1400-1600. Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 62. ming dynasty korean culture.
  29. ^ Fang, Weigui (2019). Modern Notions of Civilization and Culture in China. pp. 28–29. ISBN 9789811335587.
  30. ^ Wong, Young-tsu (2001). A Paradise Lost: The Imperial Garden Yuanming Yuan. p. 1. ISBN 9780824823283.
  31. ^ Whitaker's Little Book of Knowledge. Bloomsbury. 2018. ISBN 9781408895870.
  32. ^ Buoye, Thomas (2000). Manslaughter, Markets, and Moral Economy: Violent Disputes Over Property Rights in Eighteenth-Century China. p. 34. ISBN 9780521640459.
  33. ^ McCord, Edward (2014). Military Force and Elite Power in the Formation of Modern China. ISBN 9781317907787.
  34. ^ Horner (2010). p. 54.
  35. ^ Smolnikov (2018). p. 141.
  36. ^[bare URL image file]
  37. ^ Elliot, Larry (26 December 2020). "China to overtake US as world's biggest economy by 2028, report predicts". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 December 2020. With the US expected to contract by 5% this year, China will narrow the gap with its biggest rival, the CEBR said. Overall, global gross domestic product is forecast to decline by 4.4% this year, in the biggest one-year fall since the second world war. Douglas McWilliams, the CEBR's deputy chairman, said: "The big news in this forecast is the speed of growth of the Chinese economy. We expect it to become an upper-income economy during the current five-year plan period (2020-25). And we expect it to overtake the US a full five years earlier than we did a year ago.
  38. ^ Sasse, Ben (January 26, 2020). "The Responsibility to Counter China's Ambitions Falls to Us". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 4, 2021.

Further reading[edit]

  • KIM, S.S, China's Pacific Policy: Reconciling the Irreconcilable, International Journal, 1994.
  • Kueh, Y.Y. (2012). Pax Sinica: Geopolitics and Economics of China's Ascendance
  • TERMINSKI, Bogumil, (2010), The Evolution of the Concept of Perpetual Peace in the History of Political-Legal Thought, Perspectivas Internacionales, vol. 10: 277–291.
  • YEOH, Kok Kheng, (2009), Towards Pax Sinica?: China's rise and transformation : impacts and implications, University of Malaya.
  • ZHANG, Yongjin, (2001), System, empire and state in Chinese international relations, Review of International Studies, vol. 27: 43–63.