, East Asia at the Center: Four Thousand Years of Engagement with the World (New York: Columbia University Press
Warren I Cohen, Distinguished Professor of History at University of Maryland Baltimore County and Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center of Scholars, has written an ambitious historical tour de force, East Asia at the Center.
The main thrust of his
book is that East Asia, often dominated by China, has long been at the center of its own international relations system.
Indeed, China throughout its early dynastic history was usually the only major global civilization, surrounded by "barbarians".
By the time, the European arrived to "open up" China and the rest of Asia, the region had a well-established international relations system.
Over time, China lost power in a relative sense and other East Asian countries, such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam emerged as largely sinofied civilizations.
The barbarian threat, however, remained in the vast hinterland of Central and northern Asia, first with the Mongols, and later with the Europeans.
Yet, as Cohen
amply demonstrates, China and other Asian countries have a long history of international relations.
notes: "Realpolitik and machtpolitik as concepts of international politics may evoke images of amoral Germanic statesmen, of Otto van Bismarck and Henry Kissinger, but the Chinese were practicing — and critiquing — them while Central Europe was still populated with Neolithic savages."
In the 20th century, Cohen
acknowledges that East Asia underwent massive changes.