Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power
by Howard W. French
For many years after its reform and opening in 1978, China maintained an attitude of false modesty about its ambitions. That façade, reports former New York Times Asia correspondent Howard French, has now been cast off. China is increasingly asserting its place among the global powers, signaling its plans for pan-Asian dominance by building its navy, increasing territorial claims to areas like the South China Sea, and diplomatically bullying smaller players. Underlying this attitude is the millennia-old concept of tian xia, which held that everything “under the heavens” fell within the influence of the Chinese empire.
If we understand how this historical identity continues to color current actions, in ways ideological, philosophical, and even legal, we can learn to forecast just what kind of global power China stands to become—as the world order is poised to shift. Steeped in deeply researched history and on-the-ground reporting, this is French at his revelatory best.