‘Chinese’ Hegemony from a Korean shi Perspective: Aretocracy in the Early Modern East Asia. International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, Vol. 22, No. 3 (2022)

The study of pre-modern Chinese hegemony is crucial for both theorizing hegemony and envisioning a new global order. I argue the pre-modern Chinese hegemony was a reciprocal rule of virtue, or aretocracy, driven by the transnational sociocultural elites shi. In contrast to the prevailing models of Chinese hegemony, the Early Modern East Asia was not dominated by the unilateral normative influence of the Chinese state. The Chinese and non-Chinese shi as non-statist sociocultural elites co-produced, through their shared civilizational heritage, a hegemonic order in which they had to show excellence in civil virtues to wield legitimate authority. In particular, the Ming and Chosŏn shi developed a tradition of envoy poetry exchanges as a medium for co-constructing Chinese hegemony as aretocracy. The remarkable role of excellent ethos for world order making in Early Modern East Asia compels us to re-imagine how we conduct our global governance.

On Being Chinese and Being Complexified: Chinese IR as a Transcultural Project. Review of International Studies, Vol. 49, No.3 (2022)

While proponents of Chinese IR pursue a national school based on the identification of Chineseness with the Chinese national culture, its critics find a limited value in the ‘Chinese’ school as a mere temporary site for non-Western agencies. In contrast, I argue a distinctive and enduring Chinese IR is possible if it adopts a non-national and non-essentialised transcultural conception of Chineseness. This transcultural Chinese IR is based first on the contested and transcultural conception of Chineseness and second on the ontology of Chineseness as immanent humanity. Chineseness has been a fiction of a privileged descent from antiquity, which various contestants claimed by redefining the meaning of Chineseness. The shi elites, in particular, developed Chineseness as an aspirational ethos that propelled it to transcend its cultural boundary by incorporating foreign influences and thereby rendered Chineseness transcultural. Also, drawing on the ontological turn and Roy Wagner’s work in anthropology, I show how Chineseness as immanent humanity transcends the category of culture, transforming the division of innate nature and constructed culture. The transcultural Chinese IR, with its own complexity and universal aspiration, uses its history and ontology to complexify both its tradition internally and other IR traditions externally, promoting the pluralisation of IR.

International Theory of Serving the Great: 1636 Qing Invasion of Chosŏn as a Future-Passed. Korean Journal of International Relations, Vol. 63, No. 1 (2023) [in Korean]

This paper explores a non-sovereign international theory through the principle of Serving the Great, which regulated Ming-Chosŏn relationship until the 1636 Qing Invasion of Chosŏn. Many in History and International Relations disciplines have studied both the principle and the anti-accommodation discourse during the Qing invasion as the model case of the so-called tributary system. However, they focused on the significance of the principle within its historical context and did not investigate how Serving the Great might work beyond the immediate historical context to transform International Relations theories. In contrast, I deploy Marilyn Strathern’s ethnographic moment to reveal the significance of the anti-accommodation discourse as a future-passed and investigate the incipient post-sovereign international theory of Serving the Great. I reconstruct this incipient moment and its ideational background, the Nature/Coherence and Eight Steps schemas in Neo-Confucianism, to generate a monadological international theory that goes beyond sovereignty and agent-structure dichotomy. It posits political units as monads that reflect the whole political order within themselves. States, too, become non-sovereign monads and cultivate attunement to coherence, which is defined as their overall relational configuration. This reconstruction of Serving the Great will generate an alternative field of IR knowledge production while simultaneously contributing to the ongoing pluralization of the discipline.