Wednesday, December 29, 2021

China and Japan: Thinking About President Xi and Prince Kanenaga

The long history of Chinese arrogance.
For 100 years, from the Chinese/Mongol attempts to conquer Japan in 1274 and 1281 to the demands of the founder of the Ming Dynasty from 1369 to 1382 that Japan pay tribute.

A repost from December 2018.

Sometimes when thinking about what President Xi is up to Chairman Mao comes to mind. I mean with posts like:

Mao obviously comes to a lot of minds.
And then when President Trump tweets: "Relations with China have taken a BIG leap forward!" it's inescapable. or as they say in Hollywood, "A little too on the nose?"

There is however another Chinese emperor leader that should also come to mind, Ming Dynasty founder Emperor Hongwu.
Upon gaining control in 1368, Hongwu ('Vastly Martial') began demanding tribute from all the surrounding lands, including Japan.

We mentioned this obliquely in 2014's Oil and China's Territorial Ambitions: "The World Is the World's World". Here is a better, more scholarly reference via Oxford Journals' Chinese Journal of International Politics, Summer 2012:
...The threat of military force was evident in Ming China’s effort to bring Japan into the tribute system. Japan’s Prince Kanenaga imprisoned and executed a number of the Chinese envoys that Emperor Hongwu had sent in 1369 to demand tribute, apparently angered at the condescending tone of the diplomatic letter denoting Chinese superiority. When the Ming court threatened invasion, the Japanese reminded it of the Mongols’ failed attempts in 1281 to conquer Japan. A letter Kanenaga sent in 1382 explicitly denied the legitimacy of Chinese dominance: ‘Now the world is the world’s world; it does not belong to a single ruler … . I hear that China has troops able to fight a war, but my small country also has plans of defence … . How could we kneel to and acknowledge Chinese overlordship!’88  ...

Jus' sayin' Mr. President Xi, jus' sayin'. 

And that 2014 post:

Oil and China's Territorial Ambitions: "The World Is the World's World"
....The part of the headline in quotation marks is not to be found in the story, rather it is from a 1382 letter sent by Japan’s Prince Kanenaga to the Hongwu Emperor of China, founder of the Ming Dynasty, explicitly denying the legitimacy of Chinese dominance:

Heaven and earth are vast, they are not monopolized by one ruler.
The universe is great and wide, and the various countries are created each to have a share in its rule.
Now the world is the world's world; it does not belong to a single person.
For some reason I've never been able to get that quote out of my head but I promise that is as esoteric as I'll ever get.
Here's a ref. via Oxford Journals.

UPDATE: The Oxford Journals link to The Chinese Journal of International Politics is now gated with a stub entry.
If interested here is "Chinese Hegemony: Grand Strategy and International Institutions in East" with the quote and some background on what Prince Kanenaga was dealing with.
Quite an inspiring guy.