Can China Rise Peacefully?

Confucianism and Realism in Traditional and Contemporary China

Whether or not China can achieve peaceful development is an issue that is widely debated. “Realists” such as Mearsheimer argue and conclude negatively, whereas professed Confucians such as Yan Xuetong argue that a peaceful ascent is possible.

Drawing on the findings from his book Chinese Just War Ethics: Origin, Development, and Dissent and further research, Ping-cheung Lo argues that both realism (“Legalism”) and pacifism (Confucianism) were present in imperial China. He asserts that they served as check and balance. Today, contemporary China is still deeply rooted in traditional realism, which advocates becoming the hegemon second to none; however, there is no check and balance in Chinese government because there is no Confucian in government positions, argues Lo. At the same time, China is a fervent believer in Sun Tzu’s Art of War, which advocates “victory without bloodshed.” In his presentation, Lo expanded upon how and in what sense China can rise peacefully, addressing consequences that may have for the country’s international relationships.

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