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Diplomatic Normalcy

A span-high Napoleon stands on the outstretched hand of a full-size George III, who peers at him through a spy-glass.
“James Gillray The King of Brobdingnag and Gulliver.–Vide. Swift’s Gulliver- Voyage to Brobdingnag The Metropolitan Museum of Art edit” by James Gillray – Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection: entry 391822. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

A few thoughts inspired, believe it or not, by the Hamilton Broadway musical…

In 1793, the Qianlong Emperor penned (or ordered composed) a now legendary letter to King George III, in which he attempted to frame relations between the Qing Dynasty and Great Britain into a traditional Chinese diplomatic framework. Over the centuries, the letter has been taken as evidence of the overbearing arrogance of the Chinese Imperial establishment in the face of the oncoming threat of the West.

More recent interpretations have suggested that the letter includes far more strategic thought than is commonly understood, but there is little question that it remains an artifact of a different era in global diplomacy.

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  • Gwen

    Semi-related: any thoughts on the Graham Allison piece in the Atlantic regarding China, the U.S. and the “Thucydides Trap”?


    • postmodulator

      I am not an IR guy, and this may be a naive question. But: that article makes much of China’s GDP growth. Based on the argument that China’s unemployment statistics are bogus, is it possible they’re cooking the GDP books as well, and are not actually rising in capability as that article suggests?

      • Redwood Rhiadra

        From the economics blogs I read, it seems a lot of China watchers are pretty certain the GDP numbers are in fact cooked. (One of the key tells is that energy usage isn’t sufficient to produce the reported output.)

  • Area Man

    Nevertheless, I do not forget the lonely remoteness of your island, cut off from the world by intervening wastes of sea, nor do I overlook your excusable ignorance of the usages of our Celestial Empire. I have consequently commanded my Ministers to enlighten your Ambassador on the subject, and have ordered the departure of the mission.

    Yeah, silly island country, “cut off” by the wastes of the sea. I guess we’ll have to chalk this one up to excusable ignorance.

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