Chasing Dragons



These two volumes very directly pick up where Empire in Asia left off, at the dawn of the twentieth century. Their purpose is to explain the role and influence of Great Powers and strategic foreign policy in politically reordering the modern ‘Far East’— which we shall refer to as the Asia Pacific, an arc of space stretching from Vladivostok to Burma—with particular reference to Western military power, whose twentieth century starting position was imperial. While we will critically analyze antecedents, the real starting point for the series will be 1900. The vantage point from which the books explore their subject is the definition and articulation of sweeping international fundamental ‘visions’ for reordering an Asian states system--within a changing, now global, political order.

We will examine three such visions: 1) the peace treaties of 1919 and the League of Nations (a corollary being the Washington Agreements of 1922); 2) the United Nations vision of 1945; 3) the Geneva Agreements of 1954. This will allow us to engage the period from the internationalization of China’s relations with the Great Powers through the 1970s, the end of the era when Western Powers sought to use their military power as a principal instrument for politically reordering the Asia Pacific. The three ‘visions’ sketched out broad agendas within which those efforts unfolded; they tried to define ‘the rules.’ Concentrating on three themes— 1) notions of international order 2) concepts of sovereignty and legitimacy and 3) projects for collective security—and bearing in mind the centrality of China and Japan--we will explain why and how these visions, and the power deployed to pursue them, contributed fundamentally to the construction of a post-imperial Asia Pacific, with a states system hard coded into a now global political order.

Team Members

Workshop 2017

Our penultimate Workshop finally sorted out the question of the broad scope and general approach of the project, concentrating on periodization, connecting central theme, and individual areas of concentration. The ideas of the ‘three plus visions’ and the three themes of order, legitimacy and collective security were herein nailed down. Questions that remained under discussion included the nature and importance of the 1954 Geneva conference and agreements, as in how they are to be characterized, and the issue of when, and why, to bring our analysis to a close—our ‘end date.’