Realism and Warfare Ethics in Early China: A Cross-cultural Analysis of Hanfeizi

  • LO, Ping Cheung (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Realism is a Western school of thought in statecraft which argues that, by virtue of anarchy in interstate relations, the best interests of the state are to be promoted by the relentless quest for its maximal power, to the exclusion of petty ethical considerations. The state would then be able to launch an “anticipated self-defense” military operation against another state, though others would condemn such an operation as aggression. For several decades, both Chinese and Western scholars have detected the presence of realist tenets in the book of Hanfeizi, an Early China (Pre-Qin) philosophical treatise. Very little follow-up, in-depth investigation on this thesis has been done and this proposed research is designed to fill this vacuum. Given that contemporary Western realism is not a monolithic ideology, we need to analyze the divergence and convergence of contemporary realism and neorealism, and to investigate what kind of realism is embodied in this treatise. The implications of realism to warfare ethics are enormous and this research will assess the warfare ethics in the Hanfeizi vis-à-vis the Confucian book of Mencius as well as contemporary Western discussions on warfare ethics.
Effective start/end date1/10/1630/09/18


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