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The Mind of EmpireThe Mind of Empire

China's History and Modern Foreign Relations

Christopher Ford

Narrated by Gary Roelofs

Available from Audible

Book published by The University Press of Kentucky

With an economy and population that dwarf most industrialized nations, China is emerging as a twenty-first-century global superpower. Even though China is an international leader in modern business and technology, its ancient history exerts a powerful force on its foreign policy. In The Mind of Empire: China’s History and Modern Foreign Relations, Christopher A. Ford expertly traces China’s self-image and its role in the world order from the age of Confucius to today. Ford argues that despite its exposure to and experience of the modern world, China is still strongly influenced by a hierarchical view of political order and is only comfortable with foreign relationships that reinforce its self-perception of political and moral supremacy.

Recounting how this attitude has clashed with the Western notion of separate and coequal state sovereignty, Ford speculates—and offers a warning—about how China’s legacy will continue to shape its foreign relations. Ford examines major themes in China’s conception of domestic and global political order, sketches key historical precedents, compares Chinese ideas to the tradition of Western international law, and outlines the remarkable continuity of China’s Sinocentrism. Artfully weaving historical, philosophical, religious, and cultural analysis into a cohesive study of the Chinese worldview and explaining its relevance, Ford offers a unique perspective of modern China.

Christopher Ford is Senior Counsel for National Security Policy at the U.S. Senate Banking Committee. He previously served as Republican Chief Counsel at the Senate Committee on Appropriations, as a Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute, United States Special Representative for Nuclear Nonproliferation, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.


“With impressive zeal [Ford] works his way through the canon of Chinese political philosophy, digesting not only Confucius and his heirs but also the Legalists (who shared the Great Sage's belief in the primacy of the state while ruthlessly discarding his insistence on virtue), the highly influential 'manuals of war and statecraft' known as the bingjia, and even a few Taoists for good measure...China may not be on a road to Jeffersonian democracy, but the Party has a great deal of adapting ahead of it if it intends to maintain control. China is changing the world, but it is changing itself even more, and we should expect plenty of surprises along the way.”

The New York Review of Books

“Ford's reading of Confucius is both shrewd and instructive, with implications for contemporary policymakers. China may currently be governed by a hybrid of entrepreneurial capitalism and rigid central control—the world's largest fascist state, strictly speaking—but its ruling principles and aspirations remain grounded in Confucian thought...The Mind of Empire is an ideal guidebook for contending with the People's Republic: a scholarly analysis of Chinese history written with considerable authority and flair, and a sobering account of what dealing with Chinese power and ambition means to us—and, especially, to them. ”

The Weekly Standard

“A much-needed and an erudite contextualization... [this book] will benefit immensely those interested in the history and strategic culture of China's foreign policy.”

The China Quarterly

“Not since John King Fairbank's 1968 edited volume The Chinese World Order, has there been a single volume published that so effectively encapsulates centuries of China's traditional worldviews (plural) and its practices of statecraft. Ford's study is fluidly and engagingly written, making dense history and philosophy both accessible to non-historians and relevant to current concerns...the book should become standard reading for all courses on Chinese foreign policy.”

Journal of Chinese Political Science

“In sum, the book provides a well-written discussion of several important arguments involving China’s approach to the United States that will be of interest to general readers and specialists. It provides a great amount of food for thought along with well-argued assessments .”

H-Net Reviews

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University Press Audiobooks