Share
School Research Seminar

The American Tributary System Revisited

In a 2013 essay, I employed the idea of the tributary system—most often associated with China’s international relations from antiquity—to interpret how America relates to the rest of the world. More specifically, I argued that the United States has instituted the most successful tributary system the world has ever seen. As the hub or epicenter of the most extensive network of formal and informal alliances ever built; the U.S offers its allies and partners—or tributaries--military protection as well as economic access to its markets. Through an equally impressive array of international institutions and organizations, many of which it created, America transmits and imposes its values and its preferred rules of the game on the international system. The ensuing economic and politico-military “orders” are construed as “public goods” provided by a benign American hegemony. In return for all its exertions, the tribute America seeks is straightforward: first, that it be recognized as the power or hegemon, and second, that others emulate its political forms and ideas. With both tributes in hand, the United States finds equanimity; it and the world are safe, at least from the United States’ point of view.

The talk will revisit the above arguments in light of recent scholarship and real world developments. It will address questions such as did the Chinese tributary system really exist? Is my conception of “tribute” in need of revision? And has the Trump administration upended the above claims?
Seminar Room 2-2,
Level 2, Manasseh Meyer,
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy,
National University of Singapore
Thu 19 April 2018
12:15 PM - 01:30 PM

Khong Yuen Foong

Khong Yuen Foong

Li Ka Shing Professor in Political Science, LKYSPP

More about speaker

Danny Quah

Danny Quah

Dean and Li Ka Shing Professor in Economics, LKYSPP

Seats are limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Kindly email Siew Ming at to register your interest for this seminar

Please note that by clicking on the registration link above, you will be directly forwarded to a 3rd party independent site, which is not developed nor maintained by NUS. The website could be subject to data protection and privacy practices and you are encouraged to examine them before proceeding to share your personal data. NUS will collect, use and/or disclose the personal data submitted through this 3rd party independent site for the purpose of scheduling, processing, administration and/or management of the event. Please note that photography, audio and video recording may occur during this event. All photography, audio and video recording may be used by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the National University of Singapore for education, marketing, promotional and/or publication purposes. If you do not wish to have your image recorded or published, for compelling and legitimate grounds relating to your particular situation, please inform our staff.