One and All
The Logic of Chinese Sovereignty
Pang Laikwan



The current PRC state has persistently claimed its governance as uniquely Chinese: it neither follows others nor asks others to follow itself. But it is never clear exactly what this “Chinese path” is. Many Western critics use terms like “authoritarianism” or “totalitarianism” to fill in the gap, but these terms do not accurately describe the wide identification the current PRC sovereignty has enjoyed from many of its citizens. An uncritical use of such terms could also lend credence to a Eurocentric worldview, in which the non-West must forever be indebted to the tutelage of the West. Doubtlessly, the Chinese state is seeking greater centralization of power, and the room for public opinion has narrowed. But there are still multiple consultation processes in place to facilitate an effective government capable of responding (or not) to people’s opinions, and there is also enough social and economic freedom that allows a certain degree of citizen self-realization.

What really characterizes the current “Chinese path,” I believe, is the enormous weight given to the security of state sovereignty, which is the bottom line of all policies. State security in the PRC encompasses many fields, and the list keeps expanding, from cultural security to cyber security, which will be discussed in chapter 2, and more recently finance security and food security. Under this general security anxiety, society is monitored by intense censorship and self-censorship in the name of protecting the collective from all kinds of threats, real or imagined. I would use the term “sovereigntism” to describe how this state uses sovereignty as its supreme political doctrine. There is clearly an authoritarian dimension to this sovereigntism, but the people, theoretically, are not at the reception end of power; instead, they are considered the owner of the sovereignty. As the state, allegedly, is only the representative or embodiment of the people instead of the authority that instructs the people, sovereigntism does not need to feature an all-powerful leader. It is also not fascism, as the current PRC government emphasizes social harmony among class and ethnic groups, unlike other fascist regimes that tend to spread hatred within society. To the current Chinese government, any attempt to divide the people must be suppressed, as only with peace and unity can sovereignty last forever.

This sovereigntism pursued by the current PRC state is neither ontological nor epistemological, but it is primarily utilitarian, allowing the state to formulate changing policies and narratives to respond to different situations. This utilitarian sovereigntism employs contrasting logic, from autocracy to neoliberalism, selectively to support its internal and external policies, in ways that can potentially advance socialism, capitalism, nationalism, and globalization as long as they are deemed beneficial to the sovereignty. In the name of the well-being of the people in general, sovereigntism allows the state to adopt almost any measures, regardless of the underlying ideologies, to secure its sovereign interests. It is a state ideology composed of many ideologies, or we can also call it a state ideology without ideology.

Sovereignty has become a political fundamental, sacrosanct and incontestable, in China: because its integrity is not negotiable, the use of the term effectively ends all discussions. But we also discover that the policies and politics around this sovereigntism can quickly change, most evident in the sudden U-turn of the COVID policies at the end of 2022, the state’s changing narratives about different global projects such as the Belt and Road Initiatives, not to say its crackdown on the leftist groups and LGBTQ+ movements in the nation in the last few years, all in the name of sovereign security. It is the arbitrary and empty quality of sovereigntism that makes individuals so afraid and obedient.

There are international and domestic dimensions of state sovereignty. Externally, state sovereignty is fundamental to the current world system composed of nation-state as basic units. For example, the PRC articulates the “community of shared future” as its internationalist vision, stressing a new global governance that values the interdependence and interconnectedness of all nations.1 This “community of shared future” discourse is based on the state’s absolute sovereignty, with the assumption that each state is an autonomous, self-determining subject represented by the state, with no role played by civil society. In other words, plurality describes international relations, but not domestic ones, as the state is itself an indivisible and autonomous unit.

This book is concerned primarily with the internal dimension of state sovereignty, with the full awareness that the state-people relation is always intertwined with the international environment. While state sovereignty supposedly engenders a fairer world with states respecting each other, the discourse of sovereigntism could be deeply antipolitical in domestic terms, as its unifying logic involves the attempt to conjure away the ineluctable contingency and plurality of political action. Instead of valuing debates and negotiations based on the principles of equality and plurality, sovereignty is often exercised through command and obedience. As Andrew Arato and Jean Cohen argue, whether sovereignty is asserted by the king, by a parliament, or in the name of the people, its hegemonic dimension cannot be jettisoned, because it implies the attempt to appropriate the collective by a single representative body at a specific instance.2 All over the world, the more the state stresses sovereignty, the less the inherent plurality of the people could be expressed.

As such, the biggest puzzle the current Chinese government poses to its citizens and other people is the near impossibility of raising any criticism of the state, which can always resort to the right of the Chinese people to self-governing as the supreme political reason to fend off external and internal challenges. The people have occupied a mythical role here, which endorses and legitimizes the PRC’s pronouncement of its strong commitment to non-negotiable territorial unity, common prosperity, and national autonomy. All state decisions can be legitimized as long as they are made in the name of the people. But there are never any systematized and continual procedures to prove the people’s endorsement and choices.

Sovereigntism provides an illusion of unity and certainty for the people. This integrity of state sovereignty is understood as a trio: the coherence of and among people, territory, and history to the extent that each accounts for the others. For example, the Xi government points out that there is one Chinese dream that all Chinese share, which is the dream of restoring the national greatness lost in recent history. Indeed, the Chinese dream is presented more as a bygone fact than a future vision, that China is always already a unity of people and territory historically. This one people that shares the same country and history deserves the strength and pride that originally belonged to it. A central component of this Chinese dream is also the reunification with Taiwan, which, allegedly, has always been a part of China’s territory.

To dialogue with this sovereigntism critically, we need to examine precisely the assumptions of the integrity of people, territory, and history in China. During the Long Twentieth Century, while the modern nation-state was adopted as China’s political structure, the actual regimes hosting the nation-state changed rapidly: China was transformed from an empire to a republic, cutting a sharp turn into socialism and ending up in a postsocialist nation embracing state capitalism with utmost national pride. The successive governments introduced completely new socioeconomic political structures and reasoning, so the people were invited to identify with their states in very different ways. I believe the current sovereign logic of the PRC can be most productively interrogated by looking at the ways China’s changing political economy have morphed along contrasting socio-political conditions as well as at the active participation, silent endorsement, and different degrees of resistance of different groups and individuals. As I will show in chapter 2, federalism and internationalism were widely accepted during the republican and socialist periods, respectively, and they both suggested a much looser sense of state unity than the current Chinese government does. The state sovereignty is both dynamic and active, seeking and being influenced by the people’s endorsement, because the sovereign power must continuously be justified, sought, and explained. Careful historicization is the most effective way to expose the constructions that naturalize sovereignty as sacred and unchanging.

Instead of arguing that any one political system is by nature better than others, I would like in this book to understand China’s changing sovereign logic within its own historical trajectory. There would never be a set of political principles the Chinese must follow, and I have no ambition and ability to prescribe a political ideology for China. But I think it is worthwhile an effort to understand China’s current sovereign logic by examining what sovereignty has meant to different regimes in recent history. Not only would such a historical approach help us to understand China, but through it we can also identify and tackle some fundamental concerns related to state-building and democracy as universal predicaments in our increasingly divided world.

I will emphasize that this history of Chinese sovereignty is also a part of world history, which not only includes but is also largely shaped by the West. Therefore, this history would invalidate any political ideology of a fundamental difference between China and the West. Indeed, Machiavelli’s famous book The Prince, written in the early sixteenth century, can be seen as one about sovereigntism: how to ensure the persistence and legitimacy of the sovereign power.3 Today, while the current Western liberal democracy claims to have overcome this problem through the regular elections it structures to refresh the sovereign legitimacy, the sovereign anxiety does not just disappear. All over the world, states and the people reiterate their rights to sovereignty, identifying and condemning the intervention of internal and external forces that allegedly steal their autonomy. The nation-state has become—or is once again—the most powerful actor on the international stage. But a politics based on self-interest without common values would only bring the world to further fragmentations and conflict. While this book is an exploration of China’s sovereign logic from a domestic perspective, this investigation is carried out with underlying global and contemporary concerns in mind.

Sovereignty and Legitimacy

To understand the development of modern sovereignty discourses in China, we need to begin in the nineteenth century, when the modern idea of state sovereignty first formed. While I will devote the next chapter to the exploration of traditional Chinese sovereign theory, let us begin here with the contestation of two competing Chinese concepts in the nineteenth century that relate to sovereignty: fatong 法統 and zhuquan 主權. Examining the historical context of these two new concepts during the early days of modern state sovereignty in China illuminates the hybrid nature of China’s modern discourses on sovereignty, which draw on both Western and indigenous political ideas.

The term fatong was used primarily during the late Qing and early Republican period to refer to China’s orthodox sovereign logic. It could be seen as the nineteenth-century form of the traditional terms datong 大統 or zhengtong 正統/政統, which describe the ruling power’s propriety of possessing political legitimacy. Datong describes the legitimate sovereignty passed from one king to another, one regime to another. The new term fatong also had the same connotation, but it emphasized fa, the law. Adding the term fa into this traditional system, the original datong idea was modernized, replacing the spiritualist dimensions of monarchic sovereignty with the modern mandate of the legislature to sanction the legitimacy of the ruling power. As such, the sovereign with fatong is both the one approved by law and the one who makes law. But the transcendental dimension still lingered in the usage of the concept at that time. The term was used by different competing regimes, from the revolutionary party headed by Sun Yat-sen 孫逸仙 (or Sun Zhongshan 孫中山) (1866–1925) to the short-lived monarchy of Yuan Shikai 袁世凱 (1859–1916), as well as different warlords, to assert their sovereign legitimacy.4 Even though the concept of fatong has now fallen out of fashion, recent debates between the leaders of the two parties still center on whether the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) is the legitimate heir of the fatong of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911.5

Contesting fatong was the term zhuquan, which was an imported concept. The term itself could be found in ancient Chinese texts, loosely referring to the power of the emperor. But via the Japanese, the term was reintroduced by translators in the late nineteenth century to stand for the newly imported concept of Western modern state sovereignty.6 After China’s many confrontations with the West and the influx of Western concepts, zhuquan appeared with other new, fashionable words such as “nationalism,” “revolution,” and “constitution.” These concepts all gradually settled in the collective Chinese mindset.

We should also note the wide appearance and usage of the term zhuquan right after the Hundred Days’ Reform (戊戌變法).7 In 1898, constitutionalists, including Kang Youwei 康有為 (1858–1927) and his student Liang Qichao 梁啟超 (1873–1929), convinced the young, aspiring Guangxu Emperor to initiate a constitution reform. But it lasted for only 100 days and was suppressed by the Empress Dowager Cixi to protect the power of the monarchy. It was around this period that the meanings of the term zhuquan subtly shifted: beginning as a technical term in international law, it changed into one embodying national survival and international justice. The sudden popularity of the term showed how, by the close of the nineteenth century, the people of China desired a new political system to keep up with and defend the nation against the West.

The two terms existed side by side. Modern zhuquan emphasizes the people’s endorsement, while traditional fatong is sanctioned by a more abstract force originating from Heaven. Zhuquan is clearly an imported concept, while fatong, however much a product of the modern time, belongs to a Confucian-Legalist teaching that played an important role in facilitating the modern state to settle into the Chinese political consciousness.8 I will devote chapter 1 to a discussion of the traditional political philosophy contributing to the idea of fatong. Entering the twentieth century, the term fatong was gradually phased out, but some of the meanings attached to fatong were integrated with zhuquan to form a new notion of political legitimacy that was supported by the people while remaining accountable to a higher abstract historical force.

To understand the sovereign logic of the current PRC state, it is important to remember that it inherits the discourses of both zhuquan and fatong, and it implies authority sanctioned by both the people and a larger historical logic. Both terms are highly paternalistic and masculine. The concepts of sovereignty associated with them are presented through metaphors for and a fondness of power and fraternity, while the people are depicted as willing to yield to the sovereign power in exchange for the protection it provides. This is even more the case in recent years, when the idea of the nation is increasingly muscularized, with the concepts related to motherland gradually replaced by those of fatherland.9 In fact, sovereignty is so attractive due partly to the belief that the sovereign is both the master of himself and the controlling author of his own meaning, so that all the individuals identifying with such sovereignty also earn the same power. Sovereign discourses also often feature the rhetoric of competition, providing a problematic dichotomy of friends and foes, either triumph or demise. This desire for sovereign shelter as well as pride has constructed a relatively stable space of representation along with the dominant patriarchal society, which in turn justifies the power of the ruling sovereign.

The PRC’s concern to prove its fatong is also demonstrated by the ruling regime’s self-assumed task of writing the history of the previous sovereign power, which was also one of the most important tasks required of new sovereigns in traditional China. Without an institutionalized church as the transcendental source of power, the new sovereign had to demonstrate how much it had learned from the glories and failures of the previous incumbent to shape its wise and sensible rulership now and into the future. Following the dynastic practices, one of the first major scholarly assignments of the Republican government was to produce an official Qing history. The resultant Qingshi gao 清史稿 was rushed to publication in a non-finalized form in 1927 as the editorial team fretted over rapid regime change and political instability. The CCP, running one step ahead, diligently produced its internal party histories to justify the succession of leaders and their changing governing philosophy. Its three most powerful leaders—Mao, Deng, and Xi—all produced their own “Historical Resolution of the Party” documents (in 1945, 1981, and 2021, respectively) to articulate how their leadership had learned from the Party’s history and how they were therefore justified to lead the nation.

This CCP tradition—that of seeking legitimacy by scrutinizing the Party’s own mistakes and achievements as a form of important political ritual—is unique in the world. It can be seen as a combination of China’s historical political economy with a strong pragmatism, which together compel the regime to establish its fatong through learning from historical lessons. Most importantly, without democracy, the modern Chinese ruling regimes have to find other ways to prove their sovereign legitimacy, and the abstract historical logic becomes handy: truth will always reveal itself in history retrospectively.

State Sovereignty from Europe to China

To understand the full meaning of modern state sovereignty in China, we have to go to Europe, where the concept was formed amidst the power contestation among empires, states, and the church. During the medieval period, the Holy Roman Empire, which considered itself the successor to the Roman Empire, claimed dominion over much of Western Europe, together with the Byzantine Empire and later the Ottoman Empire in the East. At the same time, the territorial state, semi-autonomous and with clear-enough borders, was also gradually formed in France, Italy, and Germany.10 There was also the enormous power of the Catholic Church, which asserted its authority over princes and emperors. It was a time when states, smaller in size and characterized by a centralized government, coexisted and competed with the empires, which encompassed multiple nations with decentralized rule, while the church, representing divine power, intervened in the secular world as it wished. There were complex alignments and contestations among the three forces during the medieval period, whose end was characterized by, among other things, the singular Christendom coexisting with multiple imperial sovereignties being replaced by the system of modern European states, which themselves formed new empires within and beyond Europe.

The rise of the state was partly reflected in Jean Bodin’s Six Books of the Republic (1576), which is frequently referred to as the first book in Europe theorizing state sovereignty. Asserting that both the pope and the emperor should be subject to the law,11 the book put forward a theory of absolute and undivided sovereignty that can limit the power of both of them and reestablish social order. Bodin did not write to initiate a new sovereignty; he only wanted to justify the power of the existing monarchy and to subordinate the enormous power of the church to the state.12 Significant social unrest in Europe during that time was the result of religious conflicts, and Bodin hoped that the elevation of the monarchy over such disputes would help promote religious tolerance.

Wars continued, most violently observed in the enormously destructive Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648). After years of difficult negotiations among many European states and groups, the two Treaties of Westphalia in 1648 ended the conflict and brought peace to Europe, even as it effectively dissolved the Holy Roman Empire.13 Borders were readjusted and recognized, and the Treaties confirmed the inviolability of state borders, so that each prince could rule his own territory respected by other princes.14 The Peace of Westphalia is widely assumed as the foundation of modern state sovereignty.

This act of substantiating the power of monarchy also paved the way for the rise of a new concept of state sovereignty in Europe, with strong tensions and collaborations between the state and the people. This can be grasped by reading Thomas Hobbes’s 1651 Leviathan together with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s 1762 The Social Contract. Hobbes’s book was published right after the Peace of Westphalia was established, and it first articulated the parallel existence of monarchic sovereignty and popular sovereignty: alongside the sovereign power of the king, there were also the people who could make political decisions.15 But since individuals tend to follow their divergent self-interest, they should submit to the absolute sovereign rule in exchange for peace and prosperity. Hobbes’s book was the first to articulate that relations between the sovereign and the people were based on negotiation instead of natural submission.

Rousseau elaborated his social contract theory between the state and the people in The Social Contract by emphasizing the “general will” of the people, which he believed is essentially geared toward the common good of society. The task of the state is to follow and cultivate this “general will.” Rousseau also articulated the differences between the sovereign from the government, differentiating the “Sovereign” as the lawmaking body from the “Prince” as the magistrate that enforces the laws. As such, he clearly separated the power of the people, in the form of the Sovereign, from work of the government, in the form of the Prince.16 Through legislation, the people become their own masters, while the duty of the executive branch is to execute sovereign decisions.

Although written one century apart, the two books can be read together to understand the core implications of European modern state sovereignty. Hobbes focused on the importance of the state, while Rousseau was more concerned with the people. Hobbes argued that sovereign order cannot be established without a state collecting the power forfeited by the individuals, who otherwise would only act according to their desires and produce chaos.17 Rousseau, on the other hand, emphasized that the government must heed the wishes of the people. We should see them as mutually defining each other, with modern sovereignty referring to both the state ruling the people and the people, through the state they establish, ruling themselves.

This state-people dynamic did not dissipate the unity of the state but actually reinforced its identity with the assumption of one-nation-one-state, and there was also the increasing personification of the state in Europe. Carl Schmitt traces it back to the allegorical tendency of Renaissance writers to present states as persons; later, the Enlightenment thinkers also described states as “moral persons” in international law.18 In this new modern world, international relations became fashioned according to the social relations among individuals with mutual threats against each other. The liberalist values of individual autonomy and competition were applied to diplomatic relations, projecting the international community as a society composed of independent agents with defined rights and duties. Under such an ideology, the sovereign state—like the individual—also became atomized. The sovereign state has since been understood in terms of a sole person, implying that the state, like the person, is unified and coherent and has its own agency with respect to others.19

Therefore, the modern state sovereignty which is now adopted globally was a unique historical product of Europe’s political economy, which witnessed the rise of the nation-state that appropriated political power from both the church and the empire to become a self-empowering political entity. In this way Kant was right to criticize the European international order for encouraging each state to see only its own majesty and to avoid submitting to any external constraint.20 This European interstate system also announced a new political culture, proclaiming modern Europe’s progressiveness, which is liberal democracy, against both its medieval past and other non-Western countries.21 Without this theory of popular sovereignty, Europe’s modernization and secularization projects could not be completed.

In addition to the competitions inside the continent, Europe’s internal inter-state relations must also be read alongside its external expansion. The Westphalia Treaties mark not only the stability of state identity but also the transition from intense inter-state battles within Europe to an aggressive expansion directed outward through colonialism and imperialism. Wars did continue within Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but the common recognition of state sovereignty and borders allowed the European states to acquire enough peace with their neighboring countries so that they could focus on conquering the world. After Spain and Portugal, England, France, and the Dutch Republic also actively established their own overseas empires starting in the seventeenth century, displacing their direct internal rivalry to external competitions among each other in other parts of the world.

Arguably, this European order reached its height in the nineteenth century. Wars and other forces of change were welcomed as long as the overall European order was not jeopardized and preferably strengthened. Schmitt describes this system as delicate and civilized, and it was achieved by tacit understandings among the states. It regulated the European contest in a bracketed space—not to eliminate wars as such but to regulate them in a way that they did not challenge the stability of the entire European order.22 But Schmitt remains silent on the brutality of this imperial system outside Europe.

While Schmitt praises this European coexistence as the manifestation of a higher civilization, Hannah Arendt is overcome with disdain. She protests that it was a most absurd phenomenon that modern European imperialism grew up in nation-states which more than any other political bodies were defined by boundaries and the limitations of possible conquest. For her, it was the countries’ economic interests steeped in capitalism that drove modern European imperialism. In contrast to the political conquests in earlier empires, which were often followed by the integration of heterogenous peoples through a common law, the economic expansion central to modern imperialism did not alter the basic structure of the nation-state in Europe. The fall of the traditional land-based empires witnessed the rise of new sea-based imperial-colonial empires in which the conquering state ruled primarily by exercising tyranny in the conquered land with the consent of a presumably homogeneous population inside the state.23 This modern European sovereignty was also undergirded by the community of European nations, respecting and competing with each other simultaneously. Or, despite the economic competitions, the interests of the individual state and those of the larger European order were mutually constitutive.24 European economic imperialism based on internal peace and external invasion was probably the most important factor contributing to the idea of the modern sovereign state, whose respect for autonomy and equality among the European states became a means for European expansionism to thrive in the age of capitalism.

Not surprisingly, it was a different story when the modern sovereign state was adopted internationally. We must join Europe’s internal diplomatic history and external colonial history to understand the options given to China as well as many other non-European countries. This modern European sovereignty theory was developed first to ease the intense intra- and inter-state wars in Europe and then to justify these European states’ economic competition outside Europe. While property rights and sovereign rights are central to the European order, they do not apply to areas outside Europe. As such, the idea of modern state sovereignty that arrived in and was adopted by China in the late nineteenth century was riven with contradictions. China gave up its two-millennia-long imperial system after failing to resist the European imperialist encroachment, in the hope that the principles of border inviolability and non-interference associated with modern sovereign states could be employed to defend China from such imperialist intrusion. But these principles had already been proved to be smoke and mirrors outside Europe. Sovereignty was only a means for the European countries to engage in colonial and economic imperialism against a world to which China belonged.

Some have argued that Japan was able to learn from the unfair treaties it signed with the European nations and the United States in the mid-nineteenth century to maintain its territorial integrity and to assert sovereignty over its territory. For example, while the Japanese government granted judicial jurisdiction to foreign consuls, all foreigners in Japanese territory were bound to obey the laws of Japan.25 The Japanese success seemed to have convinced some Chinese scholars and officials that a comprehensive command of international law was key to Qing’s sovereignty. But what really mattered, unfortunately, was not legal reasoning but power, in that Japan was powerful enough to defend and regenerate itself. While Qing failed to maintain its sovereignty under the challenge of China’s own revolutionaries, the Meiji Restoration led Japan to its own imperialism, infringing on the sovereignty of weaker nations. Neither the Chinese nor the Japanese development were exactly what they had claimed to learn from modern European sovereign principles.

As it turns out, this Europe-based world system would be challenged not by the victimized countries like China but by the rise of the United States. A new international order began to coalesce after the First World War, and the territorial-based state sovereignty would be compromised by America’s global domination.26 There are two dimensions, economic and political, of this new world order.

Economically, the modern state system was called into question by late capitalism and the ascendance of the global finance system, undergirded by the US-centric global multilateral infrastructure that facilitates transnational capital and information flows. Multilateral economic institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund began to establish a pervasive and intrusive presence in individual member states. This rise of transnational capitalist institutions also prompted critics to articulate the importance of sovereign rights, specifically to regulate economic activities within the state border against these different transnational forms.27 China is now meandering between the two positions, actively engaging in global investment and resolutely defending its economic sovereignty, as is required by the situation.

Politically, a wave of decolonization reinforced the value of independent sovereignty from the 1940s to the 1960s, when the British and French empires quickly disintegrated. This postcolonial politics found rapport with the Westphalian principle of sovereignty, and it is still the dominant political frame in China’s diplomacy today. At the same time, a transnational governance of the global human rights regime also developed in the 1970s in order to keep an eye on authoritarian governance, and it succeeded in loosening individual state sovereignty to allow human rights concepts and global scrutiny to enter authoritarian countries.28 Many critics and scholars, both in authoritarian and liberal democratic countries, criticized this transnational legal regime as undermining the state’s autonomy. Some have argued that this is an attack on democracy too because democracy can only take place within a sovereign state.29 Expectedly, the current Chinese government and some other non-Western countries have categorically rejected universal human rights as sovereignty-infringing.

The current PRC is enthusiastic about state sovereignty partly because it allows the government to guard, filter, and coordinate both the transnational capital flows and the use of certain universal political values in the country. While the Chinese state has suavely maneuvered the sovereignty discourses to facilitate its own agenda, it is important for critics to differentiate the two sets of traffic to provide a more acute analysis. Endorsing a strong state sovereignty would give the state the power to resist both, while a weak state could be exposed to both.


1. Xi Jinping first proposed that all countries in the world should share the fruits of development in a speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in 2013. See “Speech at the Fourth Collective Learning in the Eighteenth Central Politburo Meeting,” available at

2. Arato and Cohen, “Banishing the Sovereign?” 140.

3. According to Foucault, Machiavelli’s book marks the transition to a new age in which the most important political question of the time, the safety of the Prince and his territory, was gradually replaced by concerns of the modern government regarding circulation and population. Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, 65–66.

4. Zhang and Yang, “Lun jindai ‘fatong’ linian de goujian”; Zhang, “Xinhai geming bainian hua fatong.”

5. Shi, “Zhonggang qiang Sun Zhongshan fatong.”

6. The term can be found in the chapter “Qichen qizhu” 七臣七主 in Guanzi 管子: 惠王豐賞厚賜以竭藏,赦姦縱過以傷法;藏竭則主權衰,法傷則姦門闓, available at

7. Jin, Liu, and Chiu, “Zhongguo xiandai zhuquan guannian xingcheng,” 55–56.

8. There are recent academic debates in the PRC about whether the 1911 regime change was a result of Qing’s voluntary transfer of its fatong to the Republican government. Those who argue for this view emphasize that the Qing court gave up its power voluntarily, meaning that the legitimate fatong was not broken by the Republican government and was instead carried forward. Yang, Gegu dingxin, 15–58.

9. Wang and Chen, “From Motherland to Daddy State.”

10. Spruyt, Sovereign State and Its Competitors, 77–150.

11. Bodin, On Sovereignty, 38–39.

12. Andrew, “Jean Bodin on Sovereignty.”

13. Croxton, “Peace of Westphalia.”

14. Schmitt, Nomos of the Earth, 86–138.

15. Hobbes, Leviathan.

16. Rousseau, Social Contract, 90.

17. Hobbes, Leviathan, 117–29.

18. Schmitt, Nomos of the Earth, 143–47.

19. Schmitt, Political Theology, 8.

20. Kant, Political Writings, 108.

21. Spruyt, The World Imagined, 1–9.

22. Schmitt, Nomos of the Earth, 186–89.

23. Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism, 168–77.

24. Ibid., 354.

25. Howland, International Law, 49–71.

26. Schmitt, Nomos of the Earth, 227–32.

27. Carlson, Unifying China, 18–20.

28. Kelly, Sovereign Emergencies, 134–66.

29. Benhabib, “New Sovereigntism.”