’s book investigates the changing nature of tribute relations during the Ming and High Qing between a dominant China and its less powerful neighbors, Korea and Japan. China’s Hegemony: Four Hundred Years of East Asian Domination
(Columbia University Press, 2017) reexamines the theory and literature of the tribute system, discovering a significant gap—few studies take into account the domestic political situations of Korea and Japan and their changing needs for Chinese leaders to legitimate them. Official dynastic annals, state letters, edicts, and other diplomatic documents illuminate the internal debates over legitimation that drove Korean and Japanese participation in tribute practices. Ultimately, Lee’s study of Korea and Japan provides a more nuanced theory of hegemony in the study of tributary relationships and international relations in East Asia more broadly. Ji-Young Lee’s book leaves the reader with a better understanding of China’s hegemony in the early modern period and with a sense that we should be paying more attention to China’s neighbors and their reactions to its growing power today.