Document Type

Journal Article

Department/Unit

Department of Religion and Philosophy

Title

The art of war corpus and Chinese just war ethics past and present

Abstract

The idea of “just war” is not alien to Chinese thought. The term “yi zhan” (usually translated as “just war” or “righteous war” in English) is used in Mencius, was renewed by Mao Zedong, and is still being used in China today (zhengyi zhanzheng). The best place to start exploring this Chinese idea is in the enormous Art of War corpus in premodern China, of which the Seven Military Classics is the best representative. This set of treatises served as the military bible in imperial China from 1078 CE. Ideas analogous to ius ad bellum and ius in bello can be found in these texts. These norms are present in these military texts, elaborated in subsequent commentaries, understood as a matter of fact in Chinese political history, and recently and briefly acknowledged by a few Chinese military scholars in the mainland and in Taiwan. This Chinese just war ethics has its distinctiveness vis-à-vis James Turner Johnson's articulation of the Western classic view. It differs from Johnson's claims that military lethal violence is intrinsically morally neutral and that last resort is not a primary consideration in deciding for war. Contemporary Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) military publications show that the PLA understands the general idea of just war, but they acknowledge only the ad bellum part, not the in bello components.

Publication Year

2012

Journal Title

Journal of Religious Ethics

Volume number

40

Issue number

3

Publisher

Wiley

First Page (page number)

404

Last Page (page number)

446

Referreed

1

DOI

10.1111/j.1467-9795.2012.00530.x

ISSN (print)

03849694

ISSN (electronic)

14679795

Link to Publisher’s Edition

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9795.2012.00530.x

Keywords

Art of War, Seven Military Classics, just war, ius ad bellum, ius in bello, James Turner Johnson, People’s Liberation Army

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