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The Harmony Between Tianxia and Westphalia

By Matthew Ehret

I have noticed that many pro-Chinese thinkers and writers have lately made the mistake of presuming that Chinese culture and civilization stands in total opposition to the divisive/imperially minded western culture which has laid waste to much of the world over the past centuries.

This perception has expressed itself in the various assertions that China’s philosophy of Tianxia (rooted in the idea of a Mandate of Heaven to justify power systems) is both superior and apart from the system of Westphalia which arose in the form of a 1648 Peace Treaty that eneded the 30 years religious wars of Europe and established the foundations of the modern nation state.


While the Principle of Tianxia is a beautiful and important concept for westerners to understand, and truly is the basis for international harmony which transcends the narrow limits of geopolitics plaguing the west, there is something dangerously false embedded in any thesis that assumes it to stand in opposition with Westphalia which needs to be exposed. The fact is that Tianxia is not only in complete harmony with the principle of Westphalia, but that the decay of western values into the Hobbesian mess of total war and economic manipulation is not due to anything within the Treaty of Westphalia but rather in spite of it.

The TRUE Principle of Westphalia is Win-Win

The Ratification of the Treaty of Münster, 15 May 1648 by Gerard ter Borch

For those who are not aware, the Treaty of Westphalia was a peace treaty of 1648 that finally put an end to the 30 Years War which decimated Europe and which saw Protestants and Catholics slaughtering each other for decades (while oligarchical banking families centered then in Venice were more than happy to fund all sides- reflective of today’s situation to no small degree). This treaty was the brainchild of French republican leader Cardinal Jules Mazarin and established for the first time the need to respect the sovereign boundaries of nations and is recognized for establishing the framework of modern nation states. This is the popular definition of Westphalia that political science students quickly become familiar with. However on closer inspection of this treaty and its broader philosophical heritage, the Westphalian system is based on much more than merely “respect of national borders” but on a principle of common good and the General Welfare which is at the heart of both Confucius’ and President Xi’s political philosophy.

After establishing the basis for borders and the need for a perpetual peace the treaty states:

That this Peace and Amity shall be observed and cultivated with such a Sincerity and Zeal, that each Party shall endeavour to procure the Benefit, Honour and Advantage of the other; that thus on all sides they may see this Peace and Friendship in the Roman Empire, and the Kingdom of France flourish by entertaining a good and faithful neighbourhood”

Article II goes on to outline the need for mutual forgiveness of transgressions, and mutual cooperation of all parties stating:

That there shall be on the one side and the other a perpetual Oblivion, Amnesty, or Pardon of all that has been committed since the beginning of these Troubles, in what place, or what manner soever the Hostilities have been practised, in such a manner, that no body, under any pretext whatsoever, shall practice any Acts of Hostility, entertain any Enmity, or cause any Trouble to each other; That they shall not act, or permit to be acted, any wrong or injury to any whatsoever; but that all that has pass’d on the one side, and the other, as well before as during the War, in Words, Writings, and Outrageous Actions, in Violences, Hostilities, Damages and Expenses, without any respect to Persons or Things, shall be entirely abolish’d in such a manner that all that might be demanded of, or pretended to, by each other on that behalf, shall be bury’d in eternal Oblivion

Although the treaty featured over 128 articles, these first two serve as a form of principled pre-amble in a similar manner as that of the 1787 U.S. Constitution- from which everything else must be read.

What is remarkable is that for the first time in history, here was a legal framework crafted that not only put an end to war, but established the necessary ingredients for a durable peace… not as a negation of war, or a list of `do nots`, but rather as a positive principle` of creative change, itself based upon a true principle of cooperation and justice.

This treaty stood in opposition to the perverse Hobbesian value system of the European oligarchy which defined power and justice in the way that Thrasymachus so defined them in Book one of Plato’s Republic (“Justice= the will and power of the stronger upon the weaker”) and it was this anti-Westphalian concept that gave birth to the centuries of pre-1648 warfare. It was the negation of this principle that similarly gave rise to all instances of war and conflict which have arisen since.

As Schiller Institute Chairwoman Helga Zepp-LaRouche has explained for years, the true historical currents of Westphalia can be found in the Augustinian concept of the City of God (426 BC) which postulated that humanity’s law (and the qualification for true leadership) is only legitimate when it harmonizes with the law of heaven. This Augustinian value system is premised on the important concept that Love, the Good and Justice are not merely delusions created by idealistic humans too dumb to recognize the nihilistic cold emptiness of the universe, but are rather organizing principles of the universe which produced mankind and express the pure teachings of Christ (in opposition to the political perversion which the Roman empire and banking families made of it in the years of Rome’s decline and fall). Mrs. Zepp-LaRouche has explained that this Augustinian political theory advanced through the writings of Dante Alighieri’s De Monarchia (1313 AD), to Nicholas of Cusa’s Concordantia Catholica (1433 AD) and upwards to Vattel’s Law of Nations (1758 AD). This dynamic gave birth to the Constitutional traditions of America (1776-1789 AD) and in turn were also expressed in modern China’s founding President Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People (1924 AD).

The reality is that true Christianity is antagonistic to all empires and slave systems alike, as it is premised upon a respect for our differences and love of those who wrong us rather than a system of vengeance, ignorance, hate and fear so characteristic of imperial orders.

Just as the positive Westphalian traditions of the west arise from the teachings of Socrates and Jesus, so too do the positive Tianxia traditions of China stem from the moral teachings of Confucius and Mencius- all these traditions teach the importance of the Golden Rule “do unto others as you would have them do to you”.

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