9 Pages

Introduction: Asian regionalism and the nature of group formation

It was under such conditions where one strategist, Su Qin (蘇秦), persuaded the king of Han to form an association of the six countries (合縱 [he zong]: vertical association1). The telling phrase he used was, however, somewhat different from the ‘balance of power’, which nowadays many international relations theorists still believe in. He borrowed the ancient Chinese proverb ‘寧為雞口,無為牛後’ – meaning that ‘it is better to be the head of a small group than to hold a less powerful position in a large group’.2 It was obvious for the state of Han that belonging to the association dominated by Qin (連橫 [lian heng]: horizontal association) would have resulted in a suzerain-vassal relationship.3