Consider next the problem of pluralism as it played out in the Chinese setting. The first European travellers to China in the sixteenth century came back with stories of a country that was highly authoritarian.1 In China, they reported, the emperors ruled like tyrants and everyone was forced to obey their commands; the cruellest and most unusual of punishments made sure that dissent was silenced and social order maintained. For the Europeans the kowtow-the practice of prostrating oneself flat on the ground before the Dragon Throne-became the symbol of what came to be known as ‘Oriental Despotism.’2 In a country where everyone was kowtowing both literally and metaphorically pluralism was not a problem since pluralism did not exist. Standing up for diversity and the freedom of conscience the Europeans refused to engage in this cultural practice, with predictable diplomatic complications as a result.3