Presented by Associate Professor Andrew Phillips (UQ)

We frequently imagine the end of international orders as cataclysms, driven by ‘big bang’ shocks such as Great Power wars or system-rending ideological schisms. This template maps well onto Western Europe’s post-Reformation experience. But it fits poorly when applied to early modern South and East Asia. In Mughal India and Ming China, ‘hopeful monsters’ took over existing regional orders only after prolonged periods of infiltration and subversion. Moreover, once they finally did embark on large-scale conquest, the English East India Company and the Manchus triumphed through the mass recruitment of indigenous collaborators, as well as the systematic appropriation and re-purposing of local ideas and institutions. Finally, once consolidated, the British Raj and the Qing Empire bore extensive cultural and institutional traces of their predecessors, which were re-mixed and re-assembled than being entirely replaced.

This paper will analyse how international orders in Asia have historically ended through infiltration and subversion rather than out-right overthrow, and will explore the lessons these Asian great transformations can offer in comprehending the current challenges and likely fate of today’s liberal international order.

About Futures of International Order | Seminar Series

There is a widespread fear that the modern, ‘liberal’, international order is in crisis. Faced with multiple global challenges, from climate change and economic governance to nuclear arms control and global people movements, existing institutions increasingly appear outmoded, inefficient, and at times, dysfunctional. Meanwhile, existing institutional arrangements are being challenged by a diverse array of actors, from great powers (such as Russia) and transnational insurgents to right-wing nationalists. This university-wide seminar series is designed to foster an interdisciplinary dialogue on the possible futures of the modern international order. What challenges does it face, how will it evolve in the face of such challenges, what futures are desirable if it is to meet human and planetary needs?

Scholars are wrestling with these issues in a wide range of disciplines, from climate science and economics to history, philosophy, law, and political science. We invited scholars from all fields currently working on issues relating to ‘futures of international order’ to present in this seminar series. 

This program was convened in 2019 by Associate Professor Jacinta O’Hagan, Associate Professor Sarah Percy & Professor Chris Reus-Smit.


Level 5 General Purpose North (39A) The University of Queensland St Lucia, QLD 4072