In their three thousand years of interaction, China and Vietnam have been through a full range of relationships. Twenty-five years ago they were one another's worst enemies; fifty years ago they were the closest of comrades. Five hundred years ago they each saw themselves as Confucian empires; fifteen hundred years ago Vietnam was a part of China. Throughout all these fluctuations the one constant has been that China is always the larger power, and Vietnam the smaller. China has rarely been able to dominate Vietnam, and yet the relationship is shaped by its asymmetry. The Sino-Vietnamese relationship provides the perfect ground for developing and exploring the effects of asymmetry on international relations. Womack develops his theory in conjunction with an original analysis of the interaction between China and Vietnam from the Bronze Age to the present.

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