One of the first things any student of China learns about is the country’s illustrious five thousand years of history. While those millennia were replete with accomplishments in science and philosophy, they were also characterized by territorial expansion and the coercion of surrounding nations into shows of deference. On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Howard French, associate professor of journalism at the Columbia Journalism School and author of Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power, explores the relationship between domestic narratives of China’s history and geopolitical realities. French suggests that contrary to popular belief, many Asian states – everywhere from what we now consider Japan to Indonesia – did not truly accede to the Chinese emperor’s moral authority, but rather playacted at deference to maintain good relations. How do these states continue to balance their own interests with their ties to China today? How will this balancing act affect China’s efforts to once again assume a preeminent regional role? Listen below to hear French’s take on the lessons that a close study of Chinese dynastic history offers for understanding the country’s modern ambitions.