The idea of military intervention to protect populations from tyranny has a long history. This history is not limited to the West; such ideas can be found in Ancient China as well. In the fourth century BC, a Confucian scholar named Mencius argued that rulers were established by heaven for the benefit of the people and were accountable for their actions. A benevolent ruler was therefore justified in waging ‘punitive war’ against the tyrannical ruler of another state to punish him and bring comfort to his people. Recognition of this history provides new opportunities for engagement with China today.