This expression refers to pursuing conciliatory and benevolent policies and offering benefits to tribes and groups in remote areas. It was a political concept adopted by successive governments led mostly by the Han people in their relations with other ethnic groups, tribes in remote areas not yet directly under their rule, and foreign states. It also represented an important component of the theory of winning over others by virtue. China was, as it is today, a multi-ethnic country. The Han-led government ruled over a large territory and believed that they had an advanced culture. They usually took a conciliatory approach based on the Confucian concept of benevolence in dealing with the tribes and populations in remote regions, rather than conquering them by force, with the goal of placating them and winning their allegiance.
Guan Zhong said to the Marquis of Qi, “I have heard it said: Win over the disaffected with respect and embrace distant peoples with virtue. With virtue and respect unchanging, there is no one that will not be embraced.”(Zuo’s Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals)