The modern-day heirs of tribute hegemons tend to claim that the tributary relationship should be understood as an acknowledgement of the hegemon's sovereignty in the modern world, whereas former tributary states deny that there was any transfer of sovereignty. For instance, Tributaries of Imperial China implies Chinese sovereign claim over territories not now regarded as Chinese.
A formalized tribute system developed in East Asia with many neighboring East, Central, Southeast and South Asian countries and regions becoming tributary states of various Imperial Chinese dynasties. Historically, the Emperor of China saw himself as the emperor of the entire civilized world. It was not possible for such an emperor to have equal diplomatic relations with any other power, and so all diplomatic relations in the region were construed by the Chinese as tributary. The disdain of the state ideology of Confucianism for trade, and the belief that Chinese civilization had no need of products or technology from outside meant that trade, when it was permitted, was also construed as tributary. Diplomatic missions and trading parties from non-Chinese regions were interpreted in Chinese records as being tributary, regardless of the intention of those regions. Under this construction, the goods received by China constituted a tributary offering, while those that the visitors received were interpreted as gifts that the emperor in his kindness had bestowed upon his distant tributaries.
In Al Andalus, the last remaining Moorish Nasrid Dynasty in the Emirate of Granada paid tribute to the Christian Kingdom of Castile (present day Spain). Tributary states, usually on the periphery of the Ottoman Empire, were under vassalage in different forms. Some were allowed to select their own leaders, while others paid tribute for their lands. In the Western colonial system, non-Western states were sometimes incorporated into a European empire as protectorates.
In the Philippines, the Datus of the Barangays became vassals of the Spanish Empire, from the late 16th century until the Archipelago fell under the power of the United States of America in 1898. Their right to rule was recognized by King Philip II of Spain, on 11 June 1594, under the condition of paying tributes due to the Spanish Crown.