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    Why didn't China colonise the world like the Europeans?
    译者:unknown     发?#38469;?#38388;:2018-07-23     超过 0 位网友阅读



    Why didn't China colonise the world like the Europeans?



    Feifei Wang I spend about the same amount of my life in China and in the US. upxed Apr 20 
    Because we seriously believed we had everything. Think about the stuff the Spanish and the English people wanted when they sailed off:


    Spices? Had those
    Silk? We basically invented it.
    Gold? Plenty!
    Silver? Shit load of.
    Farm land? Miles and miles and miles…
    Large amount of cheap labor? More than enough.
    Natural resources? Which kind? Never mind… we have them all.


    And on the flip side:
    Religious oppression? Nope don’t care about religion. You believe whatever shit you want just obey our laws and don’t rebel against government.
    Need land for penal colony? Nope we execute our prisoners each fall the rest get to serve in the army.
    Land too poor can’t support local population? Nope. OK some lands might be poor there’re definitely bad years but moving around usually means cross the mountain not sailing across the ocean.
    Do you know what China did need at the time?
    Trade. So we sent out a big fleet to discover trade routes and we brought back shit China didn't have….




    Zheng He be like: Your Highness! Just look at it!!! Isn’t it cute? Have you ever seen such thing before?
    And the Ming emperor be like: Hell No!!! Love this shit! I’m gonna name it 长颈鹿 (long neck deer) because it looks like a deer but has long neck! Totally worth the trip! Here’s more money go bring back more cute stuff and open some ports so we can trade with them.
    We don’t need colonies we don’t need labors and economic crops to support our dying economy back home.
    So we didn’t colonize places.


    Pablo Djankowicz Ruizinowitz History major interested in tid-bits about WWII upxed Mar 27
    This is a great question. Historians are still trying to figure out why China was unwilling to colonize the world since it had the resources the manpower and the technology to make it happen.


    In fact China had the shipbuilding and navigational know-how to make it across the Pacific to “discover” and colonize the Western Hemisphere and Australia/New Zealand if it felt like doing that by the time of the Tang Dynasty in the 600s AD.


    During the trade-friendly sea-faring Northern and Southern Song Dynasties China had a huge trading fleet that numbered tens of thousands of boats that could ply the South and East China Seas with ease. Overseas trade was so important in fact that for the only time in Chinese history the Southern Song Dynasty of the 1100s AD and 1200s AD had its capital on the ocean in the modern-day port city of Hangzhou. (All Chinese capitals before and since have been deep inland far away from the coast like Beijing. Most Chinese dynasties except for the Southern Song deeply distrusted trade and the powerful rich merchants that trade tends to foster.)


    The below is a model replica of a Southern Song Dynasty ship of the 1100s AD. It was quite impressive being bigger and more technologically sophisticated than any ship being built in the world at the time. These ships had huge rudders and divided sails that efficiently tacked to the wind and compare favorably to the Spanish galleons that the Europeans used for their exploration and colonization in the 1500s and 1600s (an example which is below the Southern Song Dynasty ship picture).


    China’s seafaring technology reached its apogee during the Ming Dynasty in the early 1400s when the Yongle Emperor recruited one of his trusted eunuchs Zheng He to sail the “Treasure Fleets” to demonstrate to the world the power and riches of China. The Yongle Emperor was as far as I can tell the only Chinese emperor since the Tang Dynasty who seriously considered maritime exploration as a primary tool to expand Chinese influence and who put huge amounts of resources into making it happen.


    These “Treasure Fleets” set out from Nanjing the Ming Dynasty capital at the time and went throughout the Indian Ocean some making it all the way to the East African coast. There were 7 expeditions that took place between 1405 and 1433.


    The below is an example of how sophisticated China’s shipbuilding technology had become. The very big boat was one of the flagships of Zheng He’s “Treasure Fleets” which sailed from China to Indonesia to India. The much smaller boat was the European flagship that Vasco Da Gama the Portuguese explorer used to sail around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa on his way to “discover” India in 1498. That flagship was at the cutting edge of European sailing technology. Just look at how massive the differences were in technological know-how.


    Below you can see a whole “Treasure Fleet” decked out sailing the seas. Each fleet contained hundreds of boats each boat with hundreds of men. In total around 20000 people would be on board one of these fleets which made a fleet as populous as a contemporary city and the largest armada of its kind in the world at that time. And these fleets sailed for thousands of miles per trip. It was quite impressive. By contrast Vasco da Gama’s fleet in 1498 contained four tiny ships and at most 170 men.
    China as a result would’ve crushed Europe if it had been competing as a colonizer in the early 1400s.


    Alas that was not to happen. China after the Yongle Emperor’s death in 1424 and the last “Treasure Fleet” in 1433 turned in on itself and began to close itself off from the outside world. Subsequent Ming emperors dismantled the great ships of the “Treasure Fleets” and used the huge amounts of money devoted to maritime exploration into building the extremely expensive Great Wall and into building and maintaining huge armies to ward off the newly powerful Mongols on the northern borders.


    It was a bad time for China to cut itself off as it was during the 1600s and 1700s that Europe began to grow technologically by leaps and bounds. And it was colonization and the continual competition it fostered among small European kingdoms (small in comparison to China that is) that caused these technological leaps and bounds.


    It was the centralized nature of the historical Chinese state that led China to not explore colonize and expand outside its immediate sphere of influence in East Asia.


    In the 1400 years after China attained in the Tang Dynasty the technological logistical and resource capabilities of carrying out long-distance colonization there was only one period of sustained political division of warring small kingdoms similar to what characterized Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire—the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (五代十国) which ended in 979 AD when the Northern Song Dynasty was founded. This period of disunity only lasted around 90 years or so. Otherwise all emperors who founded dynasties after the Northern Song Dynasty just took control of the previous dynasty’s powers with a rebellion or rebellions. As a result there were no “warring states” that preceded the Yuan Dynasty the Ming Dynasty or the Qing Dynasty.


    Because of a highly centralized state any decision that happened in the imperial court either advanced or stopped projects that could lead to colonization. It’s not a great leap of logic to think that if the Yongle Emperor’s “Treasure Fleets” had continued for another 100 years after 1433 that one or two high court officials or emperors would’ve thought it would’ve been a good idea to take some land—and thus colonies—in exchange for all the money and trouble they were spending on these huge maritime expeditions.


    Unfortunately the Ming court turned very conservative after 1433 concentrating its energies on land-based enemies mostly the Mongols. The Qing court after 1644 continued with that same land-based foreign policy very much ignoring what was happening in maritime technology. And both the Ming and the Qing courts remained deeply distrustful of overseas trade regulating and controlling it with a weird anti-outsider paranoia that kept foreigners and Chinese traders heavily monitored and restrained. It was an almost 180 degree policy turn from the openness trade-friendliness and cosmopolitanism of the Southern Song.


    The Europeans because they were so politically divided did not face the same problem of over-centralization of exploration and colonization decisions as happened in China.


    Christopher Columbus is a great example of this.


    Columbus had this rather crazy idea that if he sailed due west from Europe that he would eventually hit Asia on the other side. Astronomers and other learned men in various European courts countered that this was impossible since considering the circumference of the Earth known at that time he would have to traverse an ocean 15000 miles wide to get to Asia. Columbus thought not that the ocean was just a mere 3000 miles wide and that he would have enough supplies to make it across to Asia. Neither astronomers nor Columbus of course knew that a huge continent lay in the way.


    Columbus with his new ideas first went to the King of Portugal to see if he could get the money for his expedition. The King conferred with his experts and advisors and turned Columbus down on precisely the grounds I gave above. After a few years Columbus went to the King of Portugal again and again the King turned him down—this time because Portuguese explorers had just rounded Africa and the King needed to conserve his money for expeditions to India. He then went to the courts in Genoa and Venice in Italy—at that time very rich cities capable of giving him the ships and money to sail across the Atlantic. They also turned him down. He sent his brother to the King of England to see if he could sell that court on his expedition idea. The English King turned him down. Columbus was finally down to the Spanish court of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Isabella remained skeptical but Ferdinand became intrigued. Columbus finally convinced him he convinced his wife and off Columbus went in 1492 with the necessary ships and money to cross the Atlantic.


    So Columbus had to be rejected by 5 rich and powerful monarchs before finding one who had enough faith in him to give him the money and ships he needed.


    And even if he had failed with the Spanish monarchs Columbus could still appeal to and convince the King of France the King of Scotland the various kingdoms and rich city-states in Italy that were not Genoa and Venice the Pope the King of Denmark the Holy Roman Emperor and the various kingdoms and city-states of Germany. Columbus in other words had a lot of choice in finding his “venture capitalist investor” so to speak. His goal was to clinch one sale with one single monarch to be successful.


    Imagine doing that in China—a Columbus-like explorer with a crazy exploration idea would only have one court to go to the Ming court. And if the emperor turned him down that was it. End of story. There was no other recourse there was no choice at all.
    So it was this hyper-centralization of the historical Chinese state that strangled what little appetite there was for exploration and subsequent colonization among the Chinese.


    Robert Leo Mar 19 · 49 upvotes
    Wow great answer.


    I would add that the Chinese simply found colonization unappealing. They have been colonizing the south/west regions for thousand(s) of years yet those regions never seemed appealing and they were reluctant to move there except during civil wars.


    They found it much more profitable (and they don't even bother to be the trade merchants but rather the exporters) to trade with the world the British’s “China refused to trade” was and still is total Bullshit. Chinese have been trading with the Middle East/India for eons the Persians and Arab traders even settled to become the Muslim Chinese minority. Hui people - Wikipedia


    Actually I would say historically many empires found it more appealing to trade rather than to plunder. Plundering usually happens at the beginning of empires as culture is restored and developed technology and industries flourished war is less appealing for extracting wealth when you have the merchandise and money that the world wants.


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