The World History Rewritten
History of China
Speaking about the history of China (and then about history
India) I will try to show you that it is not so different form European
history, and historical processes and laws are basically the same.
You should also remember that China has extremely large
share of the World population. For the whole history
(except XVIIIth and XIXth centuries) 1/4 of the World
population lived in China. The same is true for India.
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For this lecture I will divide the history of
China (before XIXth
century) into five stages. Map below illustrates these stages, and also
basic geography of China: rivers, deserts, mountain ranges (cities are
stage is the ancient China (2nd
millennium BC - 770 BC) when the state that
Shaanxi, Henan and Shanxi
provinces (blue border)
conquered the valley of River Huang He (Yellow River). Blue arrows shows
- Second stage is the
feudal fragmentation of “Springs
and Autumns” and “Warring Kingdoms” periods (770-221 BC).
- Third stage starts from
emperor Shi Hunagdi (founder
of Quin dynasty), who conquered all kingdoms, built the Great Wall (navy blue zigzag) and was the real
creator of China Empire. This was the age (221 BC - IXth century AD) of
prosperity because of the expansion to the South China (green arrow) and profitable export
thorough the Silk Road (red line).
- Fourth stage (Xth - XVIth century) is the age
of stable and relatively
isolated feudal state, periodically invaded by barbarians (black
arrows) or quaked with peasants revolts (yellow
border shows the core of China lands).
- Fifth stage begins in
XVIIth century when China
started to isolate form the European penetration. This stage was ended
in XIXth century with Opium Wars.
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First stage: Ancient China
Before 770 BC.
Historians have very limited knowledge about the first China’s
dynasties (Xia, Shang and Zhou).
Those dynasties are mentioned in China tradition, but most of the early
literature and historical writings were
destroyed according to orders of emperor Shi Hunagdi, when he fought
with political opposition to unite China. Chronologies before the year 841 BC are constructed based only on
archeological discoveries and have
the fault that historians could mistake cultures (people
who use the same pottery, weapons, etc.) with dynasties
(families of rulers). But we can safely assume that before the year of
770 BC there was three cycles of rise-and-fall of early feudal China
states (called Xia, Shang and Zhou). We also know that Zhou dynasty was
real and started form barbarian invasion.
These times early China state, probably formed in Shaanxi, Henan and
Shanxi provinces, expanded East along the river Hunag-He. The Shaanxi
province was originally called “The Land Between Mountain Passes” (or
sometimes “west of the mountain passes”) and is really the great
valley, where a few important trade routes are stressed together and
cross. Maybe this was the reason the first state was formed here not in
the North China Plain (East form Shaanxi close to the sea), where the
local rulers cannot so easy control many trade routes. It is also
useful to note that Huang He river (Yellow River) very often changes
its river-bed (in Medieval for some time Huang He went to the sea
thorough the River Yangtze).
Of course it is hard to say, was it more a military or
economic expansion. In my opinion, because of geography of Huang He
basin, the expansion of Ancient China probably resembled the expansion
early medieval Russia from river Dniepr basin to river Volga basin:
colonization of higher-technology nation was (when necessary) supported
military force by rulers.
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Second Stage: Feudal
Feudal fragmentation (divided into two periods: “Springs
and Autumns” and “Warring Kingdoms”)
but rulers of China were loosing their power gradually for some time
For five centuries China was divided into many kingdoms fighting with
other. It was the period of wars and chaos, but also the acme of
I am not going to describe different schools of Chinese philosophy here
tradition says wit some poetic emphasis that there was a 100 of schools
of thought), but I have to mention two most important:
Simplifying terribly Confucius (Kong Fu Zi) doctrine concentrates on
life according to virtues, respect to moral authorities, respect for
elders and ancestors. Finally Confucius doctrine (Confucianism) became
an official doctrine of China Empire, because it promoted ideas that
naturally supported the authorities of Empire.
(or Daoism) was
a mystic doctrine which promotes self-development and some magic
practices. Taoism finally became a philosophy of poor ones and common
people, and was sometimes ignored, some times haunted by authorities.
It is an example of ideological polarization
natural to feudal
Such opposite ideologies (pro-authority
and anti-authority) like Confucianism and Taoism in China, were also
present in medieval Middle East (sunnites
and shi’ites) and in medieval Europe (official church hierarchy
and beggars orders, heresies, mystic religious movements respectively).
Continuous wars (the same as renaissance wars in Italy
inspired Sun Tze (or Sun Tzu) to
tractate about the art of waging war.
Below is an link to “The Art of War” written by Sun Tze
(Sun Tzu). Well, it is a very basic tractate about strategy and
tactics, and do not mention many important elements (the main weakness
is that Sun Tze describes the war as an art of deception, but sometimes
there is no chance to use deception tricks,
and the brute clash of steel decides who will win), but in spite
of this, his tractate is a mandatory lecture for everyone, who
want to study tactics.
The basic rule of tactics from his tractate could be
summed up as: Find what advantages (number, morale, terrain,
maneuverability, firepower, intelligence, etc.) you have over your
enemy, and what advantages the enemy have over you. Then don’t let him
use his (or her) advantages against you,
and use yours advantages against him (or her).
Art of War
I also don’t like this translation, because Lionel Giles
had problems with poetic nature of Chinese language. For example word
“heaven” should be probably translated as “sky”!
Finally China was reunited by kingdom of Quin (see map).
Probably the reason for Quin strength and conquests was the income from
the export by the Silk Road (a trade route from China to Middle East,
Europe and India) plus maybe better iron weapons and other war
technologies imported from West.
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Third stage: Export by the
221 BC - IXth century AD.
Emperor Shi Huangdi
means “The First Emperor”) - famous for his funeral terracotta
army and from movie “Hero” - from Quin, who united China was
the real creator of China Empire. He introduced many reforms:
unified law, administration, currency, systems of measures and
built roads. His methods were brute (like methods of Peter the Great or
Ivan The Terrible in Russia) - many opponents were killed,
many nobles were deported, many books were burnt. And he also built the
Great Wall joining together
many smaller walls protecting China from barbarians.
Walls. It is useful to note that great
walls protecting borders are often the first symptom that the
country have no strength to continue expansion beyond the protected
border. It was true for the Great Wall, for Roman walls (called limes),
for wall built by Chimu kingdom or for French Maginot Line.
After Shi Huangdi death, a great rebellion destroyed the Quin
dynasty, but thanks to his reforms the Empire survived the civil
war, and next dynasty - Han
- ruled China for four centuries.. Anotherr reason for this political
stability was the economic prosperity because of colonization of
low-populated South China and export by the Silk Road. China
(peripheral state) had lower income than Middle East and Europe (core
states), so could easy export goods that China manufacturers had a
technological monopoly: first silk, then china (delicate pottery), tea,
Economic center of the World (core states)
Well, Immanuel Wallerstein classification of “core” and “peripheral”
countries is too simplified. Actually the whole pattern is more
complicated, and we should distinguish at least three types of states:
high-income (core), middle-income, and low-income countries plus a
special subclass for countries which have great deposits of natural
resources (comparing to
the number of inhabitants). And there are periods when the
international trade is extremely profitable for non-core countries, and
periods when non-core countries are exploited because of monopolistic
prices dictated by core countries or some international trusts (ex.
OPEC). A few paragraphs below I will present a picture that helps to
understand reasons for both scenarios.
But since IIIrd century BC most important regions of
the Old World (Europe Asia and Africa) was one economic organism, and
we can define the economic center of the World (i.e. core states).
Below I present simplified timeline:
Of course there were also “local cores”. For example medieval China was
a core state for Japan and
other neighbouring states.
- IIIrd BC - IVth
AD, Greece, Hellenistic States and then Roman Empire
- VIth - VIIth,
- IXth - Xth, Arabian states of Middle East and
Spain plus Byzantium
- XIIth - XVth,
- XVIth - XVIIth, Spain, Netherlands and
Northern Italy (in decline)
- XVIIIth till the first half of XIXth century,
- 1860-1940, England plus some Western European
states and North-East USA
- After 1940, USA, Western Europe plus Italy and
Japan (since 1975)
China is one of the best examples of feudal state with a
strong role of government and administration. The feudal hierarchy was
the hierarchy of offices (like ex. in XIXth century Russia). Moreover
China officials (like in the Inca Empire) were usually highly
educated. We can say that in Europe generally dominated a
“free-market-oriented” feudal system while in China a “state-oriented”
Free market is generally more effective, but government
regulated marked also have some advantages, which are generally the
same as a monopoly or great corporation with big market share has:
- Big firm or country have advantages
of scale (or economies of
scale) in some
economic activities (for example a big country usually wins wars with
- When a country is important exporter of some goods or
resources (silk or china for China), could dictate the prices and thus
maximize income from export.
- Monopoly could protect important technologies longer than
many independent producers (China
was able to protect technology of silk and china for few centuries).
- And finally, transaction costs for some economic activities
are sometimes lower when there is a kind of central management
(government administration, corporate managers).
generally speaking are the whole costs of transaction other than price:
costs to get to the market place, costs to negotiate the price, costs
to chose the best offer, cost of recalculating the currencies and units
of measure, cost of controlling if we
are not cheated by a dishonest market-player, etc. (See also New
Institutional Economy glossary)
These costs can be so high that is sometimes better to
implement some organization and central management than to allow a
free-market game (and using math tools we can say when is better). Do
imagine that a Grand Canal (between Huang He and Yangtze rivers)
could had been built by a thousands of small private enterprises
employing only several workers each?
Of course a government-regulated market has some flaws. One of them is
an inflation when government spendings are to high. China experienced
this after the year of 133 BC as an effect of wars with barbarian
tribes of Huns (the same nation
that a few centuries later invaded the Roman Empire), when emperor -
because of the costs of war - had to spoil money, but Huns were
defeated and started a migration to the west.
It is useful to note here that China had a very limited
deposits of precious metals, except copper (comparing with the demand
for money created by the China’s economy). So when Chinese a
several centuries later discovered paper money, they really discovered
the hyperinflation, which, as you recall, is a side-effect of stagflation
crisis in a government-regulated economy.
Han dynasty (the same as Tang dynasty a few centuries later) -
every feudal government supported by GPI,
I call the planters-faction (i.e.
group of political interests that represents feudals and merchants
interested in export) - was open for new ideas. China even sent
expedition of explores to the West.
Centuries from IIIrd to VIth were another
period of feudal fragmentation in China. One of the reasons
for this decline was the economic and political crisis in the Roman
which reduced the demand for Chinesee export
and thus weakened China’s government which had monopolistic control
over the export. With the economic recovery of populistic Byzantine
Empire, China recovered also. Of course there is some latency in
economic cycles in both regions.
Here is a simplified model
economic relations between countries and thus economic cycles. Although
very simple, this model is quite strong, because is based on
the second law of thermodynamics and the Solow’s
This model would probably look better if animated: countries should go
up and down, diffusion channels (pipes between bottles) should become
wider or narrower, and red valves could
be opened or closed by governments. Of course there are some
- There are no “backflows” (blue streams going up) from
the export of capital.
- There are no income from international trade (income
collected from diffusion channels).
- There are no tributes from
- There are no extra income when a country have a
monopoly on a particular good.
And the most important: economic policy is usually
(except maybe the highest political system in my classification)
constructed in such a way to protect the economic interests of the
ruling GPI (group of political interests). So sometimes government
policy could be protectionistic when a free trade is profitable for the
whole country, and vice versa. As you recall, this is one of basic
explanations, why the higher political system is usually more
economically effective (a country with higher political system usually
has a higher rate of “natural growth”) - government represents interests of
wider group of citizens.
But even playing with such a simple model, you can
understand reasons for most of the economic processes in history.
Including reasons for feudal fragmentation of China when the demand in
Europe and Middle West shrunk.
In the times of another great dynasty, Tang
(VIIth-IXth century AD), the process of colonization of South China
ended, and populations of both regions equalized. The trade between
Southern and Northern China became more important than the trade with
the West. In result the capital of China was moved from the Shaanxi
province (Xi’an) closer to the Grand Canal. (It is not unusual for the
capital of the state to be moved, when trade routes shifts or
government changes the economic policy. Great examples are removals
Roman Empire capital from Rome to Constantinople or the Russia capital
from Moscow to St. Petersburg and back).
Tang dynasty is also the age, when Buddhism
imported from India (generally in Vth century AD) gained popularity
in China. Interestingly in China the religion did not played so
important role here as in Europe, India or Middle West. Well, here is a
- When a feudal country prospers because of profitable
there are no serious social conflicts (see frame below), and thus
elites are tolerant and open for new ideas (including other religions)
- thiis is the case of early China
- China conquered many lands with local beliefs and local
religions, so the ideology that united the
Empire had to be irreligious and tolerant for local traditions.
- And there was little or no economic need for ideology like
Economic function of religion
Generally most of the religion ideologies have one common element:
promise the happiness after death on in the future, if the believer
lived honestly, sparingly and not fought for his (or her) rights. So,
religions have an economic effect of promoting the capital accumulation
and suppressing the power of labor workers. Simply speaking: in the
early history of the China Empire, when the
export was very profitable and there was a high demand for peasants
(people were more valuable than the capital) to colonize South, there
was no natural economic conditions and reasons for a religion system to
Of course, when I speak “capital” I really mean
“land” which is the main form of capital in feudal countries.
There is a little difference between them: land can’t “run away”, when
is confiscated by government or external invaders. Capital can also be
confiscated or nationalized, but because it should be continuously
renewed, is much harder to hobble (imprison).
And again, I do not want to say there is a conspiracy mechanism here. There
no secret meeting of aristocrats or government officials, who decide
introducing the religion ideology will be profitable, because will help
to exploit peasants or to rule the common people. No, new ideologies
in an evolutionary way - simply speaking: people who promote new
ideology gradually gains more money, larger audience or influential
friends in administration structures of the state.
After a few centuries when conditions changed, Confucianism ideology
was so strongly rooted in China tradition that could substitute the
religion. But in the times of Tang and Song dynasties (VIIth-XIIth)
there was some times periods or serious religious conflicts between
main religious and ideological movements: Buddhism, Taoism (in many
aspect very similar to religion but not so formalized), Confucianism,
Islam and Christianity. And government periodically organized haunts
for followers of non-China religions. As you can see, China was not
so different from Europe - when different factions fought to gain
control over country’s politics, ideological conflicts were
With the shrinking demand for Chinese export in the Middle
and with the less profitable trade exchange between South and North
when economic levels of both regions equalized, the power of central
government declined, and Tang dynasty failed (at the beginning of Xth
century). And another period of feudal fragmentation started.
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Fourth stage: Relatively
isolated feudal state
Since Xth century China was a relatively isolated feudal
state that had its own cycles of rise an fall (more or less as the
Ancient Egypt). Economic policy of the Emperor’s court changed many
times and because of many reasons. Originally I have planed to use
China as an example to show the reasons for transitions of government
policy in a feudal state (to explain when different feudal factions
take over the leadership). But then I realized that the whole lecture
is too long for this short introduction to the Mechanics of History. I
present short explanation in the frame below.
I said before that in feudal country there are basically three feudal
factions: soldiers faction, priests faction, feudal faction. But
you have to remember that this is only a kind of simplification. For
example in China there were a subfactions interested in expansion West,
South and North-East (Korea) in the soldiers faction (expansive
faction). Also the transitions of the state policy was (depending on
economic circumstances) an effect of military coup d’etat, court
intrigue, peasants revolt, barbarian invasion, or simply effect of
changing advisors by the Emperor. Moreover, transition could be brutal
or quite peaceful depending on a few factors like:
- Is the country’s economy in decline or in growth
- How rich is the country comparing
with its economic partners
- How deep are conflicts of goals and interests between
Also the personal decisions of the Emperor mattered.
Intelligent ruler could slow the decline a few decades, while stupid
one may cause the catastrophe of the Empire come sooner. So, my
classification of political factions in the feudal country should be
used to explain only the basic processes.
The Empire of Song dynasty
- which united China again (and ruled the Empire till the Mongol
invasion 960-1225 and till 1279 in South China) - was rather peaceful
comparing with Han and Tang dynasties. This time the Empire was smaller
and strong half-barbarian kingdoms controlled the Great Wall, northern
mountain passes and the Silk Road. Simply speaking, China was a quite
country these times and has no profitable lands to conquer in close
vicinity, so the pacifism was the most reasonable economic policy.
Also there was no reason to control trade route to the West
because the economic gap between China and the West (i.e. Europe and
East) almost disappeared and
therefore export to the West was not so profitable as before. China
Empire was one of the richest countries
these times. Also the technological gap between China and the West was
smaller. Chinese made many important
discoveries like: gunpowder, print, compass, paper.
But we have to remember that China was still less
technologically developed than the West. These discoveries were
spectacular, but there were only a few of them while Europeans and
Arabians had known many technologies which Chinese did not know (in
metallurgy, warfare, constructing, engineering, math, writing, mining,
ships building). Here are only
a few examples:
- Chinese discovered printing but did not know the alphabet,
so the technology of printing was not very profitable.
- Chinese discovered gunpowder, but were behind in
metallurgy, so did not invented canons.
- Chinese had no technology of stove, so could not colonize
Siberia forests (and even Manchuria) north of them.
It is the irony of history that the country ruled by civil service of very educated officials
- because education was the main criteria to become a state official
and then to go up in administration hierarchy (as you recall feudal
class in China was the class of state officials) - had slower
technological growth than countries of the West, often ruled by
uneducated rulers. The main reason is, the scientific development is
chaotic of nature and its rate slows down when the government controls
and regulates the country’s economy.
Chaotic nature of scientific development
The rate of science development is slower in states with
government-regulated economy. There are a few reasons for this:
- First, and the most important: new scientific
discoveries and new technology ideas are most often a result of
cross-branches studies and implementation of new ideas stolen from
neighbouring branches (for
example economics was originally developed when Adam Smith used the idea of predictable clock-like
taken from Isaac Newton’s phisics). When there are a very formalised
of researchers with very limited areas of interests, the scientific
- Second, development of new technologies is much more
effective when there is an economic pressure that eliminates the most
ineffective research efforts. When there is no wasting money on large,
ineffective government-sponsored projects and when scientists are
forced do search the cheapest solutions and are forced to use their
brains first. And when there are many private sponsors without
prejudices, who are open for new ideas, which may be considered as
“stupid” or “magic” in academic community (great example is the
gunpowder and alchemic researches, which was considered by
as “magic tricks for plebeians who uses to believe in Taoistic
- Third, when economy is free-market oriented, new
ideas and discoveries are almost immediately implemented and
used in economic enterprises. Practical implementation of technologies
gives scientists a great volume of new data, and much more of
than any academic in its ivory tower could ever produce in laboratory
experiments. These times a scientist need only a talent for
and a few tools to verify his (or her) new theories. Plus of course a
faster implementation means that the economy grows faster and thus
is more money for scientific researches in a long run.
We should also remember that many of Chinese inventions were really the
toys for the Imperial Court and for rich officials, and were not
implemented in every day life or were not implemented in the most
efficient way. On the other hand, European inventions were usually not
so spectacular, but had greater impact on economy. It is like comparing
the technology of Soviet Union and USA in 50-ties and 60-ties. Launch
of Sputnik (first satellite launched by USSR) was spectacular, opposite
to computers, genetics, plastics, television, and many other US
technologies, which however had greater practical value. But to stay
honest: in early Medieval (VIth-Xth centuries AD) China had probably
higher technology level than Western Europe (but probably not higher
than the Byzantine Empire and Arabian Middle East). Then with the
emergence of populistic
city-states in Italy in XIth century, the rate of technology
development in Europe speeded up and China technologies were slowly
becoming more and more obsolete.
Before the XIXth century one of the basic economic evidences,
which country was richer is the direction of coins (money) flows. We
just need to see which country was an exporter of goods (China), and
which one had to export money (Middle East, Europe). Country that had
to export money, usually is richer - demand for the goods imported from
abroad is so high that the country have not enough exportable goods to
balance the import and thus have a permanent negative trade balance
is true only when economies of most countries are
government-regulated). As I said before: rich country have a comparative advantage at
An effect of economic stagnation in China was the neighbouring
barbarian tribes grew in strength. Song dynasty lost the north of China
for the half-barbaric rulers in 1126 - Ruzhens (or Jurchens), founders
of Jin dynasty. And finally China
experienced the Mongol invasion. Mongols leaded by great chieftain Gengis Khan conquered Northern China at
the beginning of XIIIth century. (Song dynasty survived in
Southern China till 1279 AD, when the grandson of Gengis Khan, Kublai
Khan conquered the rest of the China.) The Mongol Empire of Ghengis
Khan and his descendants (called Yuan
dynasty) was probably one of the greatest empires in the history. (See map) As I said before, one-fourth of human
population lived in China, so Mongol barbarian conquests launched
by the fall of China have to be extraordinary. Especially because
steppes and grasslands of Eurasia (from Hungary to Manchuria) are a
very easy travel route for nomad tribes.
There is also a theory that barbarians invasions on China were caused
by climatic changes. Of course in feudal states and primitive barbaric
societies climatic changes (periods of cold or drought) can expedite
crisis and have the influence on economic cycles that are responsible
the falls of feudal states and barbarian invasions.
Armies of Mongols conquered and subordinated China, Siberia,
Central Asia, the great part of Middle East and Russia. (Of course most
of the feudal countries conquered by Mongols were more or less
decomposed.) They even plundered Poland and Hungary in Central Europe.
But aside from the destruction and fire that Mongol conquests brought
to many cities and states, had also some positive effect: uniting the
Asia opened again the trade route from Europe to China. Before Mongols
the Silk Road was controlled by several countries and the costs of
trade exchange were very high, because of many taxes merchants had to
pay - now it was much easier to
travel and trade.
Opening of new trade routes brought extra profits to Italian
populistic merchant republics of Genoa and Venice. With the travels of
Venetian merchant Marco
Polo. Europeans gained knowledge about China and the Court of Kublai Khan. But for China
export to the West was these times not such profitable as before. The
main source of government income for Mongol Emperor - who resided in
Bejing - was the salt monopoly.
Under the rule of Kublai Khan the empire of Yuan dynasty
reached the peak of its power. Mongols as every barbarian tribe which
conquered China were absorbed by the higher civilization of conquered
Emperor even tried to conquer Japan,
but the strong resistance of Japanese and the fortunate storm called Kamikaze (divine wind), which destroyed
the invasion fleet, saved Japan from Chinese conquest. It is useful
to mention that even the invasion was successful, the large population
of Japan (plus the logistic problems) would made the long occupation
of Japan isles impossible.
The rule of Yuan dynasty was ended with national rebellion
against Mongol Emperors and that was the start of Ming
(1368-1644) dynasty famous in Europe from precious china. In the times
of Ming dynasty European sailors (Portuguese) arrived in China, and
since then trade exchange with Europe was not longer conducted by the
Silk road but by the sea.
It is also worth to mention here that in times of Ming dynasty
- and a few decades before the Great Europpean discoveries - between the
years of 1405-1433 Chinese admiral Zheng He
(Muslim eunuch) made a number successful expeditions to India Ocean
a map). His fleet reached even the eastern coast of Africa, but
then his journeys were prohibited by the Emperor. Zheng He expeditions
reached only the well lands known for a few centuries to the Arabian
sailors, which had for some time trade outpost in South China (and also Chinese merchant sailors
according to Arabic chronicles). But the strange decision of
China Emperor is a good example that in feudal countries with
government-regulated economy there is very little economic pressure to
explore of new lands and made geographic discoveries, because political
interests of merchant class are poorly represented.
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XVIIth - XVIIIth century.
First contacts with Europeans were not encouraging. European sailors
(especially Portuguese, who first reached China) used
to practice piracy taking advantage of superior firepower of their
It was the normal practice among European sailors of all nations.
countries were much richer (per capita) than China, so there was a high
demand for Chinese goods in Europe and almost no demand for European
in China. European traders had three options:
Protectionism and isolation
Strategy 1. would effect in money leak from Europe, and strategies 2.
and 3. forced Europeans to practise the piracy as a way of economic
- To pay with precious metals (coins) - again: rich country
has comparative advantage at money.
- To monopolize the sea trade in the region, and get extra
income as trade middlemen, which will help to pay for Chinese goods.
- To rob traders of other nations, getting Chinese goods for
However sea export to Europe was extremely profitable for
officials (often corrupted by European merchants), so for some time
government did not react. But in XVIIth century China Emperors started
take some protectionist measures - more or less the same time as
Japan did. To be honest, the reason for this change in policy was
protect the Emperor income from taxes and monopolies than to protect
The last dynasty of the Emperial China was the Quing dynasty (1644-1912). Emperors of
Quing dynasty came from Manchuria (region north of Bejing and Korea
east from Mongolia), which conquered the China when Ming dynasty was
ended with civil unrest. After the years of unrest rule of external
invaders were reasonable option for Chinese elites. Manchuria (Manchu state) was a
half-nomadic tribe, but Manchu were not really barbarians, because
there was many Chinese cities in Manchuria these times. As I said
before, when a feudal
falls, it is usually invaded by barbarians,
but invaders could also come from a neighbouring middle-income country.
The rule of Quing dynasty was the age of economic
protectionism. So, the ideology promoting that policy
evolved, supporting official policy of isolation. Here are some basic
foundation of this ideology:
This isolationistic ideology was very different from the curiosity of the world and
openness in times of Han or Tang dynasties, but Europeans, who did not
know the China before, perceived this ideology as a natural philosophy
of Chinese. It is useful to note here that similar ideology could
evolve in any state which
is in protectionist phase of economic cycle, for example: in Spain in
XVIth century, in Poland in 1650-1750 (called Sarmatism), in Soviet
Union, or even in France in last decades of XXth century.
- China Empire is the center of the World, and have the
oldest tradition. Other nations (especially Europeans) are barbarians.
- Other nations did not developed anything important - our
culture, goods and technology are the best.
- There is nothing interest in ideas imported from other
nations, they (their ideas) could bring only corruption to our
(which are no doubt the best).
Isolationism made China terribly technologically
underdeveloped, so British Fleet had no problem to defeat China ships
and army in two Opium
Wars. These wars ended the China’s isolation and opened the
Empire for European trade and investments.
Great Britain started the Opium Wars, because the lack of money to pay
for import from China. As a rich country England would had to pay for
Chinese goods with gold (again rich country has comparative advantage
at money, see see the
polarization effect). To protect English trade balance, British
wanted to export opium to China (a drug cultivated in British colonies
in India). Since then English could buy Chinese goods paying not with
British gold, but with money earned from exporting a drug, which was
cheaply produced in India. China government tried to stop British
smuggling of opium - but rather to protect state income from export
taxes and tolls than to protect drug-addicted commoners - so the war
As you can see, the country with
(third in my classification) also could
wage “dirty” and morally doubtful war if such war is profitable. And
reasons behind the promotion of free trade are not always
Warsaw, 22 September 2004
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