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Old 11-07-2011, 12:33 PM
 
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I understand that from the fall of Rome to the age of Discovery, China was the most technologically advanced country in the world. Their ships were far superior in construction, durability, technology, etc. than European ships. But from the unification of China in the early-200's BC until European became the dominant powers, China did not sail around the world setting up colonies and expanding their empire. Why not? Why did not China simply not take over the rest of East Asia and Southeast Asia, at the least? Was it due to the fact that often the rest of Asia simply paid tribute to China as the dominant power? Please do not argue that Chinese are by nature more peaceful than Europeans...I heard this argument before from my Chinese professor and China has a history at least as brutal as that in the West with civil wars, famines and massacres, just like the rest of the world. So why did not China simply expand its power beyond its borders? Is it as simple, as they had everything they already needed, or am I missing something else?
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Old 11-07-2011, 12:44 PM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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God did not command them to.

The two great colonial movements were both religious in nature, and both were Abrahamic. First the Muslims tried to expand their faith to as much of the world as they could reach. Then the Christians did the same, with boats and guns ready at hand to cross the seas unbchallenged.

India also had a great civilization, as did China. But the concept of Proselytism does not exist in nor is consistent with the teachings of any major non-Abrahamic religions. Hinduism and Buddhism are pluralistic and essentially Karmic, meaning that there are many paths to enlightenment, and there was no point in converting anyone already on the path.

It may well be arguable that the Chinese were historically just as brutal as the Christians, but they found other non-religious ways to direct their brutality, instead of attributing it to an obedience to their god.

Last edited by jtur88; 11-07-2011 at 01:05 PM..
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Old 11-07-2011, 12:48 PM
 
Location: The Triad (NC)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lentzr View Post
Is it as simple, as they had everything they already needed, or am I missing something else?
The countries who sent out and supported colonizers had one main thing in common: a LACK of land area to expand into.
China did not have this problem.
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Old 11-07-2011, 01:12 PM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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Originally Posted by MrRational View Post
The countries who sent out and supported colonizers had one main thing in common: a LACK of land area to expand into.
China did not have this problem.
In the 13th Century, China had about double the population of Europe, in an area about the same size, with roughly simniolar arability. The Great Plague eras after that nearly halved the populations of both, but at any time before the colonial era, China was more pressed for land than Europe.

Furthermore, European agriculture could expand further east into the fertile Russias, which eventualy became their breadbasket. China, though, could only expand westward into inhospitable mountain and desert regions.

Europeans harvested almost nothing from agricultural lands in the colonies, except a few luxuries like tea and spices, and only a tiny few relieved population pressure by emigrating in the early colonial era.

Last edited by jtur88; 11-07-2011 at 01:25 PM..
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Old 11-07-2011, 01:18 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post
God did not command them to.

The two great colonial movements were both religious in nature, and both were Abrahamic. First the Muslims tried to expand their faith to as much of the world as they could reach. Then the Christians did the same, with boats and guns ready at hand to cross the seas unbchallenged.

.
Didn't Christian Europe first cross the Atlantic with the idea of finding a shorter trade route to India? That was monetary motivation, I don't think that Columbus had plans for the conquest and conversion of India.

I think that the western colinization program was more of an economic push than a religious one. The religious motivations were added later to justify the theft of the lands from their existing inhabitants.

If there had been no treasure to find in the new world, would Europe have stayed just for the sake of conversions?
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Old 11-07-2011, 01:27 PM
 
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I think you could boil it down to competition. Europe contained many separate countries each fighting one another for dominance and control. This competition inspired them to gain advantage through conquest and colonization of lands that were outside the European sphere. While China certainly had its factions and civil wars, they were for the most part largely united as a single nation under a single dynasty. They had very few external threats given their unique geographic position, so there was no pressure from the outside to look for places to expand to gain leverage over an opponent, same thing in India.

We can look for at all of the "other" reasons in terms of religion, societal makeup, etc. but I think the most compelling remains the idea of competition for limited resources and trying to gain an advantage over each other. The Spanish and Portugese originally set out on their expeditions to bypass the Ottoman and Venetian traders monopoly on luxury goods. If say those territories had been part of some greater European empire the quest for exploration and later colonization would not have been as strong.
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Old 11-07-2011, 01:32 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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Are we not counting the attempts by Kublai Khan in 1274 and 1281 to invade and conquer Japan? The second one involved 140,000 Chinese soldiers and sailors and the expedition was famously blown apart by "The Divine Wind."

Maybe the Chinese concluded that that they were not meant to be foreign imperialists.
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Old 11-07-2011, 02:05 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Grandstander View Post
Are we not counting the attempts by Kublai Khan in 1274 and 1281 to invade and conquer Japan? The second one involved 140,000 Chinese soldiers and sailors and the expedition was famously blown apart by "The Divine Wind."

Maybe the Chinese concluded that that they were not meant to be foreign imperialists.
Interesting question. It depends on whether you consider Kublai Kahn and the Yuan Dynasty to be Chinese or Mongol. The Chinese seemed to view it as being Mongol and a yoke thrown off during the rise of the Ming Dynasty. When the Ming took power, the Hongwu Emepror embarked on many major reforms to purge the Mongol influence and traditions. One of these was strict advice that China should remain powerful to defend itself, but not embark on any foreign wars. Perhaps he was just trying to be the best anti-Mongol he could, or perhaps it was a belief in focusing on the needs of China first and foremost.

Even then Zhang He's expeditions happened during the Ming Dynasty, but were eventually cancelled and virtually stricken from the historical record by later emperors based on the original orders laid out from the Hongwu Emperor. This would have marked the closest the Chinese ever came to colonialism, but it was never followed through on.

For the entirety of the Ming Dynasty and much of the Quing Dynasty, China was an inward looking nation despite possessing the technological, financial and military means to expand their influence.
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Old 11-07-2011, 02:38 PM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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Maybe the question, instead of concentrating on the Chinese, is more salient when asking why ONLY the Europeans entered into an ongoing and methodical colonial era of several centuries.

The answer to that was that colonialism is only practical upon the discovery of a population that can be profitably colonized, and the Europeans were on the rim of an ocean across which a suitable opportunity for colonialism presented itself.

Wherever Chinese traders went, the lands were already pretty well civilized with established cultures, economies and infrastructures. To colonize them would have meant going to war against peoples who were already somewhat sophisticated in the arts of defense.

At the outset, European colonialism was limited to establishing way stations en route to trading partners. It then evolved into whatever riches were then found for the grabbing.
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Old 11-07-2011, 02:55 PM
 
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History reminds US that like Japan, China was a very late bloomer, even called itself the Middle kingdom due to the population being focused in the center of the country. When western influence reached China they were very far behind and were easily pushed around. so when the Chinese kingdom started to advance it was to late to do any massive colonization work
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