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Old 03-08-2011, 09:16 PM   #1
Icheckforvalue
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What happened to China?

I've done some research papers on this and i am fairly convinced i nailed it, but i would like to hear other people's take on this subject and why? Show me some historical evidence. The question being...

What propelled Western civilization to so quickly bypass the East in terms of global dominance? More specifically, i am specifically referring to the Chinese, but feel free to mention other eastern civilizations. Hope to spark up some good conversations and hear some interesting thoughts (evidenced of course).
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Old 03-08-2011, 09:27 PM   #2
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Re: What happened to China?

The Chinese had centuries of political and economic isolation. They sealed themselves off from the rest of the world until the 19th century.
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Old 03-08-2011, 10:58 PM   #3
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Re: What happened to China?

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The Chinese had centuries of political and economic isolation. They sealed themselves off from the rest of the world until the 19th century.
Eh, yes and no. They never really sealed themselves off like Japan did, and as late as 1800, the Qing still ruled over one of the wealthiest states in the world. The net flow of silver in the world still tended to go toward China. In 1700, something like 7 of the 10 most populous cities in the world were all in China. Living standards, food production, and life expectancy were on par with or ahead of Western Europe.

The short answer is industrialization. While both China and Europe (particularly Britain) were facing a timber shortage in the mid-1700s, Britain had easier access to coal as an alternative source of energy (Britain is small and its coal deposits are relatively close to urban centers, whereas China is large and its coal was far from the coast, where the cities were). Also, differences in coal (British mines tend to be wet, while Chinese mines tend to be dry and quite dangerous) favored Britain's utilization of coal fuel at an earlier date.

See Kenneth Pomeranz's The Great Divergence for a more detailed explanation.
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Old 03-09-2011, 05:02 AM   #4
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Re: What happened to China?

The first episode of this new series on Channel 4 (in the UK) looks into this very subject. Might be worth watching.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/c...st-history/4od
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Old 03-09-2011, 11:15 AM   #5
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Re: What happened to China?

The Chinese were responsible for some of the greatest inventions like the ship's rudder.
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Old 03-09-2011, 12:42 PM   #6
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Re: What happened to China?

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The Chinese were responsible for some of the greatest inventions like the ship's rudder.
Must have been invented elsewhere too, I guess? A somewhat bigger ship just needs it.
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Old 03-09-2011, 05:16 PM   #7
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Re: What happened to China?

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Must have been invented elsewhere too, I guess? A somewhat bigger ship just needs it.
Before about 1800, the vast majority of technological innovation flowed from East to West. There are a number of histories examining to what extent various inventions arose independently or were modeled on earlier (often Chinese) innovations. A good primer on the subject is Arnold Pacey's Technology in World Civilization.

China was also the first culture to develop the printing press, although it's still fairly controversial whether their design influenced later European models (unless this has changed in the last few years). Interestingly enough, early printing in China and Europe were largely used for the same reason: the circulation of religious texts (Buddhist in China, Protestant in Europe).
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Old 03-09-2011, 09:54 PM   #8
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Re: What happened to China?

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The Chinese were responsible for some of the greatest inventions like the ship's rudder.
Funny/ironic that you point that out because the thesis to one of my papers was that a failure in maritime expansion/exploration was the initial misstep in China's decline.
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Old 03-10-2011, 03:22 AM   #9
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Re: What happened to China?

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Funny/ironic that you point that out because the thesis to one of my papers was that a failure in maritime expansion/exploration was the initial misstep in China's decline.
I assume you're referring to the decline/dismantling of the Treasure Fleets during the Ming Dynasty?
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Old 03-10-2011, 03:30 PM   #10
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Re: What happened to China?

new frontiers promote growth
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Old 03-10-2011, 04:52 PM   #11
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Re: What happened to China?

The chinese have always been troubled with their inventions.
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Old 03-10-2011, 06:26 PM   #12
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Re: What happened to China?

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I assume you're referring to the decline/dismantling of the Treasure Fleets during the Ming Dynasty?
Yes, this is the exact period i am referring to. The reasons being of course that Chinese government philosophy at the time felt it was more advantageous to address inland/domestic issues than aggressively pursue exploration. This same type of thinking also bit them in the ass when industrialization was revolutionizing the world, and they continued to rely on an agriculturally based economy.
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Old 12-19-2019, 11:54 PM   #13
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Re: What happened to China?

Before the Renaissance, China was likely more advanced and prosperous than Europe.
However, after that, Europe became more powerful and innovative.
The Renaissance and the discovery of the Americas, Australia, and the Pacific islands made everything change.
While Europe became more advanced, China became more outdated because of the Confucian rules of the Ming and the Qing dynasties, the policy of isolation, the agriculture-based society, the corruption of the aristocrats and eunuchs, and many more.
What China could do during the Ming and Qing dynasties were to expand its territory over Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia
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Old 12-22-2019, 07:28 AM   #14
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Re: What happened to China?

China's fleet could easily have dominated the world but for Confucian reasons, perhaps, the emperor ordereed the entire fleet destroyed. Reading a good book about this now called "when china ruled the seas" by Louise Levathes
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Old 12-22-2019, 10:09 PM   #15
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Re: What happened to China?

Very interesting posts, Turn Prophet.

As others mentioned, it was always my understanding/belief that China lacked the same desire for maritime expansion and world domination as say, the British. They sure seem to be making up for that now.
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Old 12-22-2019, 11:56 PM   #16
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Re: What happened to China?

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Very interesting posts, Turn Prophet.

As others mentioned, it was always my understanding/belief that China lacked the same desire for maritime expansion and world domination as say, the British. They sure seem to be making up for that now.
Confucianism denigrates trade and pursuit of profits and certain emperors were influenced by their Confucian ministers. Further, the emperor could have been motivated by fear of merchants becoming too rich and therefore too powerful.

To say they weren't interested in dominating their neighbors though is a different matter. Vietnam would certainly disagree with that statement, considering the 1000 year colonial domination of Vietnam. It seems that the general teaching in history is that Europeans invented colonialism. It's more accurate to say that it has been a general trait of dominant cultures since the dawn of time and all share the 'guilt' equally.
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Old 12-23-2019, 04:41 PM   #17
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Re: What happened to China?

The Confucian countries of China and Vietnam didn't care about navy and maritime expansion in the past. The first time a Chinese standing navy had been established was in 1132, under the Southern Song dynasty. Similarly, before the Nguyen lords' southward expansion into Champa, the Vietnamese dynasties had controlled only the Gulf of Tonkin
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Old 12-26-2019, 03:29 AM   #18
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Re: What happened to China?

Guys, it's called the great divergence and no historian or academic institution has ever put forward a compelling argument that isolates how it happened. I doubt some speculative posts on 2+2 are going to solve the riddle.

There's a lot of piecemeal bits that are indisputable but basically every holistic approach is very problematic and has a lot of evidence refuting it.

My own belief is that it was a combination of so many different factors, which is exactly why it's so difficult to pin down.

Anyone reading this thread should probably read The Gunpowder Age. It's a very well written and approachable book that tracks the history and spread of gunpowder across the globe and inevitably ties into trying to understand just how the area where this weapon originated ended up becoming dominated by it.

It doesn't provide any overarching conclusion but it's great as a history of gunpowder and for knocking down a lot of common myths created by Hollywood. For example, in an old film about Marco Polo there's a scene where they are using fireworks and Marco tells them "wow this would make an incredible weapon" and he gets naysayed which seeded the belief that the Chinese never used them as weapons etc etc

There's a lot more books specifically on the great divergence but they are more academic in nature and horrible to slog through. The book TP recommended is great but reading that is a painful experience even if it's a topic of interest.

Last edited by rickroll; 12-26-2019 at 03:44 AM.
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Old 01-25-2020, 03:37 PM   #19
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Re: What happened to China?

How long until thread title changes to- what happened to the West
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Old 03-11-2020, 11:24 PM   #20
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Re: What happened to China?

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How long until thread title changes to- what happened to the West
about 350
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