Why Xi Won’t Repeat Ming Dynasty Mistakes
The Ming were not obsessed with gold and spices. For them, trade should be based on equitable exchange, under the framework of the tribute. As Joseph Needham conclusively proved in works such as Science and Civilization in China, the Europeans wanted Asian products way more than Orientals wanted European products, “and the only way to pay for them was gold.”
For the Portuguese, the “discovered” lands were all potential colonization territory. And for that the few colonizers needed slaves. For the Chinese, slavery amounted to domestic chores at best. For the Europeans, it was all about the massive exploitation of a workforce in the fields and in mines, especially concerning black populations in Africa.
In Asia, in contrast to Chinese diplomacy, the Europeans went for massacre. Via torture and mutilations, Vasco da Gama and other Portuguese colonizers deployed a real war of terror against civilian populations.
This absolutely major structural difference is at the root of the world- system and the geo-historical organization of our world, as analyzed by crack geographers such as Christian Grataloup and Paul Pelletier. Asian nations did not have to manage – or to suffer – the painful repercussions of slavery.
So in the space of only a few decades the Chinese abdicated from closer relations with Southeast Asia, India and Eastern Africa. The Ming fleet was destroyed. China abandoned overseas trade and retreated unto itself to focus on agriculture.
Communist China is strong on soft power and economics plus diplomacy, rather then sheer force, threats and illegal military empire escapades, which the US is using.