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Old January 19th, 2011, 12:39 PM   #1
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Why didn't the Asians expand and colonize?


Throughout most of history up until the 17th or even 18th century the far East and especially the countries that existed in place of modern day China were more developed or at least more organized, large as a population and had advanced naval technologies. Why didn't in that case they expand in any direction? Why didn't they colonize the lands to the north for example, that the russians had to cross whole of Asia to reach? Why didn't they move in direction of Australia and New Zealand or America? They did fight between each other and therefore surely would benefit from expansion and colonial possessions, so why didn't they do that? And my second question is - even if they didn't really need to expand, why weren't there at least private adventurers that would venture into the unknown just out of curiosity or glory like so many Europeans? Why didn't they care what lay beyond the ocean to the east?
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Old January 19th, 2011, 01:00 PM   #2

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Originally Posted by Krystian View Post
Throughout most of history up until the 17th or even 18th century the far East and especially the countries that existed in place of modern day China were more developed or at least more organized, large as a population and had advanced naval technologies. Why didn't in that case they expand in any direction? Why didn't they colonize the lands to the north for example, that the russians had to cross whole of Asia to reach? Why didn't they move in direction of Australia and New Zealand or America? They did fight between each other and therefore surely would benefit from expansion and colonial possessions, so why didn't they do that? And my second question is - even if they didn't really need to expand, why weren't there at least private adventurers that would venture into the unknown just out of curiosity or glory like so many Europeans? Why didn't they care what lay beyond the ocean to the east?
Why would they? They had no real reasons and also no real motivation. Modern Day China is also roughly the same as past China. China did send the expeditions of Zheng He but finally lost interest in such endeavours. Why wouldn't they? They had no need to open up to the world, they had everything they wanted right there in what they considered the centre of the world. And there was largescale migration of Chinese as well mind you, but that was in SE-Asia, mind you again, that's a big region all the same. Unlike in Europe, Asia lacked those incentives that drove men to venture far and wide. They did travel far and wide in Asia, illegally but that could hardly be stopped. Private ventures to sail across the ocean are also something that would require a lot of preparation and would hardly go unnoticed.
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Old January 19th, 2011, 01:06 PM   #3

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Originally Posted by Krystian View Post
Throughout most of history up until the 17th or even 18th century the far East and especially the countries that existed in place of modern day China were more developed or at least more organized, large as a population and had advanced naval technologies. Why didn't in that case they expand in any direction? Why didn't they colonize the lands to the north for example, that the russians had to cross whole of Asia to reach? Why didn't they move in direction of Australia and New Zealand or America? They did fight between each other and therefore surely would benefit from expansion and colonial possessions, so why didn't they do that? And my second question is - even if they didn't really need to expand, why weren't there at least private adventurers that would venture into the unknown just out of curiosity or glory like so many Europeans? Why didn't they care what lay beyond the ocean to the east?

there was nothing to get in the north,
they did raid vietnam every now and then,
and ehm... I gues an important factor was also that they saw anyone who wasnt from China as a barbarian and a bit like we see the chimpansee
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Old January 19th, 2011, 01:09 PM   #4

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Originally Posted by Krystian View Post
Throughout most of history up until the 17th or even 18th century the far East and especially the countries that existed in place of modern day China were more developed or at least more organized, large as a population and had advanced naval technologies. Why didn't in that case they expand in any direction? Why didn't they colonize the lands to the north for example, that the russians had to cross whole of Asia to reach? Why didn't they move in direction of Australia and New Zealand or America? They did fight between each other and therefore surely would benefit from expansion and colonial possessions, so why didn't they do that? And my second question is - even if they didn't really need to expand, why weren't there at least private adventurers that would venture into the unknown just out of curiosity or glory like so many Europeans? Why didn't they care what lay beyond the ocean to the east?
Because of the earth's rotation.

The prevailing winds blow east to west.
Click the image to open in full size.

The Chinese went as far west as the east coast of Africa under Zheng He and the treasure fleet 1413-1430.
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Old January 19th, 2011, 01:09 PM   #5

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Because of the earth's rotation.

The prevailing winds blow east to west.


The Chinese went as far west as the east coast of Africa under Zheng He and the treasure fleet 1413-1430.
The Manila Fleet could do it couldn't they? So that's no sufficient explanation. If they really wanted it they should've gone copypasta with the Europeans.
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Old January 19th, 2011, 01:13 PM   #6

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The faction that supported Zheng He soon fell out of grace at the imperial court, seaworthy naval vessels were forbidden and the story was out.

Quote:
Zheng He's voyages, unlike European voyages of exploration later in the fifteenth century, were not intended to extend Chinese sovereignty overseas. Indicative of the competition among elites, these excursions had also become politically controversial. Zheng He's voyages had been supported by his fellow low eunuchs at court and strongly opposed by the Confucian scholar officials. Their antagonism was in fact so great that they tried to suppress any mention of the naval expeditions in the official imperial record. A compromise interpretation realizes that the Mongol raids tilted the balance in the favor of the Confucian elites.
By the end of the fifteenth century, imperial subjects were forbidden from either building oceangoing ships or leaving the country. The consensus among historians of the early 21st century is that this measure was taken in response to piracy and in any case restrictions on emigration and ship building were largely lifted by the mid-17th century.
Ming dynasty - Definition
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Old January 19th, 2011, 01:32 PM   #7

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I have always thought about why the Chinese didn't decide to colonize/conquer. They certainly were advanced enough and had the manpower.

As somebody else said though, they saw Europeans as lower than them, so why bother even talking with them if they didn't have to. It wasn't like China was a tiny nation with no room to spread out. It is one of those nice 'what if' type questions though. How would a large Chinese 14/15th century army have faired against a European one.

As many holes as there are in the book 1421, it still paints a nice picture of how advance China was compared to Europe.
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Old January 19th, 2011, 01:37 PM   #8
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there was nothing to get in the north,
they did raid vietnam every now and then,
and ehm... I gues an important factor was also that they saw anyone who wasnt from China as a barbarian and a bit like we see the chimpansee
If there was nothing to gain in the north than why did the russians bother so much crossing that huge space to colonize those territories? Weren't there natural resources such as iron, gold and bronze that were also valuable in China? And doesn't seeing the other people as barbarians or chimpanzees actually encourage someone to expand, thinking it will be easy subjugating them and taking their land/resources like the Europeans taught and eventually did with the native Americans and Africans?
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Old January 19th, 2011, 01:40 PM   #9

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Asians did expand, all across the Indonesian, Micronesian, Melanesian and Polynesian islands.

They went to America earlier than any European did.

*facepalm* at my earlier post!!
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Old January 19th, 2011, 01:53 PM   #10

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Well the voyages of Zheng He were primarily aimed at contacting and squeezing tribute from new client kingdoms while establishing diplomatic connections; they weren't colonial in the same way later European voyages were. China had done fine for thousands of years as a relatively monolithic culture and had a quite simple way of gaining tribute. Early Han Chinese had conquered other groups' land and had semi-colonial relations with parts of SE Asia, but there was no real reason for Chinese to move as radically as we see in Europe. I'm not particularly familiar with the Chinese political environment at the time of European colonization, but I would guess there was not enough turmoil to warrant minority groups to want to settle in other lands similar to the religious minorities of Europe.

Europe's position was quite unique in that it was divided into many nation states that were in competition with each other and Europe's resources were quite bland. In the interests of trading for foreign goods, Europeans' colonization of the Americas was important because the physical land of Europe didn't bring forth many things that Indians or Chinese would really want to trade for, plus after the fall of Constantinople, Christendom's trading interests began to favor to take to the sea anyway.

Really the European circumstances were unique. Political structures don't necessarily need to expand at all costs, but the need to branch out in trade and turmoil after the reformation in Europe gave European powers powerful incentives to set up subsidiary territories in the Americas.
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