The Resurgence of Chinese Power and the Coming of Islam
In this article the author argues that: “the establishment of the Ming dynasty constituted an age of Chinese ascendancy, largely the result of the aggressive foreign policies of the early Ming emperors and their successful reassertion of the tribute system” (181). The main point is that there were lots of impressive decisions and discoveries made that promoted the authority of the emperor to the highest level as well as lots of pity mistakes that diminished the possible gains. From the author’s point of view and as human experience suggests, no people’s hegemony lasts forever and the Chinese history gives us perfect example.
Zhu Yuanzhang managed to collect some of disunited Chinese states and proclaimed himself the Hangwu emperor of China, founder of the Ming dynasty. He immediately started reforming the government structure and took care of establishing Chinese superiority over all other nations, but failed to pay attention to the state protection against foreign enemies. The author states that the emperor believed that there was no threat to China except the Mongols. However, other nations also played their games with the Ming and tried to avoid the major power’s manipulation. It was Yuanzhang’s mistake to pay so much attention to internal affairs and self-empowerment neglecting foreign actors.
The Chinese emperor developed tribute system devoted both to ascertain his superiority over others nations’ rulers and to establish international relations promoting trade. The author asserts that this system proved to be effective. However, on the very first stages some neighbors tried to avoid sending tribute missions and perform necessary rituals. Among such nations were Koryo and Japan. As the article tells later, calculating the benefits of the Chinese market they could receive, these nations soon understood that they could sacrifice their ambitions and principles for huge trade benefits. The stubborn peoples of the borderlands were the most troublesome for the Ming. Focusing on the Chinese example, one may also observe early attempts to make some nations “Chinese.” The Vietnamese decided to sacrifice their economic well-being but keep their culture and dignity. This situation created a powerful resistance movement.
The article states that that-time rulers could not realize that nation needed integrity. It could have being provided by religion. The coming of Islam that made neighbor nations stronger was a result of vacuum that needed to be filled. At that time Islam with its moral aspects and principles provided framework for developing trade relations. Nations also implemented strategy of “divide and rule” aiming at contributing to conflicts between their enemies. Thus, the Chinese empire felt safe when the Mongols eastern and western tribes became disintegrated.
However, the Chinese authorities failed to understand the key factors that could have made the empire stronger. They were interested in short-term perspective unable to understand the significance of the great naval expeditions of Zheng He. Instead they focused on the political aspects of maintaining dependable nations. “Trade was considered an integral part of the tribute system and as such was perceived as an imperial prerogative” states Cohen (181). Yongle sponsored naval missions and after his death the Chinese navy became disintegrated and declined. Lack of control and policy-making led to creation of considerable private trade. The role of the state was diminished and it gained only little profit of it.
Cohen, Warren I. East Asia at the Center. Four Hundred Years of Engagement with the World. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. Print.