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Like the Japanese daimyo, European states encouraged piracy and armed expansion overseas. But whereas Japan's Warring States period lasted a century, Europe's did not end until To understand European colonization in East Asia we must begin with the Portuguese, who blazed the trail. In , the Portuguese captured the famous port of Melaka the gateway to East and Southeast Asian trade. Their conquest was facilitated by some Chinese merchants and, indeed, soon thereafter the Portuguese sailed to China itself.

Ming officials, however, considered the Portuguese, or "Farangi," to be usurpers because the deposed king of Melaka had been a loyal tributary. So the Portuguese were banned from China. In , however, two Portuguese castaways landed in Japann and learned that the Japanese were eager to trade silver for Chinese silks. Thereafter, the Portuguese redoubled their efforts to gain access to China.

If the Portuguese could themselves buy Chinese silk, they could make a fortune. But how could they persuade Chinese officials to admit them? In , a clever Portuguese merchant learned that Chinese officials in Canton Guangzhou did not enforce the Ming Maritime Prohibition; foreigners could trade there, "except for the Farangi, who were people with filthy hearts. The ruse worked, and by , the Portuguese established their colony of Macao, near the silk markets of Canton. Cantonese officials kept a careful watch on their guests. There was little agricultural land on the Macao side, and so the Portuguese depended on food from China, which could be cut off if officials felt that their guests were misbehaving.

Nonetheless the colony prospered. Silk ships called carracks or naos departed Macao each summer and arrived in Japan twelve to thirty days later. They returned in November or December, filled with silver.

Thus established in China and Japan, the Portuguese had, in effect, been civilized. They did not try to impose on Chinese or Japanese merchants the aggressive system they had instituted in the Indian Ocean, a system whereby Asian traders were required to buy passes or suffer attack from Portuguese patrols. As the Portuguese were winding their way round Africa and through the Indian Ocean, the Spanish approached East Asia from the opposite direction.

The Spanish Crown, like the Portuguese, supported overseas adventures, bankrolling the expeditions of Christopher Columbus and encouraging the conquest of the Aztecs and Incas in the first half of the sixteenth century. In , King Philip II sent an expedition to conquer the islands that came to bear his name: the Philippines. The city of Manila was founded in , and it grew rapidly, thanks to Chinese traders who bought silver carried across the Pacific by the famous Manila galleons.

In return for their silver the citizens of Manila received silk from China, which they in turn sold in the Spanish American colonies or, sometimes, in Spain itself. But Manila's prosperity was soon threatened by a new power. In the early seventeenth century the Dutch arrived in East Asia, determined to wrest trade away from Spain and Portugal. The United Provinces of the Netherlands had declared independence from Spain in , a key episode of the long struggle known as the Eighty Years War. Part of Dutch strategy was to strike at Spain's colonies. Because Portugal was during that period also under Spanish rule, its colonies were considered fair game too.

In , a man named Jan Huygen van Linschoten published the famous book Itinerario , a description of his travels throughout the Indies while he was in the employ of the Portuguese. The first Dutch expedition to the Spice Islands returned to Holland in Only one of its five ships survived the voyage, but it carried enough spices to pay for the entire expedition. Dutch investors immediately founded dozens of East India companies. The companies competed with each other fiercely, driving down each others' profits. This solved the problem of intra-Dutch competition and, more important, created a powerful economic weapon against Spain and Portugal, because the VOC was encouraged to make money by attacking Spanish and Portuguese colonies.

To help it fight, it received from the Estates General rights usually reserved to sovereign states: The right to wage war and the right to make treaties with foreign powers. The Estates General in effect created an enormous, publicly traded, state-sanctioned colonial enterprise. Thanks to such support, the company grew rapidly.

After establishing its Asian headquarters in Batavia, current-day Jakarta, it launched a series of expeditions to gain control of Southeast and East Asian trade. In it sent a fleet to try to capture Macao from the Portuguese, but Macao held its own, having been fortified with Spanish troops. Fujianese officials, however, demanded that the Dutch withdraw and suggested that they settle on Taiwan instead.

Spanish officials in Manila decided that the Dutch fortress must be countered, so in they established a Spanish colony in northern Taiwan. Thus the Netherlands and Spain rather than China or Japan established Taiwan's first formal colonies because the Dutch and Spanish states, locked in bitter rivalry, were eagerly expanding their maritime endeavors while the Chinese and Japanese states were trying to prevent their citizens from trading abroad. Had either China or Japan been willing to support its subjects' proclivities toward maritime expansion, there would have been little room for European expansion in Taiwan.

Perhaps, one might argue, Europeans owed their success in East Asia not to state support but to military superiority. European ships bristled with cannon and were extremely effective against East Asian vessels. But this is perhaps likely due to the fact that the Chinese government discouraged shipbuilding—especially military shipbuilding. War junks produced in China in the early Ming period were far more powerful than those being produced when the Europeans arrived.

Had Chinese mariners had access to early-Ming-style warships, they might have been able to counterbalance European naval power. Similarly, the shoguns of Japan, after a brief period in which they sought to foster shipbuilding, discouraged it after Europeans also possessed an advantage when it came to fortresses. The celebrated trace italienne buttressed many a European colony, and it was remarkably difficult to besiege. European fortresses were indeed superior to native fortifications in many parts of the world but not, it appears, in East Asia, where gunpowder weapons had originated.

China's cities were protected by huge, thick walls, impervious to early-modern artillery fire. And the Japanese developed—perhaps independently—fortresses similar to the trace italienne , using defense-in-depth principles. Given the sophistication of East Asian manufacturing techniques, any design deficits were easily compensated for. As for infantry gunpowder weapons, Europeans had an advantage here as well, but, again, it was slight and fleeting. When Portuguese castaways showed their muskets to curious Japanese in , the latter were soon making outstanding copies. And Japanese armies appear to have developed advanced musketry tactics well before Europeans did.

Even in , after decades of peace, Japan was capable of mobilizing and supporting a professional-caliber army of at least , troops, and probably had a mobilization potential of nearly 1 million.


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Given that Japan's population was around 12 million, this far exceeds the mobilization capacity of seventeenth-century European states. And so, although Europeans possessed a slight military advantage against East Asians, it was not enough to explain the success of European colonialism and the relative absence of overseas colonialism undertaken by East Asian powers. Perhaps, then, Europeans owed their success to superior financial institutions. Stock companies allowed the Dutch, and later the English, to raise huge amounts of capital, which conferred an advantage on European merchants.

European Nations Nakialam na sa South China Sea!

Moreover, other commercial institutions, such as bookkeeping practices, letters of credit, and banking practices, also helped Europeans create and administer global economic structures. This is most striking in the case of the Chinese. Even after Europeans established colonies throughout East and Southeast Asia, it was Chinese merchants who dominated maritime trade in the region. Chinese traders carried far more in value and volume than did Siamese, Japanese, English, Dutch, Spanish, or Portuguese traders.

Indeed, the propensity of historians to focus on European colonial expansion has tended to exaggerate European exceptionalism. If we adopt a more global perspective, we see that after the mid-fifteenth century, Europe, the Indian Ocean region, Southeast Asia, and East Asia all experienced synchronous growth in international commerce.


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Historian Anthony Reid calls this period the Age of Commerce. He defines it as lasting from the fifteenth century until the middle of the seventeenth and argues that its boom years were the period —, when a truly global trade emerged. We can glimpse the structure of the new global trade by focusing on its most important commodity: silver. In a Spanish official wrote that "China… is the general center for the silver of Europe and Asia. During the sixteenth century, silver production and trade increased dramatically and, although the metal moved through a web of networks, most of it ended up in China.

Indeed, China became a global "silver sink," drawing the metal from all over the world. Taiwan lay directly athwart the trade route between Japan and southern China.

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The island therefore became a favorite meeting place for Chinese and Japanese traders, who were forbidden to meet by the Chinese government. The Dutch decided to settle on Taiwan for precisely the same reason: It was an ideal place from which to partake of the Sino-Japanese trade silk-for-silver trade. The Spanish, for their part, also became interested in Taiwan because of silver—not to buy it but to protect their own silver-trade routes. Spanish America was the world's largest silver producer, and nearly half of its silver went to China.

So the Spanish decided to occupy Taiwan at once, in the belief that they could thereby protect Sino-Spanish trade in Manila. Yet the Europeans did not have an easy time in Taiwan. Consider the experiences of one of the first Europeans who lived there. Elie Ripon, a Swiss man, went to Taiwan in as part of an advance Dutch force and was nearly killed by aborigines, who, it appears, were incited by Chinese traders. Fortunately for us, he survived to write an account of his adventures, which was discovered centuries later in a Swiss attic.

Let us turn now to his story. See also C. Frank H. Knight New York: Greenberg, The much-discussed Protestant Ethic is only a minor part of Weber's general theory of capitalism, which focuses on institutions and practices that impede or foster calculability. Milde, and Ts'ao Yung-ho, 4 vols. The Hague: Instituut voor Nederlandse Geschiedenis, — , — Henceforth I will refer to these four volumes as Zeelandia Dagregisters.

Note 5: Recently some intellectual pioneers have begun focusing on non-western colonialism, a vital and important task. Note 6: I am of course referring to Eric R. I hope that I have succeeded here in following his injunction "to see the world as a totality, a system, instead of as a sum of self-contained societies and cultures. Note 7: Recent work on Dutch population history puts the Dutch population around 1.

Note Much ink has been spilled on the question of the Ming tribute system. John K. Fairbank Cambridge: Harvard University Press, , 34— See also the essays in The Ming Dynasty, —, Part 1 , ed. Frederick W. Mote and Denis Twitchett, vol. Denis Twitchett and John K.

Fairbank and S. Teng's classic work on the Qing tribute system also contains important information about the Ming system: J. For an argument about the effects of these prohibitions on southeastern China's economy, see William G. Skinner perhaps overemphasizes the role of Portuguese traders in reinvigorating the region's trade. As we will see below, Chinese smuggling also played a large role. Note They were also doubtless oriented toward religious ends.

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Remove From Wishlist Cancel. Asia is largely oil dependent, and if development continues at its present rate, is expected to consume as much as 95 percent of all Mideast crude oil, which will lead to a large increase in traffic through the sea's chokepoints. If offshore oil fields in the center of the South China Sea are ever developed, tense and longstanding territorial disputes over the Spratly and Paracel Islands will likely flare, dragging the region into a potentially dangerous conflict. Oil or no oil, trade and shipping will inevitably grow, and with it, piracy, which currently thrives and continues to worsen.

Globalization threatens to exacerbate these problems, though the imperative for solutions may grow in tandem with the world's dependence upon the region for resources, production, and as one of the world's key shipping interchanges. Catley, Bob, and Keliat, Makmur. Singapore: Ashgate, Hall, Kenneth R. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, Kivimaki, Tivo, ed. War or Peace in the South China Sea? Lombard, Denys. Lombard, Denys, and Aubin, Jean, eds.

Oxford, U. Manguin, Pierre-Yves.

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Reid, Anthony. Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce. Souza, George. Cambridge, U. Valencia, Mark J. Sharing the Resources of the South China Sea. Wang Gungwu. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, Warren, James Francis. Kent Ridge: Singapore University Press, Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. September 25, Retrieved September 25, from Encyclopedia.