1368: China and the Making of the Modern World

Stanford Univ. Jun. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9781503627475. $28. HIST
Today’s China is a manufacturing powerhouse producing much of the world’s trade goods. Akhtar (Philosophers, Sufis, and Caliphs: Politics and Authority from Cordoba to Cairo and Baghdad) makes the case that this phenomenon is a reoccurrence of China’s manufacturing dominance in international trade before the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, which tipped the balance to Western Europe and the United States. The author traces the history of maritime trade in East Asia from roughly the founding of the Ming Dynasty in 1368 to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. On the eve of Europe’s Age of Exploration, Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian merchants had established intricate trade networks throughout Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. Chinese porcelain, silk, and tea were prized commodities in these trade routes. Rather than inventing this network, the Portuguese, Dutch, and British merchants who came later were operating on routes that had been established long before. A solid companion to Timothy Brook’s Great State: China and the World.
VERDICT Highly recommended for all students of East Asian history.
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