Why did China stagnate after 1400?
If we travel back to 1300, no one would predict the modernization would occur in Europe instead of China. As we can see in the “Appendix 1” behind this essay, during the long period before 1400, China was always the most advanced country on this planet in terms of economy and technology. However, the international configuration changed dramatically in the following five hundred years, as European countries started their expansion to the rest of the world and Industrial Revolution took place in Europe first. On the other side of Eurasia, the external expansion of China stopped after 1433 and this ancient society came into stagnation and retrogression. What were the factors that caused such a tragedy?
China had much stronger bureaucracies than Europe. As we can see in the “Appendix 2”, Chinese emperors established huge bureaucracies to defend their dictatorships. In those days, Chinese people were forced to bear heavy tax burden to supply the huge government expenditure. In Western Europe, the richest group in the society was made up of merchants, who invested their capital in production and improving productivity. Conversely, in China, the emperor and his ruling elites possessed most of the wealth. They had no interest in investment because they could acquire wealth easily by exploiting taxpayer instead of investing in production which involved higher risks and much more efforts. As a result, most of the resources in China were wasted by the bureaucracies on luxury expenditure.
Stagnation in external expansion
From 1405 to 1433, which was Ming dynasty, “Chinese admiral Zheng He undertook voyages of exploration as far as the east coast of Africa.”(Weil 21) However, this great navigator died on his seventh voyage in 1433. From then on, the Ming government abandoned the plan for further exploration. Zheng’s fleet was dismantled and China lost a great opportunity for external expansion....
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