A History of China and How It Lead to the Unique Economic Structure Present Today

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Erin Wynn
November 26, 2012
Final Paper
POLS 5800

China:
A History of Trade and How it Lead to the Unique
Economic Structure Present Today

In schools and universities across America, more people than ever are studying Asian politics and languages. This is a direct result of the economic prosperity that the People’s Republic of China has experienced over the past 30 years. Within that time frame, China has become an economic powerhouse, and is currently home to the world’s second largest economy after the United States of America. (CITE) The success of the People’s Republic of China is not questioned, but their ability to have such a thriving economy is often discussed in political circles due to their unique political and economic structure. The People’s Republic of China has a long history of power economically and in international trade, it is argued that this history, along with several Realist and Liberal arguments and policies have created the economic powerhouse that is China.

Today China is the second largest importer (behind the United States) and the largest exporter in the world. Foreign trade is a huge part of China’s GDP, and their history with foreign trade is dated back to 206 BC (Tignor, Jeremy, and et al). The Silk Road, a product of the Han Dynasty, was a series of trade routes that connected what people then believed to be the entire world. All of Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean and Africa were connected through the Silk Road. It was aptly named for the Chinese silk that was traded along the route, but other goods, services and ideas were traded along the route as well. The bubonic plague, which decimated the populations of Europe, Asia and the Middle East is also have said to been carried along the Silk Road. (Tignor, Jeremy, and et al).

The Song Dynasty, which ruled in tenth century, benefited from the vast trade routes created by their forefathers. China, at the time, was largely agrarian and the trade routes were able to supply different metals and materials in order to make porcelain, and metalwork more efficiently. (Tignor, Jeremy, and et al)Trade flourished, as did agriculture and manufacturing. It was early in the tenth century when Chinese alchemists combined saltpeter and sulfur to create gunpowder. This discovery went a long ways to make the Chinese more formidable on the field of battle as well as in the economic field. (Tignor, Jeremy, and et al)

The trade between nations opened China’s eyes to the diversity of the world, which only served to fuel their sense of self. These lines were solidified as insiders made technological and social advances, seeing themselves as a more civilized group and viewing and treating outsiders as “barbarians.” (Tignor, Jeremy, and et al) The Chinese saw their sophisticated way of life and politics evaporate with the arrival of the Black Death. For 70 years the disease ravaged the people of Asia. The population of the Chinese empire was devastated. The bubonic plague, coupled with the continuous attacks from the Mongols destroyed the Chinese way to life and made way for the rise of the Ming Dynasty. (Tignor, Jeremy, and et al)

The Ming Dynasty created an imperialist nation based on the home and run by bureaucracy. The emperor, Hongwu realized he had an entire nation to rebuild from the ground up, so he sought to give power to his relatives in order to keep power centralized within the family. Once his family because abusing their power, he stripped them of it and established a true bureaucracy, in which people won their appointments by doing well on a civil service examination rather than by what favors they could supply. (Tignor, Jeremy, and et al)

In the fourteenth century, amidst China’s economic and political recovery, trade was allowed to recover. The sea trade became a powerful economic driver in China and once again silks, porcelain and agriculture were being freely traded between Europe, Asia and Africa. (Tignor, Jeremy, and et al)...
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