Chinese maritime activities and socioeconomic development, c. 2100 B.C.-1900 A.D.


    • Deng, Gang


Chinese maritime activities and socioeconomic development, c. 2100 B.C.-1900 A.D.

Gang Deng ; foreword by Ramon H. Myers

(Contributions in economics and economic history, no. 188)

Greenwood Press, 1997

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Includes bibliographical references (p. [181]-210) and index



China's long-term maritime history has been overlooked by the scholarly community, so much so that there is a misconception that the Chinese were sea- or ocean-phobic. This image has been promoted rather deliberately because a sailing-aversive China would fit in well with the non-capitalist development framework. This study shows that from 2100 B.C. to A.D. 1900, the Chinese were as enthusiastic about and capable of seagoing activities as other peoples. Evidence shows that economic interests provided Chinese sailing-related activities with a lasting impetus, and the private sector played a central role. However, maritime activities in China raise at least two paradoxes: the activities were incompatible with the agrarian dominance in the Chinese premodern economy, and there was a huge gap between China's maritime potential and maritime growth. This situation was symptomatic of both positive and negative effects of technical and economic aspects of premodern China. Technologically, limited maritime growth resulted from climatic and hydrographic conditions favorable to agriculture. Economically, it resulted from low Chinese participation in maritime activities because of safe returns from the agricultural sector. This book provides readers with a long-term analysis of Chinese maritime activities and their economic consequences in industries, infrastructure, trade, migration, and government policies. It shows a new insight into the causes for sterility of capitalist industrialization in premodern China.


Foreword by Ramon H. Myers Preface Introduction Background: Environment and Maritime Activities Physical Environment Maritime-Activity Types Evolution of Chinese Maritime Technology Observations Development of China's Maritime Technology Comparison Supply of Ships Quantitative Estimation Ship Supply and Resource Scarcity Trade Types and Agents Maritime Trade Types Maritime Merchants Markets and Trade Patterns Markets and Returns Trade Patterns Aftermath of the Change Nature of the Change Interpretations of the Change Urbanization, Migration, and Technological Dissemination Urbanization of the Coastal Region Migration by Sea Technological Dissemination by Sea Conclusion: China's Performance and Path Dependency China's Overall Maritime Performance China's Paradoxes and Path Dependency Final Remarks Appendix A: Rare Illustrations of Chinese Traditional Ships Appendix B: Chinese Sea Merchants Trading with Japan, 1641-1772 Appendix C: Monetary Systems in Chinese History Appendix D: Densely Populated Prefectures in Ming-Qing Times Glossary References Index

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