Admiral Zheng

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pages: 537 words: 149,628

Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War by P. W. Singer, August Cole


3D printing, Admiral Zheng, augmented reality, British Empire, energy security, Firefox, glass ceiling, global reserve currency, Google Earth, Google Glasses, IFF: identification friend or foe, Just-in-time delivery, Maui Hawaii, new economy, RAND corporation, reserve currency, RFID, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, stealth mode startup, trade route, Wall-E, We are Anonymous. We are Legion, zero day

As she closed in, the ball of blue began to separate, becoming a dozen small triangular blue icons dancing along the horizon. Friendly forces. A lot of them. The tab associated with the cluster winked at her: TF Longboard. As she zoomed out from the cluster of blue, she noticed that a single blue dot was a few hundred miles ahead of it; it had a Z for an icon. Admiral Zheng He, Four Hundred and Fifty Miles Southeast of Kamchatka Peninsula The Admiral Zheng He pushed through the Pacific swell, each wave slapping the flagship of the joint Directorate-Russian task force, almost like slow applause. The ship’s namesake was the second son of a lowly rebel captured by Ming Dynasty forces and castrated at the age of eleven. The young eunuch had been trained as a soldier. But by navigating the perilous politics of the age, he rose to distinguish himself, eventually becoming taijian, grand director of the palace servants.

His fleet carried twenty-eight thousand soldiers and sailors in over three hundred ships, with his nine-masted flagship being the largest ship ever built in the age of sail. As it traveled from Asia to Arabia and Africa, the massive fleet cowed some kingdoms into submission and defeated the few that chose to fight. By the end of the voyages, Admiral Zheng He had created the first transoceanic empire, a ring of some thirty vassal states with China at the center. Subsequent emperors would turn away from the sea, preventing future voyages. Imperial China grew progressively weaker and eventually suffered the indignity of becoming a vassal to others. The greatness of the age became an embarrassment, as did the memory of Admiral Zheng. Not anymore. At 603 feet, almost as long as the Zumwalt, the ship was officially classified as a cruiser, but it was a battleship by any of the old measures. Initial work on the vessel had begun back during the Communist Party days, and Americans had first learned of it when a picture was leaked to Chinese Internet chatrooms showing a massive mockup ship being built hundreds of miles inland at the test range in Wuhan.

“Redirect the drone flight at them?” said the tactical officer. “No, taking out the enemy’s remaining carriers is more important than even us,” said Simmons. “Proceed as planned.” The drones flew onward past the surface ships, indifferent to both the tension that this bypass caused the American fleet and the relief it gave to the surface ships below. Admiral Zheng He Bridge The shouting on the bridge of the Admiral Zheng He subsided as the aircraft flew on. It had not been visible, but radar had initially picked it up at over thirteen miles overhead. They tried to shoot it out of the sky but it was impossible to get a radar lock. That it had not come in low pointed to its being one of the Americans’ surveillance aircraft, perhaps one of their rumored high-altitude drones. They passed on the information to the aircraft carrier element’s combat air patrol and ordered a pair of fighters to intercept.

pages: 790 words: 150,875

Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson


Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, Atahualpa, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, BRICs, British Empire, clean water, collective bargaining, colonial rule, conceptual framework, Copley Medal, corporate governance, credit crunch, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Dean Kamen, delayed gratification, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, European colonialism, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francisco Pizarro, full employment, Hans Lippershey, haute couture, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, invention of movable type, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, land reform, land tenure, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, market bubble, Martin Wolf, means of production, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, rent-seeking, reserve currency, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, spice trade, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, The Great Moderation, the market place, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, total factor productivity, trade route, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, upwardly mobile, uranium enrichment, wage slave, Washington Consensus, women in the workforce, World Values Survey

The clubs were inlaid with jade and gold, suggesting that golf, then as now, was a game for the well-off. And that was not all. As a new century dawned in 1400, China was poised to achieve another technological breakthrough, one that had the potential to make the Yongle Emperor the master not just of the Middle Kingdom, but of the world itself – literally ‘All under heaven’. In Nanjing today you can see a full-size replica of the treasure ship of Admiral Zheng He, the most famous sailor in Chinese history. It is 400 feet long – nearly five times the size of the Santa María, in which Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic in 1492. And this was only part of a fleet of more than 300 huge ocean-going junks. With multiple masts and separate buoyancy chambers to prevent them from sinking in the event of a hole below the waterline, these ships were far larger than anything being built in fifteenth-century Europe.

The West’s ascendancy was confirmed in June 1842, when Royal Naval gunboats sailed up the Yangzi to the Grand Canal in retaliation for the destruction of opium stocks by a zealous Chinese official. China had to pay an indemnity of 21 million silver dollars, open five ports to British trade and cede the island of Hong Kong. It was ironic but appropriate that this first of the so-called ‘Unequal Treaties’ was signed in Nanjing, at the Jinghai Temple – originally built in honour of Admiral Zheng He and Tianfei, the Goddess of the Sea, who had watched over him and his fleet more than four centuries before. They are building ships again in China – vast ships capable of circumnavigating the globe, leaving with containers full of Chinese manufactures and bringing back the raw materials necessary to feed the country’s insatiably growing industrial economy. When I visited the biggest shipyard in Shanghai in June 2010, I was staggered by the sheer size of the vessels under construction.

The scene made the Glasgow docks of my boyhood pale into insignificance. In the factories of Wenzhou, workers churn out suits by the hundred thousand and plastic pens by the million. And the waters of the Yangzi are constantly churned by countless barges piled high with coal, cement and ore. Competition, companies, markets, trade – these are things that China once turned its back on. Not any more. Today, Admiral Zheng He, the personification of Chinese expansionism and for so long forgotten, is a hero in China. In the words of the greatest economic reformer of the post-Mao era, Deng Xiaoping: No country that wishes to become developed today can pursue closed-door policies. We have tasted this bitter experience and our ancestors have tasted it. In the early Ming Dynasty in the reign of Yongle when Zheng He sailed the Western Ocean, our country was open.

pages: 565 words: 164,405

A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World by William J. Bernstein


Admiral Zheng, asset allocation, bank run, Benoit Mandelbrot, British Empire, call centre, clean water, Columbian Exchange, Corn Laws, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, Doha Development Round, domestication of the camel, double entry bookkeeping, Eratosthenes, financial innovation, Gini coefficient, ice-free Arctic, imperial preference, income inequality, intermodal, James Hargreaves, John Harrison: Longitude, Khyber Pass, low skilled workers, non-tariff barriers, placebo effect, Port of Oakland, refrigerator car, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, spice trade, spinning jenny, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade liberalization, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, upwardly mobile, working poor

For nearly the next millennium, Muslim seafaring ran well ahead of Muslim conquest and conversion. Astoundingly, by the mid-eighth century, barely a hundred years after the death of the Prophet, thousands of Muslim (likely Persian) traders had arrived not only in Chinese coastal ports, but in Chinese inland cities as well.38 By contrast, the first large Chinese oceangoing junks did not venture into the Indian Ocean until about AD 1000, and the legendary eunuch admiral Zheng He would not sail his massive fleet to Sri Lanka and Zanzibar for another four hundred years after that. Arabic was the lingua franca of the new empire, and Muslim navies patrolled ports and sea-lanes from Gibraltar to Sri Lanka. By the ninth century, Islamic rulers in central Asia had established contact with Volga Khazars, and through them, the Scandinavians; in the East, Muslim contact with China grew brisk via both the Silk Road and maritime routes, and North African traders sent caravans south across the Sahara.

Until the modern era, even in time of war, the microbe has usually proved a deadlier weapon than the sword against both soldier and civilian, and it seems most reasonable to blame the plague for the decline in population in China between these two dates. The decreased tax revenues from the shrunken Chinese population contributed in no small part to the withdrawal of the Middle Kingdom's navy from the Indian Ocean after the eunuch admiral Zheng He's last voyage in 1433. The nearly total destruction of Egypt's trading and industrial structure, the disappearance of the Mongols from the world stage, and the withdrawal of China from the Indian Ocean created a vacuum that Europe-the last man standing, if just barely-filled only too happily. Yersinia pestis, which had helped smooth the way for the rise of Muslim power by attacking the Byzantine and Persian empires in the sixth and seventh centuries, greased the skids of Islamic decline in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

This Tang Dynasty (ca. ninth century AD) ceramic was found in the tomb of a Chinese Silk Road merchant. By courtes.v of the Field Museum, Chicago. Marco Polo's fantastical but true tales of places where widows threw themselves on their husbands' funeral pyres. where hashish-addled assassins thought themselves in heaven. and where the sun never set in summer nor rose in winter evoked widespread ridicule in Europe. The modern government of China has revived the story of eunuch admiral Zheng He's seven massive expeditions into the Indian Ocean in the fifteenth century in order to demonstrate its peaceful intentions in the twenty-first century. Be courtesy of David Kootnikof f, Doge Enrico Dandolo saw the Fourth Crusade as a threat to Venice's spice trade with Egypt. He sabotaged the expedition and at age ninety led its remaining forces in the sacking of Constantinople. From the Granger Collection, New York.

pages: 363 words: 101,082

Earth Wars: The Battle for Global Resources by Geoff Hiscock


Admiral Zheng, Asian financial crisis, Bakken shale, Bernie Madoff, BRICs, butterfly effect, clean water, cleantech, corporate governance, demographic dividend, Deng Xiaoping, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, energy security, energy transition, eurozone crisis, Exxon Valdez, flex fuel, global rebalancing, global supply chain, hydraulic fracturing, Long Term Capital Management, Malacca Straits, Masdar, megacity, Menlo Park, Mohammed Bouazizi, new economy, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, Panamax, purchasing power parity, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Silicon Valley, smart grid, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, spice trade, trade route, uranium enrichment, urban decay, working-age population, Yom Kippur War

From Europe, the intrepid Franciscan monk Giovanni da Pian del Carpine had travelled overland to the Mongol court in 1246, and Marco Polo, his father, and uncle (probably) had been as far as the Chinese imperial capital of Beijing by the late thirteenth century. In the other direction, the Ming dynasty emperor Yongle had sent massive fleets from China west to India and beyond, beginning in 1405 with a 62-ship convoy that reached Calicut on the southwest coast of India. At least seven fleets under the overall command of Admiral Zheng He sailed out from the China coast in search of treasure, tribute, and geographic knowledge, reaching as far west as the coast of Africa, into the Red Sea, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Persian Gulf. The last voyage set out in 1432 and returned to Nanjing in 1434 after reaching Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. Zheng He died in 1433 on the return leg. China clearly had the technology to mount massive voyages of discovery, but there was no religious or commercial imperative to do so.

A thousand years ago, trading vessels would make their way from India east across that part of the Indian Ocean known as the Andaman Sea, into the Malacca Strait and on to Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula, often stopping at the capital of the Srivijaya empire (Palembang) before turning north to Tonkin and the Chinese ports of Beihai, Guangzhou, Quanzhou, Zhangzhou, and Xiamen (Amoy) and Ningbo. Guangzhou, the biggest port of them all, lies at the head of the Pearl River Delta and has a history dating back 3,000 years. As early as the Tang dynasty (618–907 ce) it was home to thriving communities of Indian and Arab traders. Long before the great fifteenth century, Chinese armadas sailed out from Taicang (a port area near Shanghai) under the command of Admiral Zheng He to explore the “western oceans” and trade with Southeast Asia, India, Africa, the Middle East, and (possibly) the Mediterranean states. Guangzhou was the busiest entrepôt on the Chinese coast. It gained further prominence from the sixteenth century onwards as first the Portuguese and then a succession of other European seafarers came calling, looking for exotic goods to take back to their bases in India.

pages: 374 words: 114,660

The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality by Angus Deaton


Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Branko Milanovic, BRICs, British Empire, call centre, clean water, colonial exploitation, Columbian Exchange, declining real wages, Downton Abbey, financial innovation, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, illegal immigration, income inequality, invention of agriculture, invisible hand, John Snow's cholera map, knowledge economy, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, new economy, purchasing power parity, randomized controlled trial, rent-seeking, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, Simon Kuznets, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, structural adjustment programs, The Spirit Level, too big to fail, trade route, very high income, War on Poverty

The other side of the same Industrial Revolution is what historians call the “Great Divergence,” when Britain, followed a little later by northwestern Europe and North America, pulled away from the rest of the world, creating the enormous gulf between the West and the rest that has not closed to this day.2 Today’s global inequality was, to a large extent, created by the success of modern economic growth. We should not think that, prior to the Industrial Revolution, the rest of the world had always been backward and desperately poor. Decades before Columbus, China was advanced and rich enough to send a fleet of enormous ships under Admiral Zheng He—aircraft carriers relative to Columbus’s rowboats—to explore the Indian Ocean.3 Three hundred years before even that, the city of Kaifeng was a smoke-filled metropolis of a million souls whose belching mills would not have been out of place in Lancashire eight hundred years later. Printers produced millions of books that were cheap enough to be read by people of even modest means.4 Yet those eras, in China and elsewhere, were not sustained, let alone taken as starting points for ever-increasing prosperity.

Globalization today has hurt many such groups; importing cheaper goods from abroad is like a new way of making them, and woe betide those who earned their livings making such goods at home. Some of those who would lose out, or who fear that they might be hurt, are politically powerful and can outlaw or slow down the new ideas. The emperors of China, worried about threats to their power from merchants, banned oceangoing voyages in 1430, so that Admiral Zheng He’s explorations were an end, not a beginning.12 Similarly, Francis I, Emperor of Austria, banned railways because of their potential to bring about revolution and threaten his power.13 Why Does Inequality Matter? Inequality can spur progress or it can inhibit progress. But does it matter in and of itself? There is no general agreement on this: the philosopher and economist Amartya Sen argues that even among the many who believe in some form of equality, there are very different views about what it is that ought to be made equal.14 Some economists and philosophers argue that inequalities of income are unjust, unless they are necessary for some greater end.

pages: 497 words: 144,283

Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization by Parag Khanna


1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy, 2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 3D printing, 9 dash line, additive manufacturing, Admiral Zheng, affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Asian financial crisis, asset allocation, autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, Basel III, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Black Swan, blockchain, borderless world, Boycotts of Israel, Branko Milanovic, BRICs, British Empire, business intelligence, call centre, capital controls, charter city, clean water, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, complexity theory, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, credit crunch, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, data is the new oil, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deglobalization, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, Deng Xiaoping, Detroit bankruptcy, diversification, Doha Development Round, edge city, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, energy security, ethereum blockchain, European colonialism, eurozone crisis, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, family office, Ferguson, Missouri, financial innovation, financial repression, forward guidance, global supply chain, global value chain, global village, Google Earth, Hernando de Soto, high net worth, Hyperloop, ice-free Arctic, if you build it, they will come, illegal immigration, income inequality, income per capita, industrial robot, informal economy, Infrastructure as a Service, interest rate swap, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, John von Neumann, Julian Assange, Just-in-time delivery, Kevin Kelly, Khyber Pass, Kibera, Kickstarter, labour market flexibility, labour mobility, LNG terminal, low cost carrier, manufacturing employment, mass affluent, megacity, Mercator projection, microcredit, mittelstand, Monroe Doctrine, mutually assured destruction, New Economic Geography, new economy, New Urbanism, offshore financial centre, oil rush, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, openstreetmap, out of africa, Panamax, Peace of Westphalia, peak oil, Peter Thiel, Plutocrats, plutocrats, post-oil, post-Panamax, private military company, purchasing power parity, QWERTY keyboard, race to the bottom, Rana Plaza, rent-seeking, reserve currency, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Scramble for Africa, Second Machine Age, sharing economy, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, six sigma, Skype, smart cities, Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, spice trade, Stuxnet, supply-chain management, sustainable-tourism, TaskRabbit, telepresence, the built environment, Tim Cook: Apple, trade route, transaction costs, UNCLOS, uranium enrichment, urban planning, urban sprawl, WikiLeaks, young professional, zero day

It is the Dutch model of infrastructure for resources that China follows, not British or French colonialism that sought to administer and socially engineer entire societies. Though the Dutch used force in alliance with local rulers to oust the Portuguese and establish administrative control—particularly in Sri Lanka and Indonesia—the objective was to secure trading posts and harness natural resource wealth, not to conquer the world for God or country.*2 Two hundred years earlier, the great Ming admiral Zheng He’s fifteenth-century “Treasure Fleet” voyages had also established China’s peaceful relations with kingdoms as far as East Africa. Like Ming China, the Dutch were about trade, not territory: They were an empire of enclaves. China has had plenty of time to study how to set up and manage such overseas enclaves because that is what European powers did for centuries in China itself through their colonial concessions such as Hong Kong and Macau.

Oman has taken a very different approach to Iran from its Gulf Arab neighbors. In 2013, it signed a twenty-five-year agreement to begin Iranian gas imports. Furthermore, together with India—from which one-third of Oman’s population hails, including many citizens whose merchant houses have built up fortunes—Oman has planned undersea pipelines to distribute Iranian natural gas. — CHINA IS NOT A STRANGER to the Indian Ocean either, having sent Admiral Zheng He’s “Treasure Fleet” as far as East Africa a full century before Portugal rounded Africa’s southern cape. But it was European colonial powers that competed over the lucrative Indian Ocean spice trade as intensely as they did for Latin America’s gold and silver. The Portuguese established forts among the coastal Indian kingdoms of Calicut, Goa, Kochi, and Kannur, and the island kingdom of Kotte, gradually displacing the Venetian and Ottoman traders who previously dominated Indian Ocean trade.

pages: 1,205 words: 308,891

Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World by Deirdre N. McCloskey


Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, BRICs, British Empire, butterfly effect, Carmen Reinhart, clockwork universe, computer age, Corn Laws, dark matter, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Donald Trump, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, European colonialism, experimental economics, financial innovation, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, George Akerlof, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, greed is good, Howard Zinn, income per capita, interchangeable parts, invention of agriculture, invention of air conditioning, invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John Snow's cholera map, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, means of production, Naomi Klein, New Economic Geography, New Urbanism, purchasing power parity, rent-seeking, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Scientific racism, Scramble for Africa, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Simon Kuznets, Slavoj Žižek, spinning jenny, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, total factor productivity, transaction costs, tulip mania, union organizing, Upton Sinclair, urban renewal, V2 rocket, very high income, working poor, World Values Survey, Yogi Berra

Alan Macfarlane has long argued, and persuasively, that English individualism was ancient, showing up for example in marriage patterns among the Anglo-Saxons, at any rate when they got to England, and in the non-collectivist notions of property in the Germanic law before they had. 47 But the Chinese, after all, have their own exceptionality, which could plausibly have contributed to early industrialization. The people who managed to organize such astounding projects of collective engineering as the Great Wall and the Grand Canal and Admiral Zheng He’s expeditions to Africa are not obviously incapacitated for economic growth. The same could be said of the Egyptians, the Romans, the Inca, or for that matter the Mississippian mound builders. But in the event the northwest Europeans and especially the British started modern economic growth, and so they tend to congratulate themselves, and view themselves as the naturally Top Nations. The rhetoric of nationalism, not to speak of racism, rather easily slips in.

Getting more people and agglomerating them into cities becomes in the models therefore a good thing, not bad, if the people have more going for them than strong backs and the ability to reproduce. Goldstone notes that “by the late twentieth century, in every 20 years [over any one generation, that is] the number of people being born was greater than the entire population of the world 200 years before.”55 In each generation we have more chances of a Socrates, an Ibn-Khald?n, an Admiral Zheng He, an Isaac Newton, a James Watt than in all generations before 1800. Africa’s genetic diversity (all the rest of us came from merely 1000 or so Africans, on account of the “founder effect,” as the population geneticists call the falling away of lineages in small populations) implies that when over the next fifty years or so Africa acquires a European standard of living it is going to dominate world culture, producing ten Mozarts and ten twenty Einsteins.56 But observe: without the dual ideas of the dignity and liberty for ordinary life and extraordinary innovation, no innovation is going to occur, no one is going to get properly educated, and we are back in the world of lives poor, nasty, brutish, and short (though by no means solitary) — a bomber’s Malthusian world in which diseconomies to labor input overwhelm economies of scale.

pages: 304 words: 80,965

What They Do With Your Money: How the Financial System Fails Us, and How to Fix It by Stephen Davis, Jon Lukomnik, David Pitt-Watson


Admiral Zheng, banking crisis, Basel III, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, centralized clearinghouse, clean water, corporate governance, correlation does not imply causation, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, David Brooks, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, diversification, diversified portfolio,, financial innovation, financial intermediation, Flash crash, income inequality, index fund, invisible hand, London Whale, Long Term Capital Management, moral hazard, Northern Rock, passive investing, performance metric, Ponzi scheme, principal–agent problem, rent-seeking, Ronald Coase, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, statistical model, Steve Jobs, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, Upton Sinclair, value at risk, WikiLeaks

In his words, “Organisations, markets and economies are not just like evolutionary systems, they truly, literally are evolutionary systems.” Beinhocker, Origin of Wealth, 187. 47. The navigational skills and commercial incentives that took European sailors around the Cape of Good Hope were the same ones that led Columbus to sail west across the Atlantic to America. 48. The voyages of Chinese admiral Zheng He took place between 1405 and 1433. Philip Snow, The Star Raft: China’s Encounters with Africa (Cornell University Press, 1989). 49. Perhaps the seventeenth-century Dutch playwright Joost van der Vondel caught the spirit of the age with this ditty: “We Amsterdammers journey …, Where ever profit leads us, to every sea and shore, For love of gain, the wide world’s harbors we explore.” Quoted in David Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (Little, Brown, 1998). 50.

pages: 306 words: 79,537

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall


9 dash line, Admiral Zheng, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, British Empire, California gold rush, colonial rule, cuban missile crisis, Deng Xiaoping, European colonialism, facts on the ground, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Hans Island, LNG terminal, market fragmentation, megacity, Mercator projection distort size, especially Greenland and Africa, Mikhail Gorbachev, Monroe Doctrine, oil shale / tar sands, Scramble for Africa, South China Sea, trade route, transcontinental railway, Transnistria, UNCLOS, UNCLOS

Leave to one side the fact that already labor costs are rising in China and it is being rivaled by Thailand and Indonesia, for price if not volume. What would happen if the resources required to make the stuff dried up, if someone else got them first, or if there was a naval blockade of your goods—in and out? Well, for that, you’d need a navy. The Chinese were great sea voyagers, especially in the fifteenth century, when they roamed the Indian Ocean; Admiral Zheng He’s expedition ventured as far as Kenya. But these were moneymaking exercises, not power projections, and they were not designed to create forward bases that could be used to support military operations. Having spent four thousand turbulent years consolidating its landmass, China is now building a blue-water navy. A green-water navy patrols its maritime borders, a blue-water navy patrols the oceans.

pages: 624 words: 104,923

QI: The Book of General Ignorance - The Noticeably Stouter Edition by Lloyd, John, Mitchinson, John


Admiral Zheng, Albert Einstein, Barry Marshall: ulcers, British Empire, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, Fellow of the Royal Society, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, invention of the telephone, James Watt: steam engine, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, Olbers’ paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, placebo effect, Pluto: dwarf planet, trade route, V2 rocket, Vesna Vulović

He circumnavigated the world three times, invented the first wind map and is cited more than 1,000 times in the OED, introducing words like avocado, barbecue, breadfruit, cashew, chopsticks, settlement and tortilla into English. In recent years, there has been a lot of lobbying in favour of the Chinese as the continent’s first foreign visitors. There is some archaeological evidence that the great Ming Dynasty admiral Zheng He (1371–1435) landed near Darwin in 1432. Without having to swallow the whole ‘Zheng He discovered the entire world’ theory cooked up by Gavin Menzies in his best-selling 1421: The Year the Chinese Discovered America, there seems to be a good chance that this extraordinary fifteenth-century voyager (he was a Muslim and a eunuch) did reach the northern coast of Australia. After all, Indonesian fishermen, crazed for the local sea cucumbers (which they traded with the Chinese), had managed it many years before the earliest recorded Europeans.

pages: 402 words: 98,760

Deep Sea and Foreign Going by Rose George


Admiral Zheng, air freight, Albert Einstein, bank run, cable laying ship, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Costa Concordia, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Exxon Valdez, failed state, Filipino sailors, global supply chain, Google Earth, intermodal, London Whale, Malacca Straits, Panamax, pattern recognition, profit maximization, Skype, trade route, UNCLOS, UNCLOS, urban planning

The IRTC is patrolled by military ships from three coalition counter-piracy forces: one from the EU, one run by NATO, and the Combined Task Force (CTF-151), led by the United States, with a membership of nations that is described as ‘fluid’. Besides the task forces, there are other navies acting independently of coalitions, including those of Russia, Korea, India, Japan and China. It is the first major deployment of the Chinese Navy since 1433, when Admiral Zheng came here, visited the Sultan of Malindi, and took home a giraffe. The Chinese Navy is on piracy patrol, but it is also well placed to support its growing economic presence in Africa. If you want a window into future geopolitics, the Indian Ocean has a good view. Since some Somalis took to piracy in the mid-1990s, their range and nerve has grown. At first staying close to the coastline of Somalia, they now operate across the Indian Ocean over to India’s southern tip and south of Tanzania’s.

pages: 561 words: 87,892

Losing Control: The Emerging Threats to Western Prosperity by Stephen D. King


Admiral Zheng, asset-backed security, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, capital controls, Celtic Tiger, central bank independence, collateralized debt obligation, corporate governance, credit crunch, crony capitalism, currency manipulation / currency intervention, currency peg, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, demographic dividend, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, Diane Coyle, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, George Akerlof, German hyperinflation, Gini coefficient, hiring and firing, income inequality, income per capita, inflation targeting, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, knowledge economy, labour market flexibility, labour mobility, low skilled workers, market clearing, Martin Wolf, Mexican peso crisis / tequila crisis, Naomi Klein, new economy, Ponzi scheme, price mechanism, price stability, purchasing power parity, rent-seeking, reserve currency, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, sovereign wealth fund, spice trade, statistical model, technology bubble, The Great Moderation, The Market for Lemons, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade route, transaction costs, Washington Consensus, women in the workforce, working-age population, Y2K, Yom Kippur War

Meanwhile, after a brief flirtation with various European nations in the Indian Ocean, the leaders of the Ming Dynasty in China became increasingly worried about the influx of new, and possibly corrupting, influences on the Chinese Empire. In the early 1430s, Chinese leaders chose to destroy their entire ocean-going fleet. As a symbolic act, it was, economically, one of the most costly moments in human history. At the time, Chinese ships were bigger and better than their European counterparts. Chinese sailors navigated using the magnetic compass as a matter of routine. And, in Admiral Zheng He, a seven-foot tall Muslim Mongolian eunuch, China had the greatest sailor of the day, whose exploits included visits to thirty-seven countries over twenty-eight years with a fleet of around 300 ships and 28,000 sailors (it’s now thought that Zheng found the Americas before Columbus). Through closing itself off to the rest of the world, China was starved of the ideas and innovations that contributed so much to the productivity gains seen in Europe over the last five hundred years.

pages: 370 words: 97,138

Beyond: Our Future in Space by Chris Impey


3D printing, Admiral Zheng, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Berlin Wall, Buckminster Fuller, butterfly effect, California gold rush, carbon-based life, Colonization of Mars, cosmic abundance, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, discovery of DNA, Doomsday Clock, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Eratosthenes, Haight Ashbury, Hyperloop, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, life extension, Mahatma Gandhi, Mars Rover, mutually assured destruction, Oculus Rift, operation paperclip, out of africa, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, phenotype, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Skype, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, supervolcano, technological singularity, telepresence, telerobotics, the medium is the message, the scientific method, theory of mind, V2 rocket, wikimedia commons, X Prize, Yogi Berra

In 1938, a more pioneering era in aviation, odds of death while flying were ten times higher. But the eye-popping number is the death rate from driving, giving a lifetime probability of death of one in 84, or 1.1 percent. So, assuming it’s a once-in-a-lifetime joyride, traveling into space is four hundred times more dangerous than flying but only twice as risky as driving (Figure 23). _________ In the early fifteenth century, the eunuch Chinese admiral Zheng He sent a fleet of 320 ships and 18,000 men on seven major voyages to India, Arabia, and Africa. Their goal: to seek out new curiosities and animals and make any civilizations they encountered submit and swear fealty to the Chinese emperor. But that vast effort was squashed. Nobody in China was allowed to own a ship and foreign trade was discouraged. Exploration simply ended. At the end of that century, Europeans began to explore in ships that were much smaller and less sophisticated than the ships of the Chinese fleet.

pages: 606 words: 87,358

The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization by Richard Baldwin


3D printing, additive manufacturing, Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, air freight, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Berlin Wall, bilateral investment treaty, Branko Milanovic, buy low sell high, call centre, Columbian Exchange, Commodity Super-Cycle, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, domestication of the camel, Edward Glaeser, Erik Brynjolfsson, financial intermediation, George Gilder, global supply chain, global value chain, Henri Poincaré, imperial preference, industrial robot, invention of agriculture, invention of the telegraph, investor state dispute settlement, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, James Dyson, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Lao Tzu, low skilled workers, market fragmentation, New Economic Geography, out of africa, paper trading, Pax Mongolica, profit motive, rent-seeking, reshoring, Richard Florida, rising living standards, Second Machine Age, Simon Kuznets, Skype, Snapchat, Stephen Hawking, telepresence, telerobotics, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, trade route, Washington Consensus

West Asia had a much larger share of output than population because its per capita incomes were quite high during this period known as the “Golden Age of Islam.” DATA SOURCE: Maddison database (2013 version). Chinese civilization flourished in these centuries, reaching new heights in art, science, and manufacturing under the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. This was also when Chinese ships roamed the high seas. As the historian Edward Dreyer recounts in his book Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty, the Chinese Admiral Zheng sailed from China to Southeast Asia, India, Persia, and Africa in ships that dwarfed European seagoing vessels in size and sophistication.9 The Silk Road closure isolated Europe and the Middle East from these Chinese advances. Economic Dominance by Middle East and Asia When Silk Road trade stopped in the fifteenth century, Asia dominated the world economy. Angus Maddison has guesstimated GDP and population shares back to the year 1, and his estimates for the nearest date, 1500, are shown in Figure 12.

pages: 471 words: 124,585

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson


Admiral Zheng, Andrei Shleifer, Asian financial crisis, asset allocation, asset-backed security, Atahualpa, bank run, banking crisis, banks create money, Black Swan, Black-Scholes formula, Bonfire of the Vanities, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, capital asset pricing model, capital controls, Carmen Reinhart, Cass Sunstein, central bank independence, collateralized debt obligation, colonial exploitation, Corn Laws, corporate governance, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, currency manipulation / currency intervention, currency peg, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, deglobalization, diversification, diversified portfolio, double entry bookkeeping, Edmond Halley, Edward Glaeser, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, financial innovation, financial intermediation, fixed income, floating exchange rates, Fractional reserve banking, Francisco Pizarro, full employment, German hyperinflation, Hernando de Soto, high net worth, hindsight bias, Home mortgage interest deduction, Hyman Minsky, income inequality, interest rate swap, Isaac Newton, iterative process, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, labour mobility, London Interbank Offered Rate, Long Term Capital Management, market bubble, market fundamentalism, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, moral hazard, mortgage debt, mortgage tax deduction, Naomi Klein, Nick Leeson, Northern Rock, pension reform, price anchoring, price stability, principal–agent problem, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, profit motive, quantitative hedge fund, RAND corporation, random walk, rent control, rent-seeking, reserve currency, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, seigniorage, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, spice trade, structural adjustment programs, technology bubble, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, transaction costs, value at risk, Washington Consensus, Yom Kippur War

Three or four hundred years ago there was little to choose between per capita incomes in the West and in the East. The average North American colonist, it has been claimed, had a standard of living not significantly superior to that of the average Chinese peasant cultivator. Indeed, in many ways the Chinese civilization of the Ming era was more sophisticated than that of early Massachusetts. Beijing, for centuries the world’s largest city, dwarfed Boston, just as Admiral Zheng He’s early-fifteenth-century treasure ship had dwarfed Christopher Columbus’s Santa Maria. The Yangtze delta seemed as likely a place as the Thames Valley to produce major productivity-enhancing technological innovations.4 Yet between 1700 and 1950 there was a ‘great divergence’ of living standards between East and West. While China may have suffered an absolute decline in per capita income in that period, the societies of the North West - in particular Britain and its colonial offshoots - experienced unprecedented growth thanks, in large part, to the impact of the industrial revolution.

pages: 482 words: 117,962

Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future by Ian Goldin, Geoffrey Cameron, Meera Balarajan


Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Branko Milanovic, British Empire, conceptual framework, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Gini coefficient, global supply chain, guest worker program, illegal immigration, income inequality, income per capita, job automation, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, labour mobility, Lao Tzu, life extension, low skilled workers, low-wage service sector, Malacca Straits, microcredit, Network effects, new economy, New Urbanism, open borders, out of africa, price mechanism, purchasing power parity, Richard Florida, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, spice trade, trade route, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, women in the workforce, working-age population

The accelerating pace of cross-cultural trade also attuned more general patterns of behavior in the region toward trade, augmenting “the everyday routines of life” through the growth of specialization and the spread of the price mechanism. While Europeans would be the first to open up the Atlantic route to the Americas, in the early fifteenth century, the Chinese first established contact over the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Between 1403 and 1433, Admiral Zheng He, under the patronage of the Ming Emperor Zhu Di, undertook a series of explorations with fleets that at times numbered up to 300 ships, carrying 20,000 men. These sailed from China, through Southeast Asia across India to Eastern Africa, and some accounts even suggest that he rounded the Cape of Good Hope almost a century before Bartolomeu Dias did—heading in the opposite direction.100 The ships used by Zheng He were about ten times the average size of the largest ships then built in Europe.

pages: 437 words: 115,594

The Great Surge: The Ascent of the Developing World by Steven Radelet


Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Asian financial crisis, bank run, Berlin Wall, Branko Milanovic, business climate, business process, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, clean water, colonial rule, demographic dividend, Deng Xiaoping, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Doha Development Round, Erik Brynjolfsson, European colonialism, F. W. de Klerk, failed state, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Gini coefficient, global supply chain, income inequality, income per capita, invention of the steam engine, James Watt: steam engine, John Snow's cholera map, Joseph Schumpeter, land reform, low skilled workers, M-Pesa, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, oil shock, out of africa, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, randomized controlled trial, Robert Gordon, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, Simon Kuznets, South China Sea, special economic zone, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade route, women in the workforce, working poor

Hereafter . . . the inhabitants of all the different quarters of the world may arrive at that equality of courage and force which, by inspiring mutual fear, can alone overawe the injustice of independent nations into some sort of respect for the rights of one another. But nothing seems more likely to establish this equality of force, than that mutual communication of knowledge, and of all sorts of improvements, which an extensive commerce . . . carries along with it. —Adam Smith, 17761 ON JULY 11, 1405, CHINESE Admiral Zheng he weighed anchor in nanjing harbor and commanded his great Ming armada to sail southwest and commence a two-year, six-thousand-mile journey that would bring them to today’s Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and, eventually, the Malabar Coast of India. Zheng’s fleet was massive, with 317 ships and twenty-seven thousand men, equivalent to the population of a small city. The fleet included 62 enormous Băo Chuán, or treasure ships, which measured four hundred feet long and were powered by as many as nine towering masts.

pages: 537 words: 158,544

Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order by Parag Khanna


Admiral Zheng, affirmative action, anti-communist, Asian financial crisis, Bartolomé de las Casas, Branko Milanovic, British Empire, call centre, capital controls, central bank independence, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, complexity theory, crony capitalism, Deng Xiaoping, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, energy security, European colonialism, facts on the ground, failed state, flex fuel, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, friendly fire, Gini coefficient, global reserve currency, global supply chain, haute couture, Hernando de Soto, illegal immigration, income inequality, informal economy, invisible hand, Islamic Golden Age, Khyber Pass, knowledge economy, land reform, low skilled workers, means of production, megacity, Monroe Doctrine, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, open borders, open economy, Pax Mongolica, pirate software, Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances, Potemkin village, price stability, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, reserve currency, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Skype, South China Sea, special economic zone, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Thomas L Friedman, trade route, trickle-down economics, uranium enrichment, urban renewal, Washington Consensus, women in the workforce

Chinese cinema, art, and traditional medicines have all gone global, as has Weiqi, also called Go, a game older than chess. A thousand years ago, globalization had Chinese characteristics, for it was the printing press, gunpowder, and the compass that had spread from east to west. Today China portrays itself like a great merchant ship once again navigating globalization’s waters—in marked contrast to an American aircraft carrier. The iconic inspiration for China’s new image is Admiral Zheng He, whose seven naval voyages in the early fifteenth century dwarfed those of Columbus and Vasco da Gama, shuttling Ming Dynasty ambassadors as far as the east coast of Africa, seeding the Chinese diaspora from Malacca to Kenya, and returning with sulfur from Indonesia and spices from India’s Malabar coast.6 Were it not for Emperor Zhu Gaozhi’s decision to ban costly foreign excursions, China could have become the greatest continental and maritime superpower of the age.

pages: 725 words: 221,514

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber


Admiral Zheng, anti-communist, back-to-the-land, banks create money, Bretton Woods, British Empire, carried interest, cashless society, central bank independence, colonial rule, corporate governance, David Graeber, delayed gratification, dematerialisation, double entry bookkeeping, financial innovation, full employment, George Gilder, informal economy, invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, means of production, microcredit, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, moral hazard, oil shock, payday loans, place-making, Ponzi scheme, price stability, profit motive, reserve currency, Ronald Reagan, seigniorage, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, tulip mania, upwardly mobile, urban decay, working poor

The technique seems to have been developed almost as a kind of trick when dealing with the “northern barbarians” of the steppes, who always threatened Chinese frontiers: a way to overwhelm them with such luxuries that they would become complacent, effeminate, and unwarlike. It was systematized in the “tribute trade” practiced with client states like Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and various states of Southeast Asia, and for a brief period from 1405 to 1433, it even extended to a world scale, under the famous eunuch admiral Zheng He. He led a series of seven expeditions across the Indian Ocean, his great “treasure fleet”—in dramatic contrast to the Spanish treasure fleets of a century later—carrying not only thousands of armed marines, but endless quantities of silks, porcelain, and other Chinese luxuries to present to those local rulers willing to recognize the authority of the emperor.20 All this was ostensibly rooted in an ideology of extraordinary chauvinism (“What could these barbarians possibly have that we really need, anyway?”)

pages: 859 words: 204,092

When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Rise of the Middle Kingdom by Martin Jacques


Admiral Zheng, Asian financial crisis, Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, credit crunch, Dava Sobel, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, discovery of the americas, Doha Development Round, energy security, European colonialism, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, global reserve currency, global supply chain, illegal immigration, income per capita, invention of gunpowder, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Kenneth Rogoff, land reform, land tenure, Malacca Straits, Martin Wolf, Naomi Klein, new economy, New Urbanism, open economy, pension reform, price stability, purchasing power parity, reserve currency, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special drawing rights, special economic zone, spinning jenny, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, the scientific method, Thomas L Friedman, trade liberalization, urban planning, Washington Consensus, Xiaogang Anhui farmers

It is true that China also had colonies - newly acquired territories achieved by a process of imperial expansion from 1644 until the late eighteenth century - but these were in the interior of the Eurasian continent, bereft of either large arable lands or dense populations, and were unable to provide raw materials on anything like the scale of the New World.20 South-East Asia, which was abundant in resources, would have been a more likely candidate to play the role of China’s New World. Admiral Zheng’s exploits in the early fifteenth century, with ships far larger than anything that Europe could build at the time, show that China was not lacking the technical ability or financial means, but the attitude of the Chinese state towards overseas interests and possessions was quite different from that of Europe. Although large numbers of Chinese migrated to South-East Asia, the Chinese state, unlike the European nations, showed no interest in providing military or political backing for its subjects’ overseas endeavours: in contrast, the Qing dynasty displayed great concern for its continental lands in the north and west, reflecting the fact that China saw itself as a continental rather than maritime civilization.

pages: 762 words: 246,045

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson


Admiral Zheng, Khyber Pass, land tenure, Malacca Straits, post scarcity, South China Sea, trade route

'They know and that's why they do it. They hate us all. They rule the Chinese Emperor, and they hate everyone else. You can see how it will be,' waving around at the immense ship. 'They'll castrate all of us. It's the end coming.' 'You Christians like to say that, but so far it's only been true for you.' 'God took us first to shorten our suffering. Your turn will come.' 'It's not God I fear, but Admiral Zheng He, the Three Jewel Eunuch. He and the Yongle Emperor were friends when they were boys, and the Emperor ordered him castrated when they were both thirteen. Can you believe it? Now the eunuchs do it to all the boys they take prisoner.' In the days that followed Kyu got hotter and hotter, and was seldom conscious. Bold sat by his side and put wet rags in his mouth, reciting sutras in his mind.

pages: 740 words: 217,139

The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama


Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Andrei Shleifer, Asian financial crisis, Ayatollah Khomeini, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, blood diamonds, California gold rush, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, currency manipulation / currency intervention, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, double entry bookkeeping, equal pay for equal work, European colonialism, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Francisco Pizarro, Hernando de Soto, hiring and firing, invention of agriculture, invention of the printing press, Khyber Pass, labour market flexibility, land reform, land tenure, means of production, offshore financial centre, out of africa, Peace of Westphalia, principal–agent problem, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, Scramble for Africa, spice trade, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, transaction costs, Washington Consensus

But policies are much less fundamental to the growth story than are institutions; policies can be changed overnight, whereas institutions are much more difficult to build. What China did not have was the spirit of maximization that economists assume is a universal human trait. An enormous complacency pervaded Ming China in all walks of life. It was not just emperors who didn’t feel it necessary to extract as much as they could in taxes; other forms of innovation and change simply didn’t seem to be worth the effort. The eunuch admiral Zheng He sailed across the Indian Ocean and discovered new trade routes and civilizations. This didn’t provoke curiosity, however, and the voyages were never followed up. The next emperor cut the navy’s budget as an economizing move, and the Chinese Age of Discovery was over almost before it had begun. Similarly, during the Song Dynasty, an inventor named Su Sung invented the world’s first mechanical clock, a huge, multistory mechanism powered by a waterwheel, but it was abandoned when the Rurzhen conquered the Song capital of Kaifeng.

pages: 1,152 words: 266,246

Why the West Rules--For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future by Ian Morris


Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, Atahualpa, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Columbian Exchange, conceptual framework, cuban missile crisis, defense in depth, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, Doomsday Clock,, falling living standards, Flynn Effect, Francisco Pizarro, global village, hiring and firing, indoor plumbing, invention of agriculture, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, knowledge economy, market bubble, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, New Journalism, out of africa, Peter Thiel, phenotype, pink-collar, place-making, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Scientific racism, Silicon Valley, Sinatra Doctrine, South China Sea, special economic zone, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, strong AI, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, upwardly mobile, wage slave, washing machines reduced drudgery

Right through the twentieth century a complicated dance went on in the West as historians uncovered facts that did not seem to fit the long-term lock-in stories, and long-termers adjusted their theories to accommodate them. For instance, no one now disputes that when Europe’s great age of maritime discovery was just beginning, Chinese navigation was far more advanced and Chinese sailors already knew the coasts of India, Arabia, East Africa, and perhaps Australia.* When the eunuch admiral Zheng He sailed from Nanjing for Sri Lanka in 1405 he led nearly three hundred vessels. There were tankers carrying drinking water and huge “Treasure Ships” with advanced rudders, watertight compartments, and elaborate signaling devices. Among his 27,000 sailors were 180 doctors and pharmacists. By contrast, when Christopher Columbus sailed from Cadiz in 1492, he led just ninety men in three ships.