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February 02, 2007

Comments

Alex

Well, I'll engage with your counterfactual: absolutely nothing. Jack shit. Look at the massive and continuing influence his voyages had on the places he did sail to...whoops, there is absolutely no trace of him and his fleet in anyone else's history. That includes literate civilisations like India.

Perhaps that's why they stopped. Everyone just ignored them, and on this occasion, the problem really did go away.

Clearly, his demands for tribute weren't enough to seriously alter other people's economies, and his intervention didn't change other people's politics.

jamie

Well I wasn't entirley serious, though I believe he sowed Hui settlements across Malaysia and Indonesia and is still remembered there.

But the point is that if the Chinese had maintained or expanded a naval presence he'd be remembered a hell of a lot more.

Alex

A naval presence? Or a maritime trading economy?

jamie

Has there ever been one without the other? Even Hong Kong sized trading republics like Genoa had their own navies as a consequence of their dependence on trade.

Alex

Direction of causality watch. They didn't have trade as a consequence of navy.

jamie

But they surely needed a navy as a consequence of trade. Zheng He's trips may have been an attempt to overawe through a synthesis of the two but if China had kept a seaward orientation then they would have had to disaggregate, and at a time when its military technology was still competititive.

Alex

Perhaps. But without any traction in economics, the whole thing is so much wanking. Mahan pointed out that the whole point of sea warfare is to stop 'tothersiders from trading over the sea, because the sea is such a great way of moving seriously large amounts of stuff. 90 per cent of trade goes by sea, using less than 10 per cent of the fuel.

It's the difference between sending more people to the technische hochschule to study chemical engineering and trying to go to the South Pole with ponies.

Alex

sorry - just had a Corelli Barnett moment.

Chris Williams

Scott's problem wasn't that he tried to go to the South Pole with ponies. It was trying to mount a scientific expedition to Antarctica with motor sledges. English over-enthusiasm for technology strikes again. Stare not too long at Corelli Barnett, lest you become the next host for his brain-eater.

Alex

Yeah, I sort of worked that out after The Lost Victory, which could be Shorterised as "British power collapsed due to neglect of education, as I keep saying in my dozens of volumes, and the Labour Government of 1945 were traitors for frittering away Marshall aid on luxuries, like education. Pay no attention to my blatant partisanship."

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