1450 - 1750 // China vs. The Middle East
 China was a continuing player in the global trading network which was expanding rapidly between 600 and 1750. However, China began to suddenly regress from an enthusiastic leader living in an expansive world economy to more of a supporting role. This transition was mainly self-imposing, but the Americas were partly involved. The decline is China’s centrality, including geography, and dominance. Even though China grew further apart from the trade network, it was still too strong and influential to become completely detached. 

China was increasingly strong in the beginning, particularly during the Tang dynasty. It established in the year 600 and thrived technologically and agriculturally, through the three-field system, as well as politically, through civil service examinations. Due to these factors, china became strong and stable. This was also because of Confucian traditional foundation which allowed a strong economy to rise up. China was known as the world leader during the years between of 600 to 1450. Its existence increased and dominated the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea by building connections with the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Their maritime accomplishments were due to the new naval technologies, such as the magnetic compass, improved ships, and gunpowder, which developed under the Tang and Song dynasties. Gunpowder made its way to the Middle East through trading networks and was an aid to the Islamic empires, as well as the Europeans who used firearms to conquer the Americas.

Industrialization increased also early during this time period. Under the Song dynasty, Arab and Persian merchants began to accompany Chinese society due to the new ports cities that were built. Larger cities and more expansive trade cycles dictated the development of new economy systems in China. Paper money, banking, and a “flying cash” system also established. The increase in trade led to the increased interactions, as well as new religions like Buddhism, which incorporated them into Chinese culture. Buddhism and prominent Confucianism blended together to create a new kind of Confucianism known as Neo-Confucianism. This had philosophical political consequences. China continued to use the Silk Road to keep the interactions between the Mediterranean world and Chinese luxury items. These items included porcelain and silk, which were in high demand. Near the end of this period, the Yuan dynasty, which was under Mongol rule, was replaced by the Chinese Ming’s. They altered China’s position as the dominant global trader. 

China separated itself from the global market from around 1450 to 1750. The ports were closing and the ships and travel records were destroyed by the Ming. This was very consequential because China lost its dominance in the Indian Ocean and Pacific trade, which allowed the Arabs, Persian, and Europeans to grow stronger politically and economically. China then isolated itself in fear of foreign influence caused by being under the control of the Mongols. China’s isolation was also caused by it being ethnocentric and its little interest in foreign goods. The new attitude and the decrease in technological development, China’s enthusiastic trade participation was reduced and this allowed Europe to rise and dominate with their age of colonization, but China was still important to the global trade network. This was because of the desire for Chinese luxury goods. Europeans took silver from the Americas in order to pay for Chinese goods and Japan paid in silver as well. The Chinese were exporting, but instead of importing, they used the silver as their currency. The silver eventually led to severe dependency-based economic problems, but it kept them an active participant of global trade. They were to greatly influential to disappear from the network completely, but the lost the desire to guide the world economy and handed the power to Europe. 

Even though China decreases in its dominance and desire to incorporate foreign ideas and products, it still remained an important aspect to the global trade network between 600 and 1750. With the inclusion of the Americas, these were the years that were best defined by the establishment of the global economy. China’s deterioration in trade impacted its society and European society. China detached from the Western world, but still remained connected in some ways. China’s detachment allowed the Europeans to rise up. Europe became the most influential and powerful area, thus taking China’s place in the global economy.