Why East Asia didn't create the modern world... but why it will create the future
Above: A court scene from Ming Dynasty China. At the time it was the world's foremost economic power until the 19th century where it would be briefly usurped by the United States. China regained its position as the world's largest economy in 2014.
There is a long list of what-if’s that litter our history and capture the imagination with endless possibilities. While these in the English language tend to be western biased, what is occasionally explored is the idea of the Great Divergence, when a region outside of East Asia began to technologically outcompete the Chinese for the first time. What is often not discussed among prominent academics is the possibility of East Asia creating and spreading its culture to become normative in the modern world. I preface that statement by saying that although many aspects of the world wide globalization has been the result of a collective effort from across the world including East Asia, the prominence of Latin group languages across the world confirms Europe's outsize influence in the creation of many socio-economic structures that have become prominent in the last couple of centuries. The source of such preponderance was less due to philosophical ideas, technological advancement and cultural progression and was more due to variations and chances of history than any other factor.
The most prominent and perhaps consequential event in human history thus far occurred during the 15th century and occurred without so much as an acknowledgement despite the turbulence. The Great Divergence was the first time any civilization outside of the Far East reached technological parity. For thousands of years the world’s most advanced civilizations resided almost exclusively in East Asia with complex societies, trade networks and crucial pillars of innovations forming the backbone of such places. The most crucial technological breakthroughs for the basics of any advanced federalist government were first created in East Asia. Row crop farming and seed drills dramatically increased the size of East Asian population centers. Iron smelting was invented in China and allowed the creation of more advanced forms of metallurgy for basic tools. The first printing presses with movable type allowed communication and idea networks to spread throughout the region. Even gunpowder (another Chinese innovation) and basic forms of riflery helped engender the destructive power of European armies that powered its imperialist expansion and helped the creation of mercantilist guilds and capitalistic innovation centuries later.
Above is an image of a an industrial steel mill during the Song dynasty approximately 1000 years before the European industrial revolution.
Perhaps a distinguishing factor between various people groups was in its distinguishing forms of violence. Before the introduction of western powers in East Asia, the Chinese conception of race was more cultural rather than genetic. The original members of the ‘Han’ or the dominating members of the Chinese ‘ethnic’ group began as a small tribe that settled along the Yangtze river amongst many other, sometimes larger and more powerful ethnic groups that existed in Chinese prehistory. As the ‘Han’ grew stronger and more powerful, the introduction and invasion of its neighbors called for a policy that was akin to large empires at the time. Cultural integration through the use of various technological innovations, sometimes voluntarily but mostly by force, integrated surrounding populations into the dominating culture. The ability to grow rice which was more nutritious than wheat along with a fertile crescent bowl that is central China characterized the nation with its large stores and fertile population.
Fertile indeed as for most of the millennia China (not including the tributaries and allied states) accounted for over a third of the world’s population. This centralization on a massive scale for the standards of the ancient world was unique to China’s geography and rich culture of scientific ingenuity. Unlike the neighboring India, which would not become a distinct political entity until the invasions by Babur Khan (the grandson of Ghenghis Khan) of the Chagatai Khaganate, China was the first and perhaps longest lasting example of a surviving unified political entity. Certainly of a country in the ancient world with its scale, it stands out as in its basic continuity despite the many centuries of ‘barbarian’ takeover in the middle kingdom.
With sheer scale alone several Chinese dynasties and kingdoms began the makings of a possible industrialization. The Song dynasty is a prominent example as its almost ‘industrial revolution’ led to its rise as the wealthiest state of the medieval world. Song Chinese invested in the first joint stock companies to sail the massive Yangtze and formed guilds of artisans, financiers and workers to build massive privately owned iron smelting plants. In a typical year, Song China would produce over 100 million kg of iron per year with their minting industry producing roughly six billion coins of varying denominations (To this day Song dynasty coins are the least rare denomination from the ancient world due to the dynasty’s prominence). Indeed, the first examples of a monetary policy and government controlled interest rates were found in the country. But with the arrival of the Mongols and the devastation the so-called ‘northern barbarians’ wrecked across China, the industrial dreams would be put on hold until the start of the people's republic in the 1950s.
Indeed the Mongol conquest butchered half of Song China’s massive population and would hobble the population centers for hundreds of years with economic stagnation and foreign takeovers particularly by unified Jurchen tribes during the Ming dynasty (that would eventually lead to the Qing).
The Mongol Conquest of Europe devastated European cities as Mongol warriors won, often complete victories, over others.
The Mongol conquest of Europe was just as devastating but less complete. During their traipse across eastern and central Europe, the Mongols devastated the cities often cutting the population of the country in half. The Rus princes united under a single banner combined with the armies of Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Germany in the largest force ever seen in the European world. But with ingenious tactics and a technological advantage, the knights of Europe could not stop the progression of war and the Mongols won every single battle with often a complete victory over their opponents. Such was their ingenuity as the native Europeans were shocked and awed by the demonstration of Chinese guns, bombs and firepower as they had never seen such technology up until that point.
Mongols won every single battle with often a complete victory over their [European] opponents.
Above: The Sacking of a Roman Villa by the Huns, an Asian nomadic group that were an offshoot of the legendary Xiongnu
Such a time harkened back to the days of the Huns, another Asian nomadic group closely related to the Mongols, who sacked Rome and most of the continent from the Rus principalities to the tip of Portugal several hundred years prior. By this point the commanding general, Subutai Khan, had become the greatest military commander in world history with more territory and people conquered than any other before or since. But even in the most distant lands, the old warriors heart was still in the 'land of Eternal Blue Sky' (Mongolia) and thus departed for it when he heard about the death of the great Khan, Ogedei.
Western Europe was incredibly lucky in avoiding the devastation the Mongols wrecked on the rest of the known world and thus was able to develop its industrial culture while it's two greatest competitors: China and the Caliphates lied in ruin and would not overcome such devastation until centuries later (and for the Middle East never).
the creation of the modern world by Europe was very much a fluke...
In other words, the creation of the modern world by Europe was very much a fluke, a luck of the draw. This is not to mention the other fortuitous grace in finding the new world. As a matter of fact, the living conditions in European cities in its Victorian period were so unsanitary that they wiped out an entire continent in the span of less than a century. From the medical profession, the number one method for the creation of deadly diseases was through the close contact of domesticated animals such as pigs, cows and roosters and European cities had those in abundance.
For the past four hundred years it appeared that sheer luck trumped both will and merit in creating this unique period of human history. But it appears that luck only goes so far and the new scientific and economic power of the world is shifting back to East Asia (not to be confused with South East Asia). China now produces most of the world's scientific papers and patents. South Korea alone has shown more scientific ingenuity than the entire European Union combined and China is now the world's largest economy with Japan coming in at fourth place. Hard work and insane amounts of intelligence are the new global standard and East Asia has both in abundance with 85% of the people with an IQ of 145 and above residing in those countries.
World Erectile Hardness map according to a study done by a conglomeration of global condom companies in 2012. Those lighter countries indicate some East Asian ancestry.
Indeed, the European fluke is at an end and with the rise of Asian hatred all around the world, it appears that East Asia's success has a strong foundation. East Asian men have the most testosterone, the best sex lives (with the lowest orgasm gap), and are growing much taller as the countries climb out of poverty. It also has the greatest intellectual minds and even the racist western institutions such as the Nobel prize and the fields medal have had to acknowledge it's prowess. This is despite that fact that most of not all major western awards are biased against outsiders.
World by IQ or intellectual quotient. East Asia averages higher than a 105 while western countries vary from 95-100 indicating a standard deviation of difference. A 50th percentile East Asian is equivalent to a 85th percentile Westerner in intelligence.
The Anglosphere has traditionally been so racist it has bordered on delusion. Race theory is the preeminent philosophy of the West and permeates every known facet from linguistics to economics. But there is a critical weakness with the philosophy. That they actually believe and underestimate the power and ferocity of East Asians at almost every level. Had their greatest minds been alive today, they would've lambasted this incredibly stupid approach. As the greatest western general of all time, Napoleon Bonaparte, once said, "let China sleep for when she wakes she will shake the world!" They should have taken his advice.
Let China sleep for when she wakes she will shake the world!- Napoleon Bonaparte