Source / Courtesy: China Daily
“I think worrying about the relative strength of the East or the West will seem as peculiar by 2100 as Anglo-German naval rivalry seems now. That was a big deal, however, 100 years ago and was one of the things that tipped off the World War I but now, of course, it is laughable,” he says.
Morris actually begins the book with an alternative history, where Britain in the 19th century is actually colonized by China and Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, finds himself kidnapped in the Forbidden City and growing a Manchu pigtail.
The reality, however, was that China lost two Opium Wars to Britain as a result of having lost any naval pre-eminence after the great Zheng He voyages of the 15th century.
This was the result of a national edict abandoning sea faring altogether and the country beginning a long period of isolation.
“These counterfactuals can get a bit silly. If the Chinese somehow leapfrogged on to 18th century ships, I suspect they would have done more or less the same thing in the Americas as the Europeans did,” he says.
The picture is of Admiral Zheng He’s (Cheng Ho) treasure ship design. He was a Chinese Muslim.