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Thread: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

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    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Default Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    The Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD) ruled China (and for a brief time, Vietnam) until a number of factors brought it down. Those include natural disasters like crop failures brought on by the oncoming Little Ice Age, causing famine in some parts. An epidemic swept through large parts of the country in the 1630s and 1640s. To make matters worse, the Manchu were pressing at the northern borders and posing a serious threat to stability, much like their Jurchen ancestors hundreds of years before. It was the Han Chinese rebel general Li Zicheng that brought the dynasty down and forced the suicide of the last Ming emperor, Chongzhen, while Beijing was infiltrated and stormed by his army. The Manchu swept in soon afterwards and established the Qing Dynasty that ruled into the early 20th century. Yet how did things get so bad, economically speaking, for all of these disaffected rural peasants and others to rise up and join the ranks of Li Zicheng? Political authorities in Chinese history had weathered natural disasters before this with both success and failure, such as the usurper Wang Mang's government in the 1st century AD being unable to stop a revolt caused by massive flooding of the Yellow River (leading to the ultimate reestablishment of the Han Dynasty in 25 AD). However, the Ming Dynasty had suffered the worst earthquake in Chinese history, the Shaanxi Earthquake of 1556 that killed some 830,000 people, and yet it remained resilient, recovering smoothly, becoming arguably more decedent than before, and more importantly still holding the "Mandate of Heaven" (i.e. divine will, divine favor) in the people's eyes.

    What, then, is the greatest factor causing governments to flounder or survive in the face of adversity? You guessed it: "it's the economy, stupid," as the common catchphrase from the 2008 US presidential campaign went. Wang Mang had introduced a number of disastrous and misguided utopian-minded economic reforms that I won't cover in detail, but long story short, he wrecked the Chinese economy and pissed everyone off. Fast forward sixteen hundred years to the late Ming Dynasty, and we will soon find that another economic crisis was brewing.

    For Ming China, the answer lies in its chief medium of exchange: silver. The Portuguese initiated trade relations with Ming China in 1516 and soon took on the role of intermediate between China and Japan by bartering Japanese silver to the Chinese in exchange for precious silks from the latter. This role was soon usurped by the Spanish, who at this point were developing a massive overseas empire of their own. Silver mined in the Americas was shipped across the Pacific, stopping at the Philippines, before being traded to Ming China on the Manila galleons. The Chinese used the new influx of silver as a main form of currency for farmers and landowners to pay their taxes, whilst using copper coinage for everyday common transactions and sales of their crops and foodstuffs at the local market.

    However, after Philip IV of Spain assumed the throne he began cracking down on American silver shipments being made across the Pacific in favor of shipping them through ports back home in Spain. The Dutch, at the time Spain's greatest rivals on the high seas aside from the English, were already challenging Spain's lucrative trade role with Ming China. However, Philip IV's crackdown was coupled with the Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan outlawing almost all of its trade with European powers in 1639. That meant both Japanese and American silver were now cut off from Ming China. This led to a massive panic and hoarding of silver, the price of which skyrocketed when compared to the value of copper coinage. In 1630 a thousand copper coins could by an ounce of silver; in 1640 it could only purchase half an ounce; by 1643 it was only a third of an ounce that could be purchased. The shortage of silver meant the peasants couldn't pay their taxes; the only way to get more silver was to use up all of one's copper coins, meaning you had little of the latter left to engage in the selling and buying of crops, causing famine, starvation, and desperation.

    By now you probably have a good idea why so many people were willing to turn to banditry and the promise of loot as a foot soldier in Li Zicheng's rebel army. So what do you guys think? Do you think Philip IV of Spain (and I suppose Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu and his "Maritime Restrictions Edict" of 1639) is the main, albeit unwitting, culprit in causing the economic collapse and hence ultimate downfall of the Ming Dynasty? If so, do you think the present-day People's Republic of China will ask Spain for reparations?

    So here's the ginger himself, Philip IV of Spain, with his helpful court dwarf, Tyrion Miguel Lannister Espinoza.



    He should now rightly be nicknamed Philip IV, "the Bane of Chinamen," King of Spain.

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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    All the silver in the world isn't going to prevent the factional strife,plague or how Hongwu's policies resulted in the the perpetual welfare his descendants or individual princes enjoyed.
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    hellheaven1987's Avatar Comes Domesticorum
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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    Bad monetary policy was what caused Ming to adopt silver as currency later on.
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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    Instability with paper currency (obviously people would burn them! duh!) led the Ming dynasty to adopt silver currency from trade with Spain and Japan. Is China's current currency made of paper?
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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wu Guo View Post
    All the silver in the world isn't going to prevent the factional strife,plague or how Hongwu's policies resulted in the the perpetual welfare his descendants or individual princes enjoyed.
    A lot of the Hongwu Emperor's restrictive and draconian social and economic policies were overturned by his immediate successors, like the Yongle Emperor, though. However, you are right that the most wealthy fleeced the state. This was especially the case for eunuchs during the reign of the Wanli Emperor.

    Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
    Bad monetary policy was what caused Ming to adopt silver as currency later on.
    Very true, their hyper-inflated paper banknote currency was largely abandoned even in the mid 15th century. The root of the problem was obviously the emperors, especially the founder Hongwu, handing out massive amounts of cash as rewards to various subjects without any concern for inflation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Samraat Mahendra Maurya View Post
    Instability with paper currency (obviously people would burn them! duh!) led the Ming dynasty to adopt silver currency from trade with Spain and Japan. Is China's current currency made of paper?
    How much yuan do you need, sir?



    In either case, the whole system of paying taxes with silver started in 1436 with commuting the southern grain tax to silver payments instead. Paying land property taxes entirely in silver became enshrined nationwide with the Single Whip Reform of 1581, at the behest of the Wanli Emperor's Grand Secretary Zhang Juzheng. Ming officials were fully capable of reversing this trend, but they did not foresee the Japanese and Spaniards ever cutting off silver shipments when at the time silver was so abundant and flowing into China by the ton.

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    hellheaven1987's Avatar Comes Domesticorum
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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    No, Ming used copper coins too. The real issues were inability to recall those bills/coins and unable to stop private coin making, forced civilians of Ming to adopt silver unofficially as currency. Ming government simply accepted the fact later on by making it official.

    This is not just Ming problem but every state faced same issue, including Spain. If you are familiar with modern monetary policy you would realize why most states of that time had same currency issue (hint: about banks).
    Last edited by hellheaven1987; July 28, 2015 at 09:08 AM.
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    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
    No, Ming used copper coins too. The real issues were inability to recall those bills/coins and unable to stop private coin making, forced civilians of Ming to adopt silver unofficially as currency. Ming government simply accepted the fact later on by making it official.
    I never said the Ming didn't use copper coinage. In fact I pointed that out in the OP. Where did you get this idea? As I've stated above, silver became the chief method for everyone to pay their taxes, while copper coins were used for regular commercial transactions.

    This is not just Ming problem but every state faced same issue, including Spain. If you are familiar with modern monetary policy you would realize why most states of that time had same currency issue (hint: about banks).
    True, true, true.

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    hellheaven1987's Avatar Comes Domesticorum
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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    I was replying to other post. Either way, the adoption of silver was not a major issue to Ming government since the government actively suppressed trading economy, hence it needed less currency to circulate in market. Ming's issue was backward economy structure (completely rely in agriculture and suppression of other sectors) and bad adminstration organization.
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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    I think a good question would be; could the Ming economic collapse have been prevented, despite the silver shortage? Or were they doomed without their precious pretty silver

  10. #10

    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    Finance was pretty much a universal bane of nations, especially the larger ones, before the modern sort-of science of economics came along. Hell, its still giving us trouble today, mostly because of politicians who ignore their financial advisers, or take their advice from special interest groups. Better then having no advisers at all to ignore, I suppose.

    The flux of new world silver didn't exactly help stabilize the Ming economy, but it seems like it was hardly its greatest concern, what with all the natural disasters, internal strife and the Manchus. Rome faced worse inflation (of their own doing rather then external factors), for example, and got through it; without a pressing external threat or severe enough internal division, economic trouble alone won't do an empire in.
    Granted, the Roman administration was a lot more adept at handling the problem then Ming's. Which is not to say the Romans handled it well (they didn't), but rather that the Ming handled it very poorly.
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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
    I was replying to other post.
    Oh! Right. Samraat. That makes sense.

    Either way, the adoption of silver was not a major issue to Ming government since the government actively suppressed trading economy, hence it needed less currency to circulate in market. Ming's issue was backward economy structure (completely rely in agriculture and suppression of other sectors) and bad adminstration organization.
    That's certainly the underpinning for why one nasty hiccup in their monetary circulation system seems to have brought the entire thing crashing down. The funny thing is that conditions seemed even worse for economic freedom at the dynasty's founding with the Hongwu Emperor's anti-mercantile policies that were clearly borne out of his distrust for the merchant class and distaste for their craft. You could definitely say that distrust of the merchants was already heavily ingrained in the landowning class of literati gentry who provided the government with candidates for government exams and new scholarly-officials. Hongwu made it extremely difficult for itinerant merchants to practice their trade and move about, or for anyone to move about for that matter, envisioning a perfect society where such things were unnecessary. That was a disaster, one that his successors eagerly overturned but didn't fully address the problem.

    Meanwhile, over the course of the late 15th and 16th centuries, the learned gentry eased up on their hatred and suspicion of the merchant class as merchants themselves were finally allowed to serve and command in government posts and offices with the lifting of an age-old ban. This brought in policies that were favorable to the merchant class, but again, this didn't really fix the problem. There were still laws, as you suggest, that actively suppressed various forms of commerce. Although the Yongle Emperor had a very outward approach, sending Treasure Fleets to the Indian Ocean and back to gather tribute, after his reign most of the seaports in the East and South China Seas were shuttered to foreign trade with the exception of a handful that handled regular trade missions with Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. It wasn't until the late Ming Dynasty that the maritime ban on most seaports was lifted, with the oncoming of the Portuguese traders at the beginning of the 16th century, then the Spanish, then the Dutch, and finally even the English in the last couple decades of Ming rule.

    Quote Originally Posted by IrishBlood View Post
    I think a good question would be; could the Ming economic collapse have been prevented, despite the silver shortage? Or were they doomed without their precious pretty silver
    HellHeaven seems to think they were doomed regardless, as any other economic crisis spurred by some other factor could make the faulty house of cards tumble in the same way. Perhaps if they made serious attempts to wean themselves off of the pretty precious silver decades before the 1640s AND implemented sweeping reforms that lifted the draconian measures on free commerce, then perhaps their economy could have kept itself together.

    Quote Originally Posted by Caligula's_Horse View Post
    Finance was pretty much a universal bane of nations, especially the larger ones, before the modern sort-of science of economics came along. Hell, its still giving us trouble today, mostly because of politicians who ignore their financial advisers, or take their advice from special interest groups. Better then having no advisers at all to ignore, I suppose.

    The flux of new world silver didn't exactly help stabilize the Ming economy, but it seems like it was hardly its greatest concern, what with all the natural disasters, internal strife and the Manchus. Rome faced worse inflation (of their own doing rather then external factors), for example, and got through it; without a pressing external threat or severe enough internal division, economic trouble alone won't do an empire in.
    Granted, the Roman administration was a lot more adept at handling the problem then Ming's. Which is not to say the Romans handled it well (they didn't), but rather that the Ming handled it very poorly.
    I never really thought to compare the Ming tax system to that of the Romans, but even in the age when Roman senators were disbarred from any sort of corrupting and immoral mercantile activity outside of managing the assets and agricultural yield of their landed estates, I don't think the Romans ever actively restricted free trade like the various Chinese dynasties. Did Rome also hold exclusive monopolies on things like industrial salt and iron production? I know the Roman government needed a lot of iron to arm and armor their legions, but how was this actually done? With private contracts or directly administered government works? Didn't the Roman government have a bunch of its own slaves working the mines? Or were these slaves privately owned by contractors who did business with the state?

    The disbandment and reestablishment of the salt and iron monopolies was a common theme in Chinese history, from the ancient Han Dynasty onwards. The government during the mid Tang Dynasty of the 8th century, however, devised a scheme of selling the rights and licenses for salt merchants to practice their trade, gaining state revenue that way instead of banning all private salt manufacturing and taking it over with a giant government bureaucracy. This policy was continued into the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. The Ming really botched it, though, by forcefully trying to establish hereditary salt merchant families whose members were not allowed to change their government-designated occupation or even their location of residence. They were even made to provide a quota of salt, in exchange for rice at first, then paper currency in the 15th century, and then various other means to pay them. This was absolutely untenable, though, because illegal underground black-market sales of salt were far cheaper than the salt sold by the great hereditary merchants aligned with the government.

    When the Ming authorities tried to raise the price of the salt in order to meet their revenue quota, this made the hereditary merchants' salt even less competitive with that of smugglers and black market salt merchants. When the official hereditary merchants failed to turn a profit, and with so much illicit salt being sold everywhere, this caused numerous problems, even disrupting supplies of timely grain shipments to frontier soldiers. The Ming government's seizure of illicit salt also did little to help the problem, since their attempts to resell seized salt at government prices were once again beaten by the competition of black market salt that was abundant and cheap.

    In sum, the Ming government should have just said "screw this" and let tax production be entirely free, taxing the free market like all other regular goods. Their system wasn't stopping hereditary salt merchants from becoming too powerful anyways, seeing how the government hereditary salt merchants were hugely influential. Just for his amusement, one of these notorious salt merchants was rich enough to craft a giant golden vase that needed a tall ladder if you were to climb up into it. Preventing such excesses was the whole impetus for controlling the market in the first place, to curb the power and wealth of the leading merchants. Apparently it didn't work the way the Ming government had intended.

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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    Yes there were trade restrictions, e.g. Greek Merchants weren't allowed to trade in Italian ports until the 440's after the crisis with the Fall of Carthage necessitated more lax economic policy.

    I don't know much about Roman mining, but the Roman supply of weapons and armor was done via private manufacturers with government contracts in the Principate, and through the state-owned fabricae in the late Roman period. The laborers were considered semi-free (they weren't quite slaves but not quite liberti either).

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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    Quote Originally Posted by Magister Militum Flavius Aetius View Post
    Yes there were trade restrictions, e.g. Greek Merchants weren't allowed to trade in Italian ports until the 440's after the crisis with the Fall of Carthage necessitated more lax economic policy.

    I don't know much about Roman mining, but the Roman supply of weapons and armor was done via private manufacturers with government contracts in the Principate, and through the state-owned fabricae in the late Roman period. The laborers were considered semi-free (they weren't quite slaves but not quite liberti either).
    "You must spread some Reputation around before giving it to Magister Militum Flavius Aetius again."

    Dammit! Oh well. I think you addressed my questions fairly well. Thanks for sharing! I wonder how much the Roman economy suffered by such trade restrictions? In either case the economy was booming in the early Principate, so they couldn't have been that crippling or damaging, right?

    In either case, let's not get too off-track from the main discussion of 17th-century Spain and China.

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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    I'll give this my thorough inspection later but right now I'll just say that silver allowed the Ming to reduce the amount of paper currency in circulation. This reduced the inflation to an extent but allegedly silver created inflation by the early 1600's. This probably would have been no issue but the natural disasters that occurred in the late Ming caused poor harvests and all sorts of other problems.

    The price of grain skyrocketed so that the populace could not afford to purchase grain in high amounts in certain regions thus creating the pretext for what ultimately became the peasant led Shun dynasty. So directly speaking silver had less of an impact than natural disasters causing disgruntled peasants, bandits, soldiers etc to take up arms.

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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

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    Silver may be the bane of Chinese dynasties, considering that the last time they demanded in in trade for tea, the British came up with a more addictive solution.

    A fiat currency works if the recipients have faith in the issuing authority and the underlying economy, something that a lot of Chinese tend to wisely hedge against, especially if you consider the current Shanghai crash.
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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    I never really thought to compare the Ming tax system to that of the Romans, but even in the age when Roman senators were disbarred from any sort of corrupting and immoral mercantile activity outside of managing the assets and agricultural yield of their landed estates, I don't think the Romans ever actively restricted free trade like the various Chinese dynasties. Did Rome also hold exclusive monopolies on things like industrial salt and iron production? I know the Roman government needed a lot of iron to arm and armor their legions, but how was this actually done? With private contracts or directly administered government works? Didn't the Roman government have a bunch of its own slaves working the mines? Or were these slaves privately owned by contractors who did business with the state?
    I was referring specifically to how they handled inflation rather then grand economic policy. The Romans suffer a bout of inflation for a few decades around Aurelian and Diocletian's time (275ish), which they were eventually able to recover from reasonably well. The inflation was notably Rome's own fault, for getting too deep into debt (mostly from all the wars and the military being much too well paid by that stage) and having to actively debase their currency to meet it. The laws and reforms they passed to counteract the problem varied greatly in effectiveness (some helping, some actively counterproductive), but the thing is that unlike the Ming, the Roman leadership was more in tune with what was happening outside their palace. I'm not saying they were champions of the common man or something, but they apparently had the awareness to realize reforms were necessary, and to drop at least some of those reforms that didn't work.
    The Ming on the other hand, well, lets just say that the term "Celestial rule" was accurate in the sense that the leadership had its head in the clouds. Being detached from the common people is great to keep the peasants in awe, but has a rather dismal effect on government policy, and apparently doesn't awe the peasants quite to the point of keeping them from revolting once they start to starve.

    In terms of economics at large, I think Rome leaned more towards free trade, at least compared to the Ming, not because of any ideological reason (the different economic schools of thought didn't even exist at that stage), but simply because for the most part, it didn't occur to them to hamper trade or monopolize industry to nearly the same extent. Which is fortunate for the Romans, because for the most part, benign neglect is actually pretty decent trade policy.
    Protectionism and monopolies have potential to churn a great profit, but at the same time can easily lead to stagnation, uncompetitiveness on an international level, a flourishing black market, and a great deal of corruption. The old pre-20th century Chinese "we already have everything we need, so why trade without filthy barbarians anymore then we have to" mindset couldn't have helped, though (to my admittedly limited knowledge) I don't think it was nearly as bad in the Ming's day as it would later get with the Qing.
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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

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    The Emperor would have the bureaucrats as his gatekeepers, which means all information filters through them, and all Imperial directives are interpreted by them.
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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    We do know Ming tried to control inflation but unable to really recall its cheap material currency, hence they adopted precious metal currency.

    You probably can argue that Chinese is first civilization that realized Gold Standard would restrict amount of currency circulating in market and hence willing to adopt paper currency - at least that was why paper bill was widely used in Song first.
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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    As far as I recall the use of Spanish silver allowed for Ming to remove paper currency and have peasants and working classes pay their taxes in, you guessed it, silver. This was a lot easier because having something that was more valuable like silver meant it was easier to buy grain. Aside from this though the Ming were able to pay people in silver especially their military. The Ming military was practically rearmed across the steppe frontier with more cannon and firearms and while this weakened their offensive capabilities in some cases where horses were reduced it did increase their defensive power. This is best demonstrated in 1626 when Nurhaci was defeated and killed at Ningyuan and in 1629 where Hong Taiji's attempt to attack Hebei province (Beijing) by bypassing Ningyuan was foiled (even though periphery areas were still vulnerable to Jurchen attack, one does not simply assault Ningyuan ).

    In some ways it seems almost inevitable that an economic collapse would occur as it did during the Yuan dynasty after really bad natural disasters. The large circulation of paper money in some ways made inflation a constant issue (which happened both during Yuan and Ming). The real question is would these natural disasters cause the political fragmentation of Ming on that local basis when it did? Or would paper currency allow for the survival of the dynasty past that event even after the 1630's Shun peasantry revolt?

    Technically the Ming did not fall even from the Shun dynasty rebels as the revolts were mostly confined to the western areas of China in Shaanxi, Shanxi and Henan then they marched over into Hubei. It was at this point where the Shun rebels occupied Beijing and the Ming Emperor killed himself. As the Ming armies on the frontier led by Wu Sangui made a pact with the Jin Jurchens (or Qing as they were known by now) Dorgon led the Qing army westwards and with the help of Wu Sangui's army they defeated the Shun rebels at Shanhai pass, the rebels evacuated Beijing and fled back to their bases in the west.
    At this point in regards towards conquering China Dorgon said "We can do no more than gain an inch and hold an inch, gain a foot and hold on to a foot".

    At this point the Qing only controlled Hubei and their immediate actions were against the Shun rebels in the west. Dorgon sent Wu Sangui and his forces to conquer the Shun territory along with two Qing Banners under his brothers Ajige and Dodo.
    It was not until after the Shun were mostly defeated that Dorgon authorized campaigns further south against the Ming.
    In theory had it not been for the large scale defection of Ming military personnel and the expansionist disposition of Dorgon, which he gained later on, then the Ming might have survived if even just a divide between North and South. There was also a lack of unified struggle against the Qing as various princes declared themselves Emperor of Ming and so the Qing took them out piecemeal. The larger challenge was probably the revolts that happened immediately afterwards when the Qing conquered most of China and the rebels had to be put down province by province (although in multiple cases the Qing were able to hold on to major cities and choke points within those provinces and only required reinforcements to push out again).

    Now the economic policies of the Japanese were extremely complex. The early policies of the Ashikaga Shogunate were somewhat lax as imports from Ming and Joseon were all the rage and piracy was generally ignored due to bureaucratic incompetence, feudal incompetence or just warlords unwilling to comply with something that didn't really concern their interests. It was this lack of compliance of the Ashikaga to curtail piracy (possibly they were unable to as well) and their unwillingness to place themselves within the Ming vassal kingdom hierarchy that brought poor relations. The Ming banned official Japanese trade in 1548 and did not allow more trade with Japan until 1567. In 1451 the Japanese sent 9 ships to trade in Fujian and this must have started concerns in Ming over inflation as the Ming ordered that Japanese trade missions could come only once every 10 years. In 1551 rival samurai clans clashed in China itself as these clans were now controlling contact and trade with Ming.

    As the Sengoku Jidai was finally settling into its full fury many clans were displaced from power and relations formally ended. The Ashikaga system of taxation was still evolving and depended on local necessity and still tried to borrow on past ideas. While in the Sengoku Jidai there were multiple states so to speak so more often than not the daimyo adopted practical policies when it came to commerce and taxation. Most interactions by now were done through pirates or through Portuguese merchants. During the Tokugawa Shogunate economic policy was more consistent but also extremely complex and in some cases wholly impractical. Due to the fact that the Dutch were beginning to gain their own monopoly over Asian trade so too did they replace the Portuguese as the primary importers of outside goods in Japan.

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    Default Re: Did Philip IV of Spain cause the downfall of the Ming Dynasty of China?

    @Lord Oda Nobunaga: interesting! I didn't know that samurai fought each other on Chinese soil during the Ming due to trade concerns and economic rivalries. I was only aware of the samurai briefly fighting Ming Chinese and Joseon Koreans during the Imjin War and Japanese invasion of Korea.

    Quote Originally Posted by Caligula's_Horse View Post
    Protectionism and monopolies have potential to churn a great profit, but at the same time can easily lead to stagnation, uncompetitiveness on an international level, a flourishing black market, and a great deal of corruption. The old pre-20th century Chinese "we already have everything we need, so why trade without filthy barbarians anymore then we have to" mindset couldn't have helped, though (to my admittedly limited knowledge) I don't think it was nearly as bad in the Ming's day as it would later get with the Qing.
    That was the impression that Lord McCartney, 1st Earl McCartney, and his British embassy were left with when they were escorted out of China by the Qianlong Emperor's authorities in 1793. Half a century later the British were battling the same Qing authorities and ensuring the opium trade in China (as Condottiere alludes to above) along with privileged trading rights into the interior. This sort of gunboat diplomacy in East Asia was also seen with the forceful diplomatic and commercial trade opening of Tokugawa Japan by US Commodore Matthew C. Perry and his Black Ships in 1854. The Qing did restrict foreign trade just like the Ming did for about a century-and-a-half to a handful of seaports (I believe I mentioned this above). The thing that convinced the Ming to open more seaports for business and foreign trade by the end of the 16th century was the oncoming of the Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch sailors, as I mentioned in the OP. The Qing didn't see the need to do the same and, once again, allowed only a handful of seaports to conduct limited official trade with foreign merchants and visiting tributaries from overseas. The British changed all of that.

    Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
    We do know Ming tried to control inflation but unable to really recall its cheap material currency, hence they adopted precious metal currency.

    You probably can argue that Chinese is first civilization that realized Gold Standard would restrict amount of currency circulating in market and hence willing to adopt paper currency - at least that was why paper bill was widely used in Song first.
    That's very true, as the idea of scribal receipts of purchase being able to be traded and exchanged for goods in a location far away was discovered by the Chinese back in the 8th century during the Tang Dynasty. By the 11th century during the Song Dynasty the true banknote paper currency was established and printed on a massive nationwide scale. This was unprecedented. The Ming, being established in the 14th century, hadn't had a whole lot of previous history to observe when managing their own paper currency and introducing far too much of it into circulation.

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