Formation of Modern East Asia
Modernity as a concept is usually taken as the beginning of the economic
integration of the world.
Asia since 1600 is not a time of isolation. It is the beginning of the
integration of Asia with the world; hence, to study the post-1600 Asia also
necessitates considerations of the events taking place in other regions on
East Asia in 1600 is a space on itself, but it is not purely isolated.
Asia as a Geographical Entity
No continent can be clearly demarcated. However, Asia in particular is
Traditionally, history as a Western discipline regard Asia has having a history,
and Europe as having histories.
'Asia' is not a description so much as a conceptual placeholder.
Traditionally, ever since Ancient Greece, Asia was posited as 'the Other,' the
The post-1600 period marks when Asia becomes the target of Europe, for
expansion and colonialism, and also as an object of knowledge.
The emergence of Asia on the world state occurs concurrently with the
beginning of European colonial/imperial projects.
East Asia within Asia
East Asia: latecomer or early centre of modernity?
East Asia is another geographically distinct area of Asia, where there is
greater levels of cultural integration than elsewhere.
Two main elements of integration: culture and economy.
Economic integrate comes about through trade. Cultural integration takes as
its backbone the spread of Classical Chinese language. For centuries before
and after the 1600s, Classical Chinese remained the lingua franca of the
elite. Economic Elements of Modern East Asia
Contrary to common presentation, there was a highly developed system of
trade between East Asian spaces by the 1500s.
Not just trade with Europe, but inter-Asia trade.
Japan becomes the major exporter of copper and silver to China by the
1560s, on which China becomes somewhat dependent.
Indeed, there is a form of division of labour between the various areas, for
example in terms of shipping.
Populations expand dramatically between mid-1500s and early 1600s.
Prior to European contact, there already existed a form of inter-Asian
China and the Early Modern World Economy
Chinese economic development (in terms of trade, production, technical skill,
etc.) was the most advanced on earth in the 10 to 12 centuries.
The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) sees massive development of arts, trade,
national integration, and the development of ties with Europe, India, and
other East Asia nations.
It also saw development of scientific knowledge, particularly cartography.
Particularly important under the Ming Dynasty is the development of
'national culture' (although the term is contentious and imperfect).
The Ming is also the high period of Neo-Confucianism. However,
Confucianism plays a complex role in discussing East Asian history. On the
one hand, Confucianism is certainly shared throughout the various spaces.
On the other hand, what Confucianism actually consists of is not necessarily
shared. Furthermore, Confucianism entails much more than religious
observations commonly regarded in the West, extending into social norms.
Modern East Asia – 1600-Present
East Asian development post-1600 takes place against the development of
European science and colonialism.
This period saw the scientific revolution, the development of modern physics, geography, chemistry, as well as technical advances in calculation and
This makes the colonial project more attractive and easier. Unsurprisingly
then, this period also saw the establishment of British colonialism in India, as
well as British and French colonization of North America.
The establishment of the British presence in India makes possible discussions
of further colonialism extensions into East Asia.
Hence, the 'emergence' of East Asia in the 1600s is really the emergence of
the world as a uniform space, the emergence of the integrated world as a
political, economic, and military sphere.
Common Elements of E