A Triangular Relationship
Leuven Global Governance series
Edited by Jan Wouters, Jean-Christophe Defraigne and Matthieu Burnay
Introduction: China, the European Union and the developing world: analysing and comparing a triangular relationship region by region
By the late 15th century, China’s economy had become essentially inward-looking as the Chinese leadership embraced self-centred and isolationist notions in managing their territory. Due to its sheer size, China remained the largest economy in the world until the mid-19th century and the Chinese market exerted significant influence on internation al trade. Pomeranz has shown how the Chinese demand for silver enabled Europe to gain a dominant position in international trade through its exploitation of American colonies and helped Europe avoid development deadlocks, facilitating the rise of industrialisation (Pomeranz 2000). Nevertheless, contrary to Western European powers, China’s role remained passive: it did not seek to control the international trade system. Between the 16th and the late 19th centuries, through colonisation or gunboat diplomacy and thanks to their institutional innovations, the modern Western European powers created a new world economy in which feudal entities of the non-Western world were forced to participate by opening up to trade and investment driven by Western merchants and companies. In that process, China lost a substantial part of its national sovereignty and did not play an important role in world affairs until 1945.