The Asian Mediterranean
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The Asian Mediterranean

Port Cities and Trading Networks in China, Japan and Southeast Asia, 13th–21st Century

François Gipouloux

This insightful book draws upon a wide range of disciplines – political economy, geography and international relations – to examine how Asia has returned to its central position in the world economy.
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Chapter 8: The Asian Maritime System

François Gipouloux


MARKETPLACES The Asian maritime system was based on two types of commercial establishment: the emporium and the entrepôt. Let us first take a look at the emporium: this was a trade centre where a wide variety of goods were collected and then redistributed on a stable and regular scale.1 The emporium though was not a local market. It was a market devoted to long-distance trade. It collected and handled goods over a vast area. The seasonal character of trade, dictated by the monsoon, gave the emporium an immediate role: to make it possible for the merchant not to sell his cargo immediately, but to store it and reap the benefits of a better price at a later date. However, the emporium remained a peddlers’ market, distinct from the market controlled by the commercial companies associated with the entrepôt. The city was constructed around the emporium, because the facilities necessary for trade had to be present on a permanent basis: transport, insurance, credit and exchange of information on economic matters. The location was often fortified to protect it from raids by pirates or bandits. Government intervention was reduced to a minimum for a maritime emporium, which operated according to a different logic from that of the continent or the country in which it was located. The emporium was Malacca before the arrival of the Portuguese, or Aceh, Riau and Johor, shortly afterwards. When Malacca fell in 1511, the trade it had attracted migrated to Aceh, the sultanate located on...

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