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 20: China’s Power Base Shifts Back Towards the Sea

François Gipouloux


A good deal of light is shed on a number of issues if East Asia is conceived as an arrangement of transnational regions, linked by a maritime corridor. In this perspective, economic areas appear no longer enclosed within national territories; they acquire another dimension. Everything is seen in a new way, from the state and the status of national sovereignty, to the nature of the threats to it and the strategies required for its defence. In this context, we will return to the three major themes of this book, which are geopolitical concepts in origin but have been transformed by Braudel’s analyses, namely: the land/sea dichotomy, the idea of a frontier and the polar opposition of centre to periphery. I propose to go further than Braudel himself, in order to release these concepts from the determinist limitations imposed by their geographical provenance. LAND/SEA: BASIC FORMS OF GLOBALISATION For historians of maritime Asia, globalisation is not a new phenomenon. In the late 16th century, the four great continents were already firmly linked by regular trade along established sea routes. The ‘one world’ idea became a reality with the opening of the trans-Pacific route linking the New World with the Philippines. This was initiated in 1511, when the Portuguese seized the great Southeast Asian emporium of Malacca, and completed in 1571, when the Spanish founded Manila. The great historian of Portuguese expansion, Charles Boxer, has argued that Asia was the scene of the first globalisation. At the end of the 16th century,...

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