During the 19th century, the great powers imposed a series of unequal treaties on China that violated the country’s sovereignty. These agreements guaranteed Europeans, Americans, and later the Japanese rights of extraterritoriality, opened an increasing number of treaty ports to international commerce, and fixed import tariffs at 5 percent to facilitate foreign penetration of Chinese markets. Qing officials launched an important reform movement called “Self-Strengthening” in the 1860s to enhance state power and combat foreign influence, and these efforts continued until China’s defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895. Although the imperial court in Beijing placed its imprimatur on this political program, the principal impetus for these changes came from high-ranking provincial authorities of Han Chinese ethnic extraction such as Li Hongzhang, Zhang Zhidong, and Ding Richang. Despite the partial political decentralization of the period, these reforms had a lasting impact. Over the course of a half century, the Self-Strengthening Movement and the subsequent New Policies (1901–1911) laid the foundation of a powerful military-fiscal state in China, a polity organized around the imperative of war-making. This form of political organization combined money, guns, and bureaucracy in new ways and replicated certain institutional features of European states without, however, transforming China into a poor imitation of “the West.” Officials augmented these core reforms with a series of state-sponsored enterprises in shipping, telegraphy, mining, and banking to develop a small modern sector within the economy. At an intellectual level, authorities such as Li Hongzhang formulated a new conception of statecraft focused on the pursuit of wealth and power to protect the empire’s sovereignty. Meanings of this term remained fluid prior to 1895, but together with ideas such as rights, independence, and commercial warfare it served as part of the basic vocabulary for this new philosophy of governance. In sum, the late Qing state amassed the sinews of power with considerable success, particularly in urban areas, and strengthened itself beyond the minimal threshold necessary to retain its independence during the height of European imperialism.
Four-centuries-long encounters between the Ottoman Empire and the Grand Duchy of Muscovy/Russian Empire point to complex relations that have been triggered and defined mostly by territorial, trade disputes, and wars, and maintained by diplomatic rivalry and occasional military alliances. Starting as friendly encounters during Sultan Bayezid II reign at the beginning of the 16th century, these relations, essentially and persistently asymmetrical, reveal an initial and long Ottoman dominance over the Muscovy/Russian side; one that lasted from the early 16th to the late 18th century—whereby the two sides shared no direct borders, traded and did not fight each other until the late 17th century—followed by a late 18th-century and mid-19th-century Russian ascendency. This ascendency was achieved largely thanks to the military reform that Tsar/Emperor Peter the Great undertook, namely, the establishment of a standing and professional army and consequentially due to the many wars that Russia won throughout the 19th century; the decisive ones being those fought during the reign of Empress Catherine the Great. The mid-19th century and the early 20th century—which witnessed the implosion of the Russian Empire due to the Bolshevik Revolution and the break-up of the Ottoman Empire by Britain and France—was a long period that saw few and brief military alliances, contested trade relations and yet continued wars. It was ultimately marred by an Ottoman drive to counterbalance Russia’s dominance, while the latter sought to preserve it, by involving other European powers (British and French)—the most crucial moment being the British, French, and Ottoman armies defeating the Russian one in the Crimean War (1853–1856)—transforming their bilateral interactions into multilateral but unsustainable relations.
Beginning in 1206 large parts of Eurasia came under the sway of the Chinggissid Mongols. In 1260 the united Mongol Empire came to an end and divided into four khanates ruled by the progenies of Chinggis Khan. The four khanates were the Yuan (centered at China), the Ilkhanate (Middle East), the Golden Horde (Russia and the Caucasus), and the Chaghadaids (Central Asia). These political entities remained connected under the broad umbrella of the institutions and worldview that originated in the steppe and one that was informed by Chinggis Khan’s rule. Essentially the periods of the united Mongol Empire (1206–1260) and of the four khanates (1260–1350) can be termed as the period of Mongol rule. The abiding allegiance to the Chinggissid legacy continued to find resonance for the far-flung imperial family well in to the mid-14th century and even later in certain parts of Eurasia. Under this united system of rule, trade came to occupy a special place and led to hitherto unprecedented exchanges and prosperity. Mongol Eurasia was able to transform micro economies into a coherent macro economy that relied on overland and maritime trade. These exchanges in large part were achieved through the building of physical infrastructure connecting China all the way to northwest Europe, and provision of capital. Along with overland trade, the Mongols were able to participate in and spur maritime trade in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean-Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean trade complex, even though they didn’t control all of it. The architecture essential for conquest proved important for trade and exchanges of goods, peoples, and ideas as well. Physical security, storage facilities, monetary policies, and the creation of markets and cities across the expanse of Mongol Eurasia enlivened trade. The historical accounts of this period describe cities overflowing with goods and riches along with transfers of a variety of technologies, providing a vivid picture of exchanges. The Mongols followed in the footsteps of a long line of nomadic empires that had been pivotal in the flow of long-distance trade and expanded it across Eurasia. Not only did they promote trade and patronize traders, they influenced the kinds of goods and technologies that were found on the Silk Road(s) at the time. The presence of a wide array of manufactured goods in large quantities signifies their role in the founding of production centers. While the Mongols were not traders themselves, the Khans were impressive in their understanding of the importance of trading networks and relied heavily on access to the information traders provided. From the very beginning of the empire traders filled the ranks of interlocutors and helped carve a space for bolstering exchanges in policymaking. Traders were close to the Khans and political elites and informed decision-making, often serving as emissaries, ministers, and administrators in the service of the Khans. Not only did traders provide the Khans with commodities, but they also served as money lenders, making them important partners to the Mongol state and the imperial family. The myriad relationships between the Mongol Khans and traders are testament to a deep partnership that brought to bear an exciting moment for Eurasia, making it possible to refer to the Mongol period as the first globalization.
The origins of the Portuguese Estado da Índia—the sum of all Portuguese Crown possessions east of the Cape of Good Hope—can be traced back to the late 1400s, most importantly to the inaugural voyage of Vasco da Gama from Lisbon to Calicut (Kozhikode) in 1497–1498. After some initial hesitations, the Portuguese Crown created a governorship for India in 1505, with a seat at Cochin (Kochi) later transferred to Goa, to oversee commercial, military, administrative, and other activities in an increasing number of possessions along the shores of East Africa and Maritime Asia. Portuguese trading posts (feitorias), forts, and fortified towns across the region resulted from conquest or, more frequently, from negotiated agreements with local rulers, on whose cooperation the Portuguese generally relied. The Estado reached its apex in the second half of the 16th century, drawing vast resources from trade around the Cape and within Asian and African waters, while investing increasingly in military and religious campaigns in a variety of regions from southeastern Africa to the Moluccas (Malukus) and Japan. Despite significant losses to the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the English East India Company (EIC) during the 17th century, the Estado survived until the 20th century. Goa became a part of the Indian Union in 1961, and Macao integrated into the People’s Republic of China in 1999. The perceived decadence of the Estado during much of its history is at odds with its longevity and has prompted longstanding debates about the nature of Portuguese power in Asia; its reliance on trade, military might, and imperial ideas; and its intertwinement with Asian polities and societies.
Scholars often regard the Qing-Korean relationship as the most representative instance of the so-called tributary system, the Sino-centric hierarchical world order in early modern East Asia. It was also the most stable one, established in 1637 and ending as late as 1895 after the Qing’s total defeat in the first Sino-Japanese War. Precisely because this bilateral relationship was so typical and so stable, it was also unique in many ways. Although the Manchu regime largely inherited Ming China’s institutions in dealing with Korea (and, later, with other foreign states), this legacy revealed new meanings in the context of the Manchu conquest of China. As the Qing’s first and last subordinate state in the region, Chosŏn Korea served as both an ideological and a practical model in shaping the Qing’s geopolitical construction. Beginning and ending with military clashes, the Qing-Chosŏn hierarchical relationship from the early 17th to the late 19th centuries was nourished and solidified by more peaceful interactions. Generally conducted under the Confucian zongfan (宗藩) principles, these interactions included rituals, diplomatic missions, trade, negotiations, cross-border jurisdiction, and cultural exchanges. Far from being imposed unilaterally by the Qing, the bilateral relationship was mutually constructed in a long process in which the Korean government and literati played a proactive role. During this time, the Korean attitude toward the Qing underwent a gradual change, from hostility to nuanced acceptance. In the late 19th century the two countries tried but failed to adjust their relationship in order to survive the geopolitical threat from industrialized, colonial powers. The collapse of the Qing-Chosŏn hierarchy eventually led to the rise of new national identities in both China and the Korean Peninsula in the 20th century.