January 1, 1426 - Chinese Isolationism

By: Kyle Reinecke

Throughout the years, china has done whatever it can to separate itself from other cultures. From its great walls to its vast borders. China has remained a country that prides itself in its independence. As a country, who in the twelfth century was completely under the thumb of Mongol control, the people of china found themselves in a state of oppression. This oppression was unescapable because by 1279, the Mongols controlled almost all of china. These oppressive dictators killed innocents and tried to destroy all of its culture, but they failed. By 1368, the Mongol emperor along with the remnants of his overthrown government fled and the Chinese rebels seized control and began their reformation.

From the remnants of Mongol-ruled china came the Ming dynasty. They sought to erase any parts of the Mongol culture. People who worked for the Mongols where found of treason and killed and others where shamed and abandoned by there families. Everywhere within china became the re-empowerment of the Chinese people’s and the re-institution of their government, culture, and religion. China once again sought to continue it pursuits and gain knowledge and power. But china never fully-healed and the Mongols left a scar that still impacts the Chinese people even today.

During the Ming dynasty, society in China had begun to change. This transformation was mostly in part due to the efforts of the many Ming emperors. Having defeated and cast away the Mongols, the Ming emperors began an effort to eliminate all non-Chinese influences from their society. As a result, the Chinese government and relations with other countries changed dramatically. As a result, all foreign trade was banned and they entered into isolationism similar to what Japan had done, which means that they did everything they could to avoid contact with other countries whether in international trade or in the transfer of knowledge. Believing themselves to be superior in every category and not needing help. In the end, this isolationism did little more than hurt China; in 1644 the Ming Dynasty was overthrown, and by the 1800s the western world had gone leaps and bounds ahead of China in technological advancements. With this huge advantage, the Western world was able to gain influence in China’s affairs, and China could do little to stop it.

Isolationism is so important to history today because it changed the course of history for many of what are today world powers. Had China opened itself up to new knowledge and cultures, it could have become a global power much earlier in its life span changing potentially everything and giving Asia and incredible global power in the sixteenth through eighteenth century would have changed the course of history forever. It was China’s own ideas of strength in oneself that cost them the power they had lost to their captors in the twelfth century and an alternate timeline without Chinese isolationism would have been a much different China and a much different world.


Works cited

“The Mongol Dynasty.” Asia Society, asiasociety.org/education/mongol-dynasty.

Rawski, Evelyn S., and Kenneth J. DeWoskin. “The End of Mongol Rule.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 19 May 2020, www.britannica.com/place/China/The-end-of-Mongol-rule.


“Great Wall of China.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 May 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Wall_of_China.