China’s Historical Influence

China was a regional superpower in East Asia for about two-thousand years starting with the Han Dynasty in 206 B.C. How did China influence those countries?


China’s Sphere of Influence Japan, Korea, Vietnam AP World History

From Global Security.org we learn “During the T’ang (Thang) dynasty China (in the 7th to the 9th century AD) the two peoples of China and the Philippines already had relatively close relations and material as well as cultural exchanges.”

The Chinese exchanged silk, porcelain, colored glass, beads and iron ware for hemp cloth, tortoise shells, pearls and yellow wax of the Filipinos.

The Chinese became the dominant traders in the 12th and 13th centuries during the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 AD). The shift in the commerce between China and Southeast Asia saw Butuan send a tribute mission to the Sung emperor.

Ethnic Chinese sailed around the Philippine Islands from the 9th century onward and frequently interacted with the local Filipinos. Some datus, rajahs, and lakans (indigenous rulers) in the Philippines were themselves a product of the intermarriage between the Chinese merchant-settlers and the local Filipinos

There is a significant number of Thai-Chinese in Thailand. Fourteen percent of Thais may have Chinese origins. Significant intermixing has taken place such that there are few pure ethnic Chinese, and those of partially mixed Chinese ancestry account for as much as a third to a half of the Thai population.

In Vietnam,  approximately 1 million ethnic Chinese, constitute one of Vietnam’s largest minority groups.

Cambodia has more than 152,000 citizens who are Chinese.

Laotian Chinese number about 185,000. Most Laotian Chinese are descendants of older generations who moved down from the Southern China provinces starting in the 19th century.

Chinese Singaporeans make up 76.2% of that country’s citizens – approximately three out of four Singaporeans – making them the largest ethnic group in Singapore.

In Malaysia more than 23-percent of the population is Malaysian Chinese forming the second largest community of Overseas Chinese in the world, after Thailand. Within Malaysia, they represent the second largest ethnic group after the ethnic Malay majority.

Culturally, most Malaysian Chinese have maintained their Chinese heritage including their various dialects, although the descendants of the earliest Chinese migrants who arrived from the 15th to 17th century have assimilated aspects of the Malay culture and they form a distinct subethnic group known as the Peranakan or Baba-Nyonya.

There has been a recognizable community of Chinese people in Korea since the 1880s. Most early migrants came from China’s Shandong province. It’s estimated that about 780,000 live in South Korea today with another 10,000 in North Korea.

According to the latest population census in 2010, there are 2.8 million ethnic Chinese living in Indonesia, accounting for 1.2% of the total population. Observers say this number is much higher because many Indonesians are still reluctant to admit they are of Chinese descent, fearing discrimination.

Even Japan has its share of Chinese. In 1990, there were about 150,000 Chinese living in Japan. Today, that number is more than 700,000.

In Myanmar (Burma), 2.5-percent of the population is Chinese. Due to deposits of jade,  Chinese merchants have been involved in mining and trade there for more than two thousand years. In fact, during the Qing Dynasty, there were four major invasions (1765-1769) of Burma by China’s Manchu emperors. In 1784, the long struggle between Burma and China ended and regular trade started up again.


Overseas Chinese Make Their Mark

In November 1885, Sir Robert Hart favored a proposal that China, as Burma’s overlord, stand aside and allow the British Empire to pursue her own course there provided that Britain allow Burma to continue her decennial tribute (once every ten years) missions to China.

Instead, the British Empire made Burma a province of India in 1886.

Since independence from the British Empire, Burma/Myanmar has generally been impartial to world affairs but was one of the first countries to recognize Israel and the People’s Republic of China.

Territories such as the autonomous regions of Tibet, Xinjiang and countries like North Korea, Manchuria, Mongolia, Burma, Vietnam and others along China’s long borders were considered vassal states by some Chinese dynasties, and to maintain cordial relations and keep the peace, these vassal states often sent lavish gifts and delegations to China’s emperors on a regular schedule.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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