1421 – Gavin Menzies (2003)

Old marine officer Menzies tells in this page-turner how the Chinese Empire collapsed in 1421 at its highpoint: at a time when it ruled the oceans, had established posts as far as on the shores of Patagonia and was cultural trendsetting. Until a perfect storm – internal unrest, imperial overstretch, superstition – made the emperor chose to close down the country, destroy his state of the arts war ships (‘as high as buildings’) and forbid all diplomatic and trade relations. This is the situation China has more or less been in ever since. It is only now that China is reclaiming, after 500 years, its dominant position in the world. Heavily criticized, but a great read.

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