How would the Native Americans have fared had the Chinese colonized the Americas?

Hard to say. The Chinese never had any overseas empire so there’s no historical parallel.

The Chinese did colonize regions adjacent to their ancestral homelands and when they did they essentially overwhelmed the local culture and just made the colonized area into a part of a bigger China. But it seems unlikely they could have had that kind of effect across an ocean barrier.

:rolleyes: No, they wouldn’t have been “less inhibited” because the European colonists weren’t inhibited at all about slaughtering the Native Americans. Quite often in the name of Christianity. Especially since one of those “big necessity Christian-inspired principles” that justify killing people was someone not being a Christian.

Not really, no.

Yes, it was called smallpox ;).


  1. In the 1400s, Chinese guns were on a par with Europe’s.

  2. China suffered from much the same diseases as Europeans.

Edit: D’oh. Ninja’d by Tamerlane.

The debate so far seems to have focused on the possibility of Chinese colonization of those areas claimed by Spain. How about the Pacific Northwest and Alaska? Would China consider the Bering Strait only a slight waterway between the mainland of China and other territories that might be considered “adjacent to their ancestral homelands”?

That’s not really true. Relationships between Native Americans and colonists were complicated and not always violent. In the English colonies, at least, you’d usually get a treaty between the Native tribes in the region and the colonists. When violence happened, it was usually due to miscommunication and retaliation over incidents, and the results could be tragic, but it usually wasn’t just spontaneous “lets kill some Natives”. And, while I’m willing to believe it happened, off the top of my head, I can’t think of any major Native-colonial conflict that was started merely because the natives weren’t Christian or some colonial desire to kill non-Christians.

I think the Chinese economy will play a major role in what happened. Colonialism didn’t really kick off until the industrial revolution came into full swing, and people suddenly needed markets and raw materials on a massive scale. Without an industrialized capitalist system, there may not have been as much motivation to maintain overseas colonies.

The Chinese colonized outside of core China multiple times. As for how the American Indians would have fared just ask the Manchurians, Mongolians or Tibetans. For those of you playing at home, this translates into the American Indians would probably have disappeared as a seperate identity or shoved onto reservations.

Or more so, the Yue, who’ve retained even less of their cultural identity than the Manchu, Mongolians, and Tibetans, in large part, because China controlled them for longer. We don’t even know what language the Yue people spoke anymore.

IIRC, The Yue controlled more of modern China than the Han originally. So did the Zhuang for that matter. And the Nanzhao Kingdom rivaled Tang China.

Aren’t the Yue likely to be the modern Fujian and/or Cantonese?

Cortez and his band conquered the Aztec Empire for gain, of course, but the non-Christian religion of the Aztecs must have been an additional motivator. Mind you, that is rather an extreme example even for the New World.

At least party. The Fuijianese and Cantonese are probably a mixture of Han colonists and native Baiyue peoples.

:dubious: OK, now you’re just making up words.

The Chinese still would have had steel swords, and steel-headed polearms, and archers, including horse archers, with better bows than the Indians’, and body armor. And superior numbers. They would have cut to pieces any Indian force that had not both acquired and learned to use the Chinese weapons – if it engaged them openly.

Of course, whenever the Chinese tried to conquer the northern steppes, it never worked out – they usually found the Mongols/Turks/Tartars/Hsiung-Nu/etc. had no cities to attack, and would kind of melt into the landscape and harass the imperial army with here-and-gone cavalry charges.

Right. As Guns, Germs, and Steel observes, at the Battle of Cajamarca, the Spanish had only 14 matchlock guns and faced 80,000 warriors whose morale was high (they had just been victorious in civil war). It was the Spanish steel armor and swords that made the difference – 6,000-7,000 Incans were killed, and you can bet that wasn’t the work of 14 muzzle-loading matchlocks.

The complete technological package of horses, armor, steel weapons, and logistics would have been more than enough to assure dominance, but the Asians (like the Europeans) also had a philosophy of decisive battle and a written historical memory of past events by which to judge current events. Jared Diamond pointed out that at Cajamarca, the Incan emperor Atahualpa was suspicious of the Spanish and knew (from spies) they were not gods, but he was young (in his thirties) and had only the knowledge of treachery and political machination he had been able to acquire personally or from the advice of courtiers; he was ill-prepared for the encounter. The Spanish, by contrast, had had access to a vast written history of malfeasance and dirty tricks and knew exactly what they were doing.

Any Eurasian power would have been an overmatch for North American natives.

However, I’ll advance the argument that a Chinese discovery of America would have had no more permanent effect than an Italian/Spanish one did, or the French colonization of North America, for that matter. Just arriving is only part of the story. The continent would have gone to whichever power made the most serious effort to settle on a large scale. Neither the Vikings nor the Spanish nor the French made this effort.

The native Americans were unfortunately certain to suffer disabling epidemics from any contact, but it was the settlement that made their defeat and marginalization inevitable.

Your joking?! Spanish and Portugese colonies in south and central America from the middle of the 16th century; industrial revolution the second half of the 18th century at the earliest.

Two hundred years of colonialism and empire had nothing to do with the industrial revolution.

But the Spanish did not colonise in large part because they only had access the tropical Americas, and a lot of their experience with the temperate parts was disappointing swamp, desert and grassland. The Spanish culture, genetics and agriculture simply weren’t equipped to deal with the tropics and subtropics. Spanish peasants in particular seem to have been reluctant to settle in the new world because of the unfamiliarity of the climate and the necessity of using native agriculture.

In contrast a good chunk of of China is tropical, and much of the rest of the arable land is subtropical. The Chinese had been living in the tropics for millennia and had long perfected tropical agriculture. In fact through the use of tropical crops such as rice and animals such as buffalo and indicus cattle the Chinese would almost certainly have enhanced local food production.

So it is entirely possible that Chinese would have colonised the tropical Americas just as readily as they colonised tropical China, and with the same effect on the indigenous population.

It’s my impression that early colonialism had more in common with old-fashioned plunder (viking raids and the like) than the drive to create governments overseas. Colonization during the Age of Discovery mostly created limited trade outposts and religious missions. The goal was to create coastal outposts- often heavily armed- that could act as centers of trade and plunder through forays into the continent. But it wasn’t really about governing the local populations, and the cultural effects of this period on local populations was limited.

In the early 1700s, the nature of colonization begane to change as the financial instruments of modern capitalism emerged. It was modern finance and the creation of corporations and stocks that made colonialism as a system of directly governing foreign populations overseas possible.

As for the industrial revolution, the two systems really evolved together. The “golden age” of colonialism was one of industrialized empire. Both systems complement each other’s “sweet spot.”

China’s economic system will have played a major role in the purpose and scope of their colonization.

I don’t really understand that. You’ve got something like 450 million Spanish speakers in America. Pretty much all of Central and South America and the Caribbean use law codes based on the Spanish one. Those countries are almost entirely Catholic, the religion of Spain. They’ve adopted Spanish traditions and culture. Spain didn’t lose their last colonies in America until 1898, when they gave Cuba independence and gave Puerto Rico to the US That’s something like 400 years of Spanish rule. So, how did the Spanish discovery of America have no permanent effect?

This is just wrong - look up the history of the Caribbean and South America - or for that matter north America. The local populations were exploited, governed, and profoundly changed. There were major differences in colonisation in north and south America in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but in neither case was it confined to “coastal outposts”.

As noted colonisation started earlier than this.

You are confusing colonisation with nineteenth century “Imperialism”. They are not necessarily synonymous.

This is self evidently true but does not take the argument as to how the native population would have fared much forward.