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Consolidating Southeast Asia and the Meaning of Force in History: Pax Ming and the Case of Chen Zuyi 陳祖義

In: China and Asia
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Abstract

Many Chinese historians and politicians consider the Zheng He expeditions as voyages meant to establish peaceful relations with foreign countries. Although, in contrast with European overseas expansion, it was not in the interest of the Chinese emperor and his government to colonialize foreign countries, this does not mean that relations were peaceful. Subordination of neighbouring countries to the Ming court and their acceptance of Ming China’s claim to cultural, ideological and political superiority in the macro region—the implementation of a “pax Ming” in other words—was fully intended. The present article discusses Zheng He’s and the Ming court’s dealing with Chen Zuyi 陳祖義, an “inconvenient” local (“pirate”) leader of Chinese origins dominating parts of the Malacca/Melaka Straits, the use of violence in the implementation of official Ming goals and the ideological transfiguration and (re)interpretation of the Ming court’s own interests in Chinese historical sources.

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