Critical Analysis Why Europe and the West Why Not China By David S. Landes

Critical Analysis: Why Europe and the West? Why Not China? By David S. Landes






In formulating the thesis statement that runs throughout the article, the author argues that the historian’s perspectives of the technological growth and development have for a long time been subjected to undue distortion. The author agrees with previous researchers that around the 1st millennium, Asia was technology wise ahead of Europe. Specifically, this situation spread to about the 10th century. It’s argued that the Asian continents, more so the Chinese had some of the best sails and sailors as well as more sophisticated marine transport system. The region also had active international trade systems due to its excess supplies. However, the situation changed in 13th century with the Vasco da Gama’s circumnavigation. Today, therefore Europe is far much ahead of Asia because of the single journey by the Portuguese. The central questions in the article, that are debatable, therefore are; why do some scholars consider Vasco da Gama’s tour as an accident? Did the circumnavigation solely change the fortune of Europe by realizing the potentials in African and new Land?

Based on the above statement, the author concludes his thesis by arguing that, the tour by Vasco is the single most critical journey that helped Europe to deal with its economic challenges such as unemployment and inadequate raw materials. Based on the assumption, the author concludes that 500 years down the line, Europe is not only civilized but also far much ahead of Asia in terms of technological development.


To achieve the research objectives, the author uses over 20 academic sources to back up his claims. These sources entail historical books, peer review articles, journals and periodicals. The sources are adequate as they are all academic, comprehensive and authoritative. This makes them be acceptable academic material which can be cited. The author’s evaluation is mainly based on paraphrasing and extracting of the information presented therein. I would also evaluate the articles by looking at how the authors covered the topic and the way they presented their arguments.

The article’s presentation is generally effective and coherent. The author arranges the paper in a logical manner in away that is easy to follow and comprehend. The paper begins with the summative overview of the topic, and the conclusion drawn.

The use of subheadings makes the paper flow in a more coherent manner. It is therefore easier to get the picture of the subject area under review. Such a logical arrangement also gives the readers an opportunity to narrow their focus to specific areas as opposed to general analysis. Clarity is also enhanced through the use of citations and quotations marks. This makes it easy to get to know the author’s opinion and ideas, and also to separate the same from the external information used in writing the paper.

The author however has failed to ask certain questions. Some of the questions that are not asked relate to the challenges that the European sailors met when conducting the trade. Also, the author has not asked questions relation to technology sharing and whether the Europeans acquired the technology from china.

At the same time, the paper lacks such perspectives as the Chinese view of their perceived failure, whether the Chinese consider such argument as valid and how Christianity led to the fall of Chinese’ then flourishing trade.

Much of the author’s claims are substantiated through citation of the articles/ sources of the information used. For example, the argument that preoccupation with the ancestors’ worship led to Chinese low and slower technological development is supported by Tatin (1963). However, the citation only recognizes the fact that there was a decree as to the effect that the court physicians were to make sacrifices to appease e the dead intellectuals. This claim may not be trusted per see since the author has failed to give a more conclusive correlation between the ancestor’s worship and low technological development. As such, the claim may not admissible as a historical fact.

Another argument is that the Chinese scholars took much time on metaphysics with less concern for the practical aspects of technologically. This argument is relatively valid since technological development requires not only critical thinking and creativity but also experiments of thoughts. However, the author supports his claim by citing a verse by a Chinese poet. This may not valid evidence as poems have different meanings and interpretations, and are always composed to suit a given genre. Such examples as the citation of a poem to support the main point are thus vague.

However use of the religious perspective as a major contributor to Chinese downfall, with specific reference to Christianity would be true. This is because, through Christianity, the Europeans built social amenities and gained trust of most Africans whose resources would be later exploited, including their labor. As such, it can be argued that through the church, the Europeans managed to penetrate into remote parts of African and New Land thus widening their markets and sources of raw materials. However, citing the Chinese religion, Confucian belief that is more inclined to ancestral worship as a contributor to the Chinese failure to develop technologically serves as a subjective example. This is because the author assumes that such beliefs negate originality and need to come up with innovative practices that would spur economic growth. It is therefore contradictory to argue that the Europeans development technologically through religion whole the Chinese down fall came from its religious beliefs and practices, without giving a clear explanation on the same.

The author uses historical facts and the medieval political systems to present the opposing arguments in the article. One of such argument is that the Chinese failed to march the European fast paced technological development because ‘no one was trying’ (6).However, the author cites historical facts to denounce such claims. He argues that during such times, the Chinese businessmen had free hand from the state agents as opposed to the European traders who were preoccupied with the desires to please their rulers. This argument was presented by Elvin (1975). As such, it is factually wrong to argue that the Europe overtook Chinese technological growth simply because the Chinese did not give innovative approaches a try. However, the author has failed to give conflicting evidence over the same. This way, his conclusion would have been more authoritative as valid. There is therefore need for more objective proof to ascertain such claims.

Another evidence offered to support the Chinese failure claim is that the society die not embrace change neither did the rulers attempt to improve on the existing technology. This argument is supported by the gun analogy where for many years the same technology was used to make the guns. Using example of fireworks, the authors supports his claim that explosives technology had existed in the country for along time, but was not harnessed for further development. The opposing argument in this case is that the Chinese had the knowledge of explosives but failed to use the same to enhance their military technology. Instead they had to import the gun technology from Europe later. However, the issue of technology importation is not clearly explained nor exhausted. This is because probably the Europeans also learnt the skills from china and improved on it. The only argument given is that the ‘backwardness ‘ in the Chinese technology emanated from lack of intellectual curiosity, and difference in ‘attitude and approach’ between china and Europe. This however needs more proof as the author has not backed his claim with an authoritative source.

The author has adequately covered several issues relating to the questions raised. The aim of the paper was to provide objective and substantiated answers that would give conclusive reasons as to why Europe overtook china in terms of industrial development. based on the information provided and the third party qualifications of the arguments through review of secondary data, it can be argued that the subject is adequately covered. One of the reason offered, based on the studies by other scholars, Fairbank and Reischauer (1960) is that the Chinese society is slow at adapting to change. However, for technologically based change to occur there is needed for fundamental changes that challenge status quo and the known. It is on the basis of industrial revolution that Europe overtakes china. Even today, Chinese society is characterized by stability and lower propensity to disruptive change. The adequacy of the explanation is also supported by the rhetoric question that, every body wants to develop and why not china? This question is well answered by looking at the response that china and Europe had in relation to the new knowledge. China took little interest in the new knowledge while Europe took advantage of it to ship raw materials and other trade items to and from different parts of the globe. Further, the adequacy of the subject’s coverage is based on the argument that china did not invest much in institutions that would promote scientific and knowledge development as compared to Europe. This argument is supported by Taton (1963), who argued that instead of developing knew knowledge; china kind of worshiped the conventional intellectualism, based on the ancestors’ knowledge. This gives an adequate analysis of the Chinese’s failure to use its early knowledge to dominate the world in technological development.