In addition, other historical studies established the great significance on non-European regions to the global economy and society at various times. Notably, Abu-Lughod argued for the centrality of the Middle East in world history and global exchange, while Gunder Frank posited the importance of East and Southeast Asia in global trading networks. Notions of globalization which played up the importance of the Western world were generally focused on the post-1945 era, but much of the above literature has rethought globalization as a much longer-term phenomenon, as well as one which started in the East.
A key reason why Western scholars were long unable to recognize that globalization predated the 20th century was that they have long viewed it in terms of the rise of Western Capitalism. As Hobson (2007) points out, none of the leading economies between 500 and 1800 CE were Western. Globalization in past centuries was largely fuelled by the wealth and communications of industries and markets that stretched across Asia, and China and India stand out as particularly important global players for much of recorded history.
In the 18th century, China accounted for an astonishing 25% of the world’ s population, compared to 20% today (Flynn and Girá ldez 2006, p. 239), and when European merchants first moved East in search of new opportunities, they should not be regarded as the first signs of an emerging European dominance, but rather as an attempt by a less economically productive region to gain footholds in the trade with the world’ s economic powerhouse. Hobson (2007) maintains that China maintained a dominant role in the global economy even later than suggested by Gunder Frank.
He states that it continued to outstrip Britain in its share of world manufacturing input until as late as 1860 and that the West had only caught up with the East in terms of GNP by 1870. Eurocentrists long claimed that after the return of Zheng He’ s huge treasure fleets to China, and the ban on Chinese involvement in overseas trade, the empire turned inwards and entered a period of stagnation and decline.
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