Saturday, June 04, 2005

ALL GREAT EMPIRES Built Great Ships

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The tiny ship is the Spanish and the big one is Chinese

How did the USA and England win WWI and WWII? What did England lose and the USA gave back to them? Indeed, why did the sun never set on the Spanish Empire, the British Empire or for that matter, why did Vikings take over so much of the nobility?

The Ming dynasty once had a great flotilla which sailed far and wide in the 1400s at the same time the Europeans were sending ships far and wide too.
On his first voyage overseas, the largest ship in the fleet had a length of 440 Chinese feet and a width of 180. Manned by more then 200 sailors and able to accommodate 1, 000 passengers, it was equipped with nine masts which flew 12 big sails. This was probably the largest sea-going vessel of the day. Other vessels might not be of the same size but on an average each one was able to carry aboard four to five hundred passengers. Many of the navigational problems encountered were solved in a rational , scientific way. For instance, the way fresh water was collected and stored, the stability of the hull and its buoyancy, the making of sea charts and the use of navigational apparatuses like the compass. This accounted for the fact that in spite of terrible storms, this fleet of friendship had ploughed the waves day and night in full sail. It is generally believed that Zheng He had the largest, most advanced fleet in the world in the 15th century. On each of his 8 voyages, Zheng He kept a detailed logbook and made many nautical charts which were later collected in what was called Zheng He's Nautical Charts, which was the first of its kind in the world. From this we can say that China in those days probably led the world in the technology of ship-building and the science of navigation.
Magellan, in his log for his famous around the world voyage, mentions Chinese ships coming arriving or leaving various islands in the Java/Molucca region. All that ended suddenly when the emperor of China closed all ports and like the Japanese, shut down all shipping contacts and dismantled the fleet.

It was a fatal choice. No empire can last long without ships. When the Roman empire collapsed, the shipping ceased and the rising Muslim empires took over trade and shipping. The Venetians created the very first factory ship yards that was called the "Arsenal" and they could churn out ships in just a few day's time, even the small boats for ferrying around town were standardized and manufactured. This was the secret of their power in their heyday: the ability to build and launch many ships over and over no matter how many are destroyed by storms or battle.

The USA pulled up to Britain in ship building ability just prior to WWI. It was a sign of the incipient fall of the British Empire. During that war, German U-boot warfare decimated British shipping to the point of near collapse and the American ship factories took over and churned out ships faster than they could be sunk.

The accelerated during WWII when America out produced all the world in shipping ten times over. There would have been no D-Day nor Battle of Midway victory if we couldn't churn out a new ship every ten days or less! It was marvelous. At the end of the war, the excess ships were sold off to the Greeks and others which is why they took over domestic shipping rapidly.

This excess capacity caused a blossom of international trade for the competition for filling these many ships was hot and heavy and shipping costs fell rapidly fueling world trade. Far more than any instrument, the existence of these ships is what created the reality of global trade.

America turned its back on ship building. Today, there are only a very few ports left that build anything and the only thing they produce are occasional grand ships for the military at great expense. Japan, who we supposedly defeated in WWII, took over building ships and quickly rose to be the number two economic power in the world...until recently.
Shanghai: Construction started on Friday on what will become the world's largest shipyard, marking a major step forward in China's ambition to become the world's leading ship builder. In the first phase of the US$3.6 billion project, the Jiangnan Shipyard Corp, a subsidiary of China State Shipbuilding Corp (CSSC), is relocating to Changxing Island to make way for Shanghai Expo 2010.

The Jiangnan Shipyard will expand its shipbuilding capacity from the current 800,000 deadweight tons (DWT) a year to 4.5 million by 2010. The yard's first ship is expected to be delivered by 2009.

In the second phase of development, CSSC's subsidiaries, such as Hudong and Waigaoqiao, will add more yards along Changxing island's 8-kilometre coastline. By 2015, CSCC is expected to have an annual capacity of 8 million DWTs, half of China's current production capacity.

By then, Changxing is expected to have become the world's largest shipyard. Shanghai will also become the world's largest shipbuilding base, tripling its capacity to 12 million DWTs by 2015.
I was waiting for this news. All this year, I scan the internet, waiting for this announcement. Well, it is now here. China will become the number one ship builder in the world while the USA builds exactly ZERO shipping. Perhaps we think the Japanese or South Koreans will provide us with ships in the case of a war with China. Big problem here: both countries will be tied up if not totally destroyed in the first hours of WWIII. There will be no ships being built there. All China has to do is interfere with delivery of building materials. China can get this stuff overland from allies such as Russia, for example. Or internally, China being a very large continental country.

Japan, like England, is an exposed island and can't exist unless the fabrication of ships occurs in a colony such as America which operated like a colony of the British empire in WWI and WWII. Now Britain is a colony of America even though they keep up the fiction of the Royal Family.
The shipbuilding industry is valuable to the Chinese Government as it promotes domestic manufacturing and machinery industries, creates job opportunities and revenue, and improves the country's naval capability.

The country's shipbuilding industry has achieved an annual average growth of 17 per cent over the past few years and China now accounts for a quarter of the world's shipbuilding market, up from less than 5 per cent five years ago.

Japan and South Korea each account for one third of the global shipbuilding market.
Virtually no one, not even the former great sea faring states build ships anymore. The three Asian giants are left holding court here. And they are not at accord, either. It seems that Japan is being goaded into resisting Chinese power and the Chinese are trying to force the Japanese to open their domestic market which is one of the most closed in the world, astonishingly, considering the hue and cry about China's domination of open world markets. The Japanese and South Koreas are throwing a sop to the USA building small factories here so that our unemployment rate for American factory workers doesn't reach 100% but note that none of these companies are establishing ship building capacity here!

They know where the real power lies.
The yard was founded during the late Qing Dynasty, and was the first manufacturing base to produce steel, naval ships and steel cannon.
The Qing (Ming) Dynasty: this was when the last ship building in China occurred and was destroyed.

History is coming full circle here!
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