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Zheng He’s Voyages to Africa and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road

Date:03/22/2019

Zheng He’s Voyages to Africa and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road

  Li Xinfeng  Zheng Yijun

  Abstract

  Zheng He’s voyages to Africa in the Ming dynasty successfully implemented the Ming court’s foreign policy of sharing the blessings of peace with overseas countries, regardless of how faraway they were. The unprecedented feat of Zheng He’s fleet would have been impossible had it not been for an advanced shipbuilding technology, a support system for oceangoing voyages, and the opening up of three new routes to Africa across the Indian Ocean during Ming times. Zheng He’s voyages symbolize a prime period of the ancient Chinese Maritime Silk Road, which is still of instructive and practical value in constructing the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

  In the past decade or two, descendants of Zheng He’s crew were discovered in Africa. Survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Pate Island, Kenya, settled there, married local women and had descendants of the Chinese origin. Those who live in the Chinese Village on Pate Island not only have an appearance that is different from aboriginal inhabitants, but they also retain Chinese cultural traditions, for in their heart they never forget that they are of Chinese descent. They also serve locals with traditional Chinese medicine. Descendants of Zheng He’s crew, the first Chinese immigrants in Africa, have successfully integrated into local society. The discovery of their presence in Africa has moved the history of Chinese immigration into Africa two to three centuries earlier than originally thought, and changed the earliest settlement of Chinese immigrants from the island to the African continent, namely from Mauritius to Kenya, which is of great academic significance. The story of the eulogized China-Africa friendship, consistent with China’s contemporary policy toward Africa, strongly refutes the notion of “neo-colonialism” put forward by Western countries, making it self- evident that the so-called “China threat theory” is ill-founded. Long-standing China-Africa friendship, as illustrated in Zheng He’s voyages and narratives of his crew’s descendants, is of great historical and practical significance for promoting construction of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to benefit both the Chinese and African people, and to accelerate the building of a community of a shared future for humankind.

  Key Words

  Zheng He, Voyages to Africa, Descendants, “China Threat Theory”, 21st Century Maritime Silk Road

Copyright: China-Africa Institute