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Journal Article

The Company's Chinese Pirates: How the Dutch East India Company Tried to Lead a Coalition of Pirates to War against China, 1621-1662

Tonio Andrade
Journal of World History
Vol. 15, No. 4 (Dec., 2004), pp. 415-444
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20079290
Page Count: 30
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Company's Chinese Pirates: How the Dutch East India Company Tried to Lead a Coalition of Pirates to War against China, 1621-1662
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Abstract

When the Dutch arrived in East Asia in the early seventeenth century, they had trouble persuading Chinese officials to grant them trade privileges. Yet these same officials gave official titles to Chinese pirates as part of a "summon and appease" (zhaofu) policy in the hope that the pirates would abandon crime for more civilized pursuits. After a decade of frustrations, the Dutch decided to take a page from the pirates' playbook and tried to unite the pirates to attack China. The pirate war against China did not go well for the Dutch, who failed to unite the pirates under their leadership. Nonetheless, they did eventually reach a modus vivendi with Chinese officials and began trading regularly with China. Yet after the collapse of the Ming Empire in 1644, the Dutch increasingly suffered competition from an ex-pirate organization: the powerful Zheng family. Its leader, Zheng Chenggong, created a loyalist state with maritime pretensions. So long as the company was competing against private Chinese seamen who lacked state support, it was able to hold its own. But once these seamen were united in the framework of a maritime Chinese state, the company could not prevail.

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