China's Zheng He was actually an imperalist and war criminal, says Aussie historian Geoff Wade

Admiral Zheng He's armadas sailed from Nanjing to as far as East Africa over eight voyages between 1405-1433. Most Chinese lionize the Muslim eunuch as a peace loving ambassador of peace and friendship. But Australian historian Geoffrey Wade tells Victor Fic the admiral was a Ming military commander pursuing gunboat diplomacy, and indicts the commodore for war crimes.

A senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, based in Singapore, Wade's interests include Sino-Southeast Asian historical interactions and related issues such as Chinese expansions and early Islam in Southeast Asia. Wade's work includes an online database [1] that provides English translations of over 3,000 references to Southeast Asia...

Victor Fic: Geoff, how did you become fascinated with Zheng He?

Geoffrey Wade: I have long been interested in how China and Southeast Asia interacted and did my PhD on Southeast Asia as represented in the Ming reign annals. A key element was the Ming maritime missions to Southeast Asia. China's commemorations of Zheng He in 2005 further piqued my interest.

VF: Summarize the orthodox Chinese claim that he was a peaceful seafarer.

GW: Within Chinese societies, one finds "popular" perceptions of Zheng He. One tribute translates as:

From the age of Zheng He until the new period of socialist construction, the achievements of Zheng He during his voyages to the Western Ocean have been excellent materials for conducting patriotic education for the Chinese nation.

This is taken from Huang Hui-zhen and Xue Jin-du's book Eighty Years of Researching Zheng He. These two PRC [People's Republic of China] academics surveyed most of the studies of Zheng He to the present....

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