The GECEM (Global Encounters between China and Europe: Trade Networks, Consumption and Cultural Exchanges in Macau and Marseille, 1680-1840) project is led by prof. Manuel Perez Garcia as principal investigator. A full team of researchers, administrative staff, as well as a board of advisors and external collaborators, takes part of GECEM contributing to the mission and goals of the project. Such academic community of scholars creates in parallel a robust academic network that will contribute to achieve the objectives of the project based on academic excellence.
The main goal in recent studies on global history and the great divergence debate has been finding answers to meta questions. There are several interpretations on the different models of economic growth in Europe and China, explaining why Europe developed faster in the first industrial revolution while China was left behind. One of the main explanations is because of the discoveries of the Americas which provided the main powers of Europe with new outposts, raw materials and energy resources.
The GECEM project contributes to this discussion by measuring micro data on levels of consumption across different social groups. To demonstrate the difference between the West and East, it brings up a particular study case of two city ports, Macao and Marseille. A thorough analysis on the circulation of goods and merchants, as main social agents in changing consumer behavior, will show the cross-cultural dimension of this research.
Chinese goods - Hunan silk, Jindezhen porcelain or Yunnan tea - entered Mediterranean Europe via the trade axis Marseille-Seville. China also imported European luxury products such as French mirrors, Portuguese wine or Italian wine glasses. For the introduction of European goods in China, the trade axis Macau-Fuzhou was an essential entry for inner trade routes in China, such as the Silk Road, as well as the maritime routes. The Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade route, which connected distant parts of the Spanish empire through ships sailing from Acapulco to Manila, fostered the circulation and entry of western products (of European and American origin) in China.
Therefore, the GECEM project will not only offer new insights on the different models of economic growth between China and Europe during the first industrialization. The multidisciplinary scope of this project is highly relevant to understand the contemporary economic and political relations (i.e. the particularities of Chinese market, nationalization of commodities, patterns of consumption and trans-culturalization) between China and Europe. A very good instance could be found at the end of XVIIIth-century, when Emperor Qianlong proclaimed to the British envoy Lord McCartney that "There is nothing we don't have that we need from you". This tone helps us understand the Chinese market even today. China still is a mercantilist economy. The interdisciplinary approach of this project helps to understand not only how Chinese market operates, in the past and today, but also how Chinese diplomacy interacts with Western powers through changing political narratives related to culture and civilization.
This project connects political and economic issues with the socio-cultural forms and habits, as well as uses new technologies and computer databases to create a unique map of patterns of consumption and trade networks. Therefore, it will contribute to renew global history in Chinese and European historiography, by escaping from national narratives and observing the whole economic system as a polycentric space.