Defoe finds China’s social order tyrannical, its religion idolatrous, and the entire Asian trade beneficial to China, India and the East India Company but harmful to England and Europe. He ridicules tea, porcelain, lightweight fabrics and their Chinese producers less than his own countrymen: the East India Company for pursuing its own profit rather than national prosperity, and consumers for choosing insubstantial imports over superior domestic products. He prefers England’s unruly mobs over China’s “submissive Slaves,” and Protestant Christianity over devilish idolatry, yet his satire is aimed chiefly at those in the West who defend absolutism in the political sphere, or freethinking in the religious sphere, under the guise of honoring antiquity, stability, “natural reason” and the like. Perceiving China as monitory example, not as threat, Defoe regards European fondness for Chinese goods, beliefs and practices as not merely foolish but pernicious, in commercial, political, and religious terms alike.


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pp. 435-454
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