Trump Might Have Forgotten the Great Wall of China Was an Economic Disaster

Donald Trump just referred to his signature campaign promise as the “Great Wall”, without noting the ironic fact the actual Great Wall was partly responsible for the collapse of one of the world’s great superpowers.

“The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!” Trump tweeted Friday.

No matter what your opinion of Trump, we can all agree he definitely talks big; and how much bigger can you get than one of history’s greatest feats of engineering, the Great Wall of China, right?

Well, if Trump knew a thing or two about Chinese history, he’d know why the comparison isn’t as flattering as it might at first seem.

Although parts of the Great Wall are almost as old as Chinese civilisation itself, most of the wall we recognise today was built by the Ming. The Ming were one hell of a superpower in their heyday, between the 14th and mid 17th centuries. The sheer fact they built the wall was a testament to their organisational power, and ridiculous wealth.

However, building a wall is one thing – maintaining it is a whole different kettle of fish. Dealing with the soaring costs of keeping the wall manned and maintained meant the Ming had no choice but to raise taxes. This eventually led to a wave of domestic rebellions, and eventually a foreign invasion from Manchuria. By the time the dust cleared, guess who ran China?

The answer: the exact people the wall was supposed to keep out, the Manchurians.

None of this is to say the Great Wall single-handedly brought down the Ming. There were a myriad of other causes for the fall of this medieval superpower, including a whole bunch of international trade issues, government corruption and climate change.

But hey, none of those factors have any relevance to the modern day, right?

First published by

Image: Peter Stewart/Wikimedia Commons

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