How did countries in the Early Modern Age enforce their territoriality on their islands?

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The Middle Kingdom argument is a bit silly in my opinion since China has often had wars over its borders. While many Chinese kingdoms still liked the pretense that they were inherently superior to their rivals, by the Song Dynasty they were forced to admit (on paper at least) that other Empires existed and were of similar diplomatic precedence. 15th century was kind of interesting as the preceding dynasty ruling over China was Mongolian and a remnant of that dynasty still was active in Mongolia. I think it’s more fair to say that borders only existed where borders were negotiated. Often land and ocean that wasn’t politically interesting was not really considered in political negotiations. At least that’s my two cents


By this yardstick the islands were Portuguese per the Spanish-Portuguese splitting of the globe in two.


Really back in those days what was “yours” was most clearly defined as what you could stop somebody else from taking. If an island was in a remote part of for example the Pacific Ocean, and there wasn’t anything worth while trade or resource wise on the island they probably didn’t try very hard to assert claims in those places because it wasn’t practical.


The European approach was a lot less sophisticated. Small islands were usually not seen as that valuable up to 1800. They were often barren in resources and it was too complicated to effectively tax their tiny economies. Since about 1800, small islands became valuable fortresses for long range artilleries. Large island were treated like every other area, with constant military vigilance. There is no large island in Europe that was not disputed. “Marking it” would have meant very little without stationed forces. The European experience in the modern age was simple. Everything will be taken from you, if you cannot defend it.


> they told me that the Chinese mindset throughout its history is that they always considered ALL territories Chinese territory so there wouldn’t be a need for them to mark something that was already theirs. It’s less of a case “belonging to them” and more that the Chinese (at least from the time of the Ming and Qing) felt that their nation was so enlightened and superior that they felt all other nations had to pay vassalage or tribute to them, at least as a token sign of respect and acknowledging Chinese superiority (hence the Treasure Fleet expeditions during the Ming dynasty, which main goal was to reaffirm their “superiority” to neighboring states). In the modern guise, you see that with the foreign policies of the post-WWII US as a superpower – even though they didn’t believe they owned the world, they for the most part felt they had the right to dictate certain things like the type of leadership neighboring countries in Latin America and elsewhere should have (anti-communist, pro-US) and going so far as to overthrow them when they didn’t fancy them (the Chinese treasure fleet under the Ming did something similar, helping a rebel faction in Ceylon overthrow a less friendly regime when their expedition arrived at the island).