I have just read The Story of China by Michael Wood, an excellent read and one I can thoroughly recommend. I thought this quote in the book, which is from the 1602 diary of a French Jesuit missionary in China, was rather interesting:
“It seems worthwhile to record a few more ways in which the Chinese differ from the Europeans. It is remarkable when we stop to consider that in a kingdom of almost limitless expanse and innumerable population, abounding in resources of every kind, although they
have a well-equipped army and navy that could easily conquer neighbouring nations, neither the emperor nor his people ever think of waging wars of aggression. They are quite content with what they have, and have no ambitions of conquest. In this respect they seem to be very different from the Europeans who frequently disturb the neighbours and are covetous of what others enjoy. While the nations of the west seem to be entirely consumed with the idea of supreme domination, they cannot even preserve what their ancestors have bequeathed them, as the Chinese have done for thousands of years.”
Thinking people will no doubt compare that 400 year old diary entry to the modern world, and ponder its significance.