DETERRENCE NEGLECTED: MING VERSUS MONGOL
1376-1385: Conspicuous State, Ming Dynasty; Conspicuous Rival, Mongol Yunnan.
IN THE RANDOMLY SELECTED DECADE from 1376 to 1385, the most conspicuous rivals of the Ming emperors were the Mongol princes of Yunnan, the mountainous frontier province between southern China and Burma. The Chinese emperor had long contemplated the conquest of Yunnan. But its Mongol ruler had a potentially strong deterrence position, and more than ten years warning. He had an effective, well-trained army of one hundred thousand men, about one-third as many as the Chinese emperor was prepared to throw against him. He could readily raise another one hundred thousand men from the warlike hill tribes of Yunnan, of whom the Chinese were traditional enemies. The Chinese route of advance led through narrow mountain passes in very rugged country; only a comparatively few such passes needed to have been fortified and defended in order to hold the country. This opportunity was neglected.
Thus, the Chinese conquest of Yunnan ( 1381-1383) presents a number of relevant variables for scrutiny. (Unfortunately, little detail is available in European languages. The European language material for this period is detailed for the Mongols in Mongolia, but not for their isolated cousins on the other side of China in Yunnan.) To begin with, we have a three-cornered culture conflict situation. The Mongols gained control of Yunnan along with the rest of China when, under Kublai Khan, they conquered the