Brandon Li, I have enough of an education to know how to use Google and the library
Answered Feb 2, 2017

The Spanish leadership in the Philippines seriously considered a major invasion of China in 1586 with 20–25,000 men, half of whom would be fresh Spanish troops and the rest split half and half between Filipinos and Japanese mercenaries. This force was supposed to land in Fujian Province and then make the long 1,500 mile march to Beijing to decapitate the Imperial government. However, the Spanish did have some understanding of the task before them, with the plan emphasizing the need to preserve the existing government system to rule through; they evidently understood that the best way to conquer China was to keep the current method of ruling while simply switching out the Ming Dynasty for the Spanish.

At this point, it is worthwhile to examine some contemporary conflicts between the Ming and the West. In the early 1500’s, the Portuguese fought multiple naval battles with the Ming over the kidnapping of Chinese children as slaves and were defeated each time. A century later, the Dutch built a massive maritime network in East Asia and attempted to force the Ming into trade on Dutch terms. The Dutch were defeated in a war from 1622–1624 while being forced to withdraw from fortifications they built on the Pescadores Islands between China and Taiwan. Conflict again flared up in 1633 when the Dutch were defeated at Liaoluo Bay, losing 100 sailors, and then again three decades later when Ming loyalists fleeing the Manchus seized the Dutch colony in Taiwan altogether. This impressive track record implies the Ming would have swatted the Spanish aside with ease, but it hides the immense difficulties of each of these conflicts; even in the early 16th century conflicts with the Portuguese, Ming admirals acknowledged that their foes both had more maneuverable ships and better cannon than anything available to China at the time. Rather than technological superiority, the Ming found victory through massive numerical advantages and shrewd tactics in their engagements. Even then, the European fleets could still usually retreat with most of their ships intact. A Spanish expedition would enjoy a qualitative advantage, although not an overwhelming one.

Besides actual military discrepancies, the Ming bureaucracy by the end of the 16th century suffered from mind numbing inefficiencies. When Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Korea in 1592 with over 100,000 men, his forces nearly conquered the peninsula before the Chinese governor of neighboring Liaoding Province sent 5,000 men to the defense of Pyongyang. This small force was easily defeated and it would be months more before the Imperial Court itself satisfactorily completed a fact finding mission and then assembled its army. It wasn’t until 1593, more than half a year after the Japanese overran much of Korea, that the Ming seriously intervened in the war and began rolling back the Japanese. Although the Ming army was still powerful, it moved to war at a lugubrious pace, a huge boon to a fast moving Spanish expedition. The Imperial Board of War responded even more poorly to local raids, which is what the Spanish invasion would have almost certainly been categorized as initially. In 1555, a band of less than 100 Wakou pirates ravaged the lands around the former capital of Nanjing for nearly 3 months before they were put down. Before the end of the fiasco, perhaps 4,000 people were killed by this tiny band which was supposed to have been stopped by the 120,000 strong garrison around Nanjing. However, a result of the corruption of the late Ming meant most of these supposed troops didn’t exist; they were only listed so that commanding officers could collect extra salaries.

Despite these crippling weaknesses, the Ming proved that it could still send over 100,000 men to competently defend an ally against a serious enemy during the war with Japan. It would undoubtedly be able to muster more men to defend against a Spanish army speeding for Beijing. Only after months of unnecessary deliberation within the Forbidden City while the countryside was ravaged of course. As a result, the Spanish wouldn’t have had much of a chance of conquering China, but they would have gotten surprisingly far, not through their own skill, but through the sheer incompetence of the Ming government.


Pun Anansakunwat, Read Chinese history for 17 years
Answered Jan 19, 2017

It’s impossible for Europeans to fight Ming China at that time.
Unlike the Aztecs and Incas, Ming dynasty was very strong at that time. Its navy was one of the best in the world. Chinese navy defeated the Portuguese navy for twice, and slaughtered most sailors. Only three ships survived the onslaught.

Battle of Tunmen – Wikipedia

Any Portuguese would be killed immediately, if they landed in the Chinese land.
For the Dutch, they colonized Taiwan, but they were decisively defeated by a Ming general, Zheng Chenggong, when he fled from the Manchu to Taiwan.
I don’t think Spain would do any better than these nations. If Spain landed their army on the Chinese soil, I did not think they would survive a day. They would be all put to the Chinese swords.


Quora User, I know some stuff.. I think.
Answered Nov 8, 2015

#1 Because The Spanish wanted to trade with the Ming dynasty and India.
Remember this Guy?
Christopher Columbus wanted to go to India and China from the west because the Silk roads was cut by the Ottoman Turks. So the desire of the Spanish was to make money. Not to find new worlds or commit genocide.

#2 The Ming dynasty was one of the most powerful empire at that time and arguably the most powerful in Asia.
“Ming dynasty had fought war with Portuguese, Dutch”
If you know this than you should know that the Ming won. Hence why would the Spanish Empire attack another Empire that’s capable of defeating two of the most powerful navy at that time. Why attack a powerful empire when you can attack weak tribe islanders and make profit off of that.



Randy McDonald, Torontonian and loving it
Answered Nov 8, 2015

The simple answer is that Ming China was far too powerful and sophisticated a civilization for Spain.

In terms of material technology, the most advanced civilizations in the Americas were not especially technologically advanced. At least partly as a consequence of the late settlement of the Americas, and partly by bad luck, the civilizations of Mesoamerica, possessing basic literacy and agriculture but lacking metallurgy, in some respects were closer to ancient Mesopotamian civilizations like Sumeria than to hyper-competitive Europe. Less technologically sophisticated cultures had less.

It was the terrible luck of the indigenous peoples of the Americas that their hemisphere just had to be discovered by Spain, a country that had just finished up a series of wars centuries long against foreign infidels. That many local powers within the Americas were willing to ally with Spain against their local rivals helped, as did the immense disruption caused by the devastating impact of Eurasian diseases on vulnerable indigenous populations.

In the case of the Philippines, Filipinos were fortunately less vulnerable. Technologically and epidemiologically, and of course as well geographically, they were part of Eurasia. That the Spanish were able to make headway in the area, eventually establishing the Spanish East Indies, seems to have much to do with the willingness of Filipinos to ally with Spain against their neighbors.

The combination of technological superiority and epidemiological advantage would obviously not have worked in the case of Spain. 16th century China was not only probably the single most advanced country of the world at that time, it was a continent-sized polity. One might as well have expected Spain to conquer Europe. As for the possibility of Spain allying with locals against the Chinese state, even if Spain had been able to project a meaningful amount of military force to the other side of the planet, I doubt that many locals, invested in their own superiority, would have allied with Spain.


Vladimir Menkov
Updated Oct 28, 2017

As others have notes, a successful military invasion of the Chinese mainland was never in the cards, due to the obvious discrepancy of the amount of forces the Spanish could “project” to the South China Sea vs what the mid- or even late Ming could muster against any invaders.

(The Portuguese, who got to the South China coast a few decades before the Spanish, did sometimes try to behave in China as if it were just another “native state” to be subjugated; that did not work too well for them, as some answers to this question explain: If Christopher Columbus had actually reached Asia, would he have initiated genocide and enslaved Asians as he did with Native Americans? By the time the Spanish got to the scene [coming from Mexico across the Pacific to the Philippines], the Portuguese had already achieved an accommodation with the Ming authorities more or less, and the Spanish must have been aware of this).

There was, however, some fairly interesting and little known history of Spanish attempts to become involved in China on a scale comparable at least to the Portuguese involvement. In the 1570s-1580s, the Spanish, recently entrenched in the Philippines, tried to establish commercial relations with China. There was a joint operation with a Chinese admiral against pirates, and the Spanish tried to capitalize on it and to obtain some trading rights in China, and maybe even a lease on some offshore island (similarly to what the Portuguese had at Macau).

Martín de Rada was perhaps the most talented character among the Spaniards involved in that project; he could perhaps become as successful as Matteo Ricci in “penetrating” the Ming Empire in a diplomatic and religious way, but he died at 41, and apparently no one as enthusiastic and talented was able to replace him.

Anyhow, the Spanish effort in the South China Sea was really run on a shoestring, as the operations had to be conducted at the end of a really long supply line, via the Atlantic, Mexico, the Pacific, and the Philippines. (The eastern route, around Africa and India, was in the Portuguese domain). At some point, the Spanish crown decided to send an official embassy to China; it only got to Mexico, and never managed even to cross the Pacific. The would-be ambassador, Juan González de Mendoza, ended up returning to Spain and publishing a book about China, The History of the Great and Mighty Kingdom of China and the Situation Thereof, mostly based on reports of de Rada & Co., which became a European bestseller.


Richard Stanfield, Reads history books for fun
Answered Feb 20, 2017

It was largely a timing issue. While invasion was considered at one point (as mentioned in another answer), the Spanish Empire’s zenith came and went before Ming was well and truly vulnerable. During the 17th century, the one in which the Ming dynasty would come to an end, the Spanish Governor of the Philippines wrote saying effectively “give me at dozen galleons and ten-thousand men and I will give you China.” The Ming dynasty if I recall correctly was presently embroiled in conflict with the Manchu’s that would in a few decades replace them.

However, that time coincided with the unsuccessful wars against the Dutch, and against France, in the 80 years war and 30 years war respectively. Simply put, Spain did not have the resources to project power like it had the century previous. By that point they were already heavily reliant on the Dutch for their shipping needs (the irony of which is not lost on me), and their manufacturing capability had dramatically eroded.

However, if 17th century Spain had the resources and audacity of her 16th century self, subjugating much of the Chinese coastline would not have been out of her reach. While the notion that she could have conquered China is a bit much, as it is simply too far away to maintain the needed forces, she could have forced any government to give into a series of demands ala the “Opium Wars” at the least, and could have claimed many ports along the coast at the worst.

Possibly, with time and continued strength, she could have attempted to rule China in a manner similar to the British rule of India, by proxy through a company that has several alliances and puppets to govern for it. However, the Indian Rajas came divided and paranoid of each other, and thus were easier to manipulate. China would not have been so convenient to turn against itself.

Some big ass book I have buried somewhere on 16th and 17th century Europe (If I find it, I will edit)
Mahan’s Influence of Sea Power on History


Ross Bundy
Answered Nov 20, 2015

The logistics for Spain to invade China were simply too great.
However, Spain was an expansionist power in areas where they held significant technological advantage like the areas you state. Trade with the Ming Dynasty was what financed the Spanish Empire. The Ming Dynasty produced the most and best products in the world at the time and their primary means of exchange was silver. Spain mined gold and silver in the Americas, kept the gold for their own finances, and used the silver to buy Ming products that they then resold for more gold in Europe. Even if it weren’t nearly logistically impossible for the Spanish to do anything against China, it would also have been severely economically damaging for them to do so.


opher Persaud
Christopher Persaud
Answered Feb 1, 2017

In addition to the other answers, I would like to point out that China’s organizational capabilities were never crippled by epidemics the way a lot of New World empires were. Some of the Spanish “force multipliers” in the New World were gunpowder, steel armor, and horses. The Chinese had all of these. Therefore China could create a centralized response to any threat more quickly, and could do it with experienced personnel. China also had a huge population, probably larger than the entire Spanish Empire combined. In short, if the Spanish had landed an army on Chinese soil, they would be very quickly faced with hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers, some of whom would have had guns and cannons. The Spanish would probably lose or have to withdraw fast.


antine Lovos
Constantine Lovos
Answered Feb 3, 2017

further to the remarks others have already made I must observe the following:

Despite the obvious advantage of muskets it would never have been enough to offset tens of thousands of Chinese archers. The sheer numerical superiority of the Chinese would have been impossible to overcome at this stage.
Geography. The Europeans were aware that the Chinese hinterland was vast, which was enough to deter them, but they did not have a reliable map which only served to deter them further.
The forces that would be required to storm Chinese walled and/or fortified cities (of which the Europeans were aware) were simply not available.
Logistics. Even the Spanish or the Dutch for that reason must have understood that supply lines would be required to advance into China. That would be a sheer impossibility


Joss Farino
Answered Feb 3, 2016

One of the reasons is China’s way too far to have a big war with them; is not worth it, the Ming even though behind in technology they weren’t that behind and they still possessed resources to make and nice size military. Also other European superpowers such as the French, or the Dutch, or even down east not a super power but still a Empire the Ottomans; they may take advantage of Spain having a full fledge war against Ming.