These are precisely the questions at the heart of the research engaged by several scholars concerning the different fate of what was once the Roman Empire and what is still essentially China. Several years ago, the “Great Divergence” was a phrase used to refer to the period in the 18-19th centuries when the Europeans, empowered by technology and a new economic order, rose to supremacy while China, considered the most powerful state on earth a few centuries earlier, sunk into (apparent) stagnation and depredation (see for instance Pomeranz’s book).