In December 2014 the International Monetary Fund announced that a long-anticipated milestone had been passed and that China had overtaken the USA to become the world's largest economy. Given the size of the Chinese population, numbering 1.4 billion people (or almost 20% of all those alive today) that is perhaps not a surprise, and in terms of individual living standards, China has some way to go before its citizens achieve the same average income level as those of western Europe or North America. The growth of the Chinese economy has been echoed in the expansion of its archaeology, and articles on the prehistory and early historic societies of China have featured regularly in recent issues of Antiquity. The current issue is no exception, and in particular includes an article about one of the rather puzzling episodes in the Chinese past: the overseas voyages of the Ming admiral Zheng He (see below pp. 417–32). Between 1403 and 1433, Zheng He led seven imperially sponsored missions, each of them on a massive scale, around the coasts of Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean, reaching as far afield as Aden and East Africa.