Marco Polo had breached the forbidden middle kingdom, bypassing the Musselman monopoly on trade with the east. This monopoly was eventually restored and Christofo Columbo set out to find a new route to China in 1492. In the time after Marco Polo, determined efforts were made to trade with China. Their skills and wealth and inventions were the stuff of legend! Eventually, the British East India Company laid waste to China by initiating the addiction of millions of Chinese to opium from fields established in Afghanistan, part of the territory that eventually became "The Raj".
The Chinese had a history of inventing many things but after appraising the impact they decided to suppress them. They had the fruits of bitter experience that such inventions had merely increased the sum of human unhappiness. Like the Catholic Church, the Chinese kept careful notes about the inventions and allowed scholars to study them. Possession of these note books, detailing all the inventions, was a prize for the westerners who came to China. When one of them was secured it was given to the artist and artisan from Vinci, who was a noted engineer and who could make a reality of them.
The Greeks too, had a history of eschewing engineering for slavery, as it kept idle hands occupied. The Romans tried a new system. It worked and continues to do so.