Based on the Conrad-Demarest Model of Empire (which is a checklist of the factors which contribute to the development, then rise and later on, the fall of an empire), China had the elements of decay within its imperial court. …
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How China attained regional economic dominance by the first century up to the fifteenth century C. E.?
This paper examines, explores, and discusses how China attained regional economic dominance by the first century up to the fifteenth century C. E. but then suddenly and almost inexplicably went into decline afterwards, and got conquered by the Western colonial powers. In other words, a perceived and nascent global power became weak instead of continuing its remarkable trajectory of both growth and dominance: economically, politically, and militarily.
Historians generally concede China was a dominant power for eighteen of the last twenty or so centuries and is now out to regain its lost glory with an unprecedented rate of growth. China today has the world's continuously existing civilization, dating back to at least 5,000 years ago, although it is admittedly not the world's first civilization to have sprung up. That distinction belongs to the Sumerian civilization in the Middle East near modern-day Iraq, and there were also other older civilizations like the Egyptian, Greek, and Indian civilizations but these much earlier civilizations no longer exist. Chinese civilization is a very unique one because it developed independently on its own, without any outside or external influences. It is manifested in its discoveries and inventions which rank being among the world's firsts such as paper, ink, gunpowder, and most of all, its inherently difficult system of writing with its use of characters in Chinese calligraphy. Linguists are generally agreed it is the most difficult language to learn. China developed the first currency in the form of coins and paper money, the first bureaucracy in civil service to manage a vast empire, and a strong navy but it was essentially a land power. The chief reason why China declined was the rot from within. Discussion An empire can grow to a certain size, after which it becomes unmanageable due to its sheer size. Problems of administration, control, tax collection, and imposition of a certain cultural mindset can be unwieldy for its rulers. Sooner or later, conquered people will start to agitate for reforms and freedom from imperial rule, especially if it is an oppressive rule. This had been the problem with the Chinese empire, after it was unified by Emperor Shihuang Ti (259-210 B. C. E.) after he defeated all the local warlords. As the first and foremost emperor of the Qin dynasty, he introduced a lot of reforms which expanded and strengthened the vast territories under his control. He imposed and adopted the Legalistic principles as a foundation of his dynastic rule, in which laws were imposed without exceptions, because the empire then was composed of many ethnicities and rule would be difficult otherwise. However, his dynasty that was supposed to last 10,000 generations did not survive; it lasted just four years after his death, as his successors were weak and got deposed. During his time, he imposed high taxes on the people, which discouraged farmers from tilling the land as they could no longer afford to pay those taxes. He embarked on many grandiose projects that drained the state coffers, plus the cost of maintenance of a large army to protect its frontiers. Similar to the Late Roman Empire (circa 250-450 C. E.), the Chinese elites did not produce at all but relied on taxation to maintain and subsidize their opulent lifestyles. A number of causes, both internal and external, can threaten and weaken an empire; in the case of China, it was internal decay, as subsequent rulers did not take advantage of the so-called “geographical pivot of history” with its strategic location in the central Euro-Asian landmass (Mackinder 28). It could have pressed and exploited its advantage in being a great land power, as its territories formed a contiguous empire, unlike other empires in history. This glaring failure to press its advantages caused its decline starting in the fifteenth century. Other empires,
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