Was China ever in the top 3 most powerful countries/empires of the world?

HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,494
NordicDemosthenes said:
The Kushan example was clearly not a threat to China the same way Rome was to Persia, Persia was to Egypt, Assyria was to various parts of Mesopotamia etc. The Kushan Empire was in India, and the fact that you could isolate Han-Kushan hostilities as "that time" in and of itself admits that conflict between the two was not usual, and probably not very important. Unlike the case in Western Eurasia, where powers rose and fell, and great powers were occasionally reduced to footnotes in history. It is a whole other arena.
This was not your original goalpost, you stated that China never fought an equal power, you did not say that the equal power had to be an existential threat. Furthermore, for 500 years the various states of the Spring/Autumn and Warring States period were existential threats to each other. And as I pointed out, they were different from each other to the point that their common language were not mutually intelligible.

NordicDemosthenes said:
I do think that Horse nomads are indeed something to scoff at in all realms but the military one. Yes they created empires, so what. It is the essence of your Empire that matters, and unless your Empire is truly your own then you haven't actually created anything, but just parasitized on the works of others and not contributed with anything meaningful. This is not the same as adapting your enemies culture and turning it to your own purposes, the way the Romans did. Both the Timurids and the Ottomans were originally horse archers yes. If that was such a good model, why did they stop being horse archers?

No, I wasn't wrong was I, since I wrote "for much of its history". I have not moved any goalposts, and as for what you "expect of me"... Who do you think you are, my landlady? I made a general point that China has existed in a comparatively isolated geopolitical landscape compared with Western Eurasia. Instead of admitting that I was broadly more right than wrong you immediately start to nitpick. How do you "expect me" to react? "Oh yes, thank you for your contribution great mistress, I am most flattered. No, don't pay my arguments any heed at all and don't admit that there is something to them, why would you do that? It is just silly little me talking."

You had a good point about the Qin dynasty. Thank you for that, I was unaware. As for your other points, I am not entirely convinced, and I think they do not adequately counter the general point I was making, of China living in its own conceptual universe were comparative metrics are meaningless for much of its history. The very usage of a term like "Zhong guo" to refer to ones country is almost laughably narcisstic, or would considered to be, if China was located in Europe or some similar part of the world.

But yes, to address the question - perhaps that is China's truly unique power. That China has been able to be an undisputed hegemon in its "neighbourhood for so long periods of time, and never really fallen...
You ARE moving the goalpost. Your original point never said anything about existential threats, you only claimed (falsely) that China never fought an equal power. So all this talk about existential threats in terms of culture/history/language are things you added in AFTER I told you about the Xiongnu/Kushan/Goturks.

Your original point was made in post 68, in which you stated, and I quote: there were lots of smaller states in Asia who's relationship seems to have ranged from "neutral" to "tributary client states", but essentially China has never had to fight an equal foreign power for much of its history. There are some noteworthy exceptions to this, but most wars in China (correct me if I'm wrong, I'm not expert on chinese history) seem to be either civil wars or be about repulsing various step nomads. This second case has some exceptions: the war between the Mongols and the Song seem to have been very bloody, and arguably between equals.

Only after I mentioned the Xiongnu/Kushans/Goturks did you add an entire list of different criteria: I didn't say they never fought an enemy of note (or obviously didn't mean to anyway), I meant that they never fought an enemy that could (and would) exterminate their culture and people, destory their memory and make their grandchildren speak another language or practice another religion.

How are these criteria even relevant to the OP? If you are the most powerful state in the world, then no one should be able to exterminate you and force your grandchildren to speak another language and practice another religion. Because if they can, then THEY are a better choice for being the most powerful state in the world and NOT you.

Anyway what did you think the Qin did to the rest of the states? They unified the script (language), burned every book of political ideology except legalism (religion, kind of), unified the units of measurement and exterminated all other governments of the Central Plains. And as I said before, the states of the Warring States did not see each other as the same people, far from it.

Back to your original point, nowhere in post 68 did you say anything about China fighting existential threats, you claimed that China never fought against an equal foreign power and that is incorrect. You used the Romans/Ottomans/Byzantines as counterexamples to China, so you should list all the times they fought an equal power. Rome during its height don't have existential threats either, nor did the Ottomans, nor did the Byzantines, nor did any of the states you listed in post 68. They only faced existential threats when they were much weaker than their height of power. That's the benefit package a great empire gets when it's at its height of power: it's so powerful that it's not facing existential threats. You speak about existential threats (not just in terms of state existence, but existence in terms of language/culture/history) AFTER I pointed out the Xiongnu, the Goturks, and the Kushans.

And if you don't want me "playing this game", then don't change the goalpost. If you change the goalpost then I have the right to point out what you originally claimed.

Now, you say you are 'correct' because even despite the Xiongnu/Goturks/Warring States/Spring&Autumn Period, for "most" of Chinese history they were not fighting existential threats.
OK, how many years did Rome fight existential threats in its 2000 years of history? There's the sacking of Rome by Brennus, Hannibal crossing the Alps, the Venetians sacking Constantinople, maybe the Seljuks at Manzikert, and finally the Ottomans which put the lid on the Byzantine coffin. Pardon me, but I'm not counting a total of 1000 years of 'fighting existential threats' out of this.
What other states did you list in post 68? The Byzantines? They were counted above as a continuation of the Romans.
The Ottomans? They didn't really fight existential threats for most of their history either. Maybe for that brief several years after the Battle of Ankara against the Timurids. As Ottoman military technology fell behind, they lost ground against the Russians by the 19th century, but the Russians weren't exactly out to end Ottoman language/people/culture/history/religion, as you put it, nor am I confident that the Russians even could if they wanted to. And even if the Russians could, I'm not counting how it adds up to anywhere near half of Ottoman History.
So I'm not seeing how any of the states you listed as contrary to China, were fighting existential threats for most of their history.

Anyway, in summary, when you claimed that China never fought an equal foreign power, you said that this was unlike the states of Rome/Byzantines/Ottomans. When I came up with the Xiongnu/Kushan/Goturks as counter-examples, you explained a much more specific set of criterias. So I expect whatever you add to your new criteria to only filter out China, and not the Romans/Byzantines/Ottomans.
 
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HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,494
And to show just how much the people of the Warring States saw themselves as different people, here is a map of the Warring States right before the Qin started conquering everybody:


And here is the map right after the Qin fell to internal rebellion:


Oh will you look at that, the Chu state was revived and located in the Eastern portion of the Original Chu state (even though they are called the Western Chu, confusing I know). Hell the rebels even tracked down the grandson of their old ruler and made him the nominal King of Chu. The Yan state revived in the area of the original Yan. The Qi state revived in the area of the original Qi. The Wei state revived in the area of the original Wei. The Hann state revived in the area of the original Hann. The Zhao state revived with half its territory belonging to that of the original Zhao. Obviously, the locals wanted their kingdoms back, and if the Qin conquest was just seen as Chinese people conquering other Chinese people, then it's an amazing coincidence how in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Qin, the map of the Central Plains look so similar to the Warring States map right before Qin conquest of everybody else.

In the final battle of Gaixia in the Chu-Han contention, the Han troops were ordered to sing Chu music, which caused Chu soldiers to think that their homeland was finally conquered, resulting in mass desertion in the Chu army. So this tactic also showed that Chu songs had its own distinct flavor fro the songs of other states.

Here are some of the stereotypical differences between Wei/Qi/Qin, these differences probably didn't apply by the Chu-Han contention though:
"The men of Qi place great emphasis upon skill in personal attack. He who by such skill comes back with the head of an enemy is rewarded with eight ounces of gold levied from the men who accomplished no such deed, but outside of this there are no regular battle rewards. If one is faced with an enemy who is weak and small in numbers, such methods may achieve a certain temporary success, but if the enemy is numerous and strong, one's own forces will quickly disintegrate. They will scatter like birds in flight, and it will be only a matter of days before the state will be overthrown. This method of employing soldiers will doom a state to destruction; no way leads to greater weakness. It is in fact hardly different from going to the market place and hiring day laborers to do one's fighting.
The rulers of Wei select their foot soldiers on the basis of certain qualifications. They must be able to wear three sets of armor, carry a crossbow of twelve-stone weight, bear on their backs a quiver with fifty arrows, and in addition carry a spear. They must also wear helmets on their heads, a sword at their waist, carry three days' provisions, and still be able to march a hundred li in one day. When men have met these qualifications, their families are exempted from corvee labor and are given special tax benefits on their lands and houses. Thus, although individual soldiers may grow old and their strength wane, their privileges cannot be readily taken away from them, and in addition it is not easy to train a sufficient number of new recruits to replace them. For this reason, though the territory of the state is large, its taxes are meager. This method of employing soldiers puts a state in grave peril.
As for the rulers of Qin, they have only a narrow, confined area on which to settle their people. They employ them harshly, terrorize them with authority, embitter them with hardship, coax them with rewards, and cow them with punishments. They see to it that if the humbler people hope to gain any benefits from their superiors, they can only do so only by achieving distinction in battle. They oppress the people before employing them and make them win some distinction before granting them any benefit. Rewards increase to keep pace with achievements; thus a man who returns from battle with five enemy heads is made the master of five families in his neighborhood. In comparison with the other methods I have mentioned, this is the best one to insure a strong and populous state that will last for a long time, a wide expanse of territory that yields taxes. Therefore Qin's repeated victories during the last four generations are no accident, but the result of policy
" – Xunzi

They also threw some racist barbs at each other, one of them being "Men of Chu are apes dressed in human clothing."
 
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Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
Most great empires for most of its history do not have existential crises, because it has the power to avoid that.
However, from the Spring and Autumn Period many states including the Qin faced existential crises before.



Rome also never had to fight an equal foreign power and been threatened by it from the end of the Second Punic War till it split apart. That's part of what it means to be a Great Power. If you are facing existential crises most of the time, then your power probably isn't that great to begin with or else you'd use that power to preserve yourself. As for China, the Spring and Autumn Period to Warring States period lasted about 500 years, and during these times multiple states were competing for survival to the point that its inevitable centralized self-strengthening reforms which resulted was compared to the reforms of Napoleonic Europe.



The people who became subject to the Xiongnu cared about the Xiongnu. The Da Yuezhi cared about the Xiongnu enough to flee from the Xiongnu, migrating a thousand kilometers is no easy task. They did it because that's what it took to survive. The Saka who fled from the Da Yuezhi cared about the Xiongnu, that is if they know the reason that the Yuezhi were driving them out of their lands was because the Yuezhi themselves were fleeing from the Xiongnu. The Sakas killed 2 Parthian kings and the Yuezhi settled down to become the Kushans which invaded and successfully conquered into India and Parthia.
How is that not "long term victories"? The Xiongnu flexing its muscle had drastic impact on Parthia and Central Asia. The Kushan Empire wouldn't even exist without the Xiongnu, and Parthia would no doubt be stronger without the Xiongnu because they wouldn't have lost 2 of their kings in close succession + a major swath of their territory. How can you pass that off as merely "winning victories" with no long term impact?



No it does not, your argument is that China never fought an equal power. Yet the truth is China fought equal powers when China was initially weaker.



Your original premise is wrong. I'm just pointing out what your original premise is. You said China never fought an equal power with the exception of the Mongols. I pointed out that China also fought the Xiongnu, Goturks, and the Kushan. So you changed the goalpost, a goalpost that would exclude the Mongols themselves even though you originally counted the Mongols. If you change the goalpost, I will insist on "playing the game" of notifying you what your original goalpost was.



The Soviet Union and the USA didn't have to pay tribute to the Vietcong/Muhajedeen, USA and Soviet Union didn't have to migrate their entire populaton for losing. They lost because of lack of willpower because the negative consequence of giving up is slight, the Goturks and Xiongnu won when the negative consequence of 'giving up' was incredibly great for their enemies. If losing the Vietnam war meant that the USA had to lose actual American territory to the Vietnamese, you can bet the USA would ground Vietnam to dust because the USA would have poured significantly more resources into winning the war. So your analogy is faulty as the consequence of losing for the Parthians/Da Yuezhi/Saka/Sassanids was much greater for them, than whatever negative impact the USA/Soviets had for losing Vietnam/Afghanistan.



Wrong, you counted the Mongols as such an enemy, even though CHinese don't speak Mongolian, CHinese culture still existed, Chinese histiography still existed. Ergo these new criteria of yours is not your original criteria. You changed the goalpost to avoid admitting you were wrong. And if you count the Mongols, why not count the Xiongnu and the Goturks?


You spoke of them in a condescending attitude. This was what you said:
"Ah yes, more horse nomads... I have no doubt the Tang would have assimilated them too, just like later Chinese did the Mongols and the Manchu."
Your original point was about military power, not propensity to become assimilated. And in your original post you counted the Mongols as an example of fighting China as an equal power, now you dismiss these Mongols on the basis that they were assimilated. If that's not moving the goalpost then I don't know what is.
Ok.
 
Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
If I admit that you are right in everthing you said Hack, will you admit that there are serious differences in the geopolitical landscape between Western Eurasia and the area around China? Serious differences in Chinese self conception compared with the rest of the world that tell of this difference? That the powers to the West have had to contend with a greater multiplicity of equal or semi-equal powers, and seen that as a natural state of affairs?
 

HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,494
Again that depends on time period, I thought I made that obvious. You gave the examples of Romans/Byzantines/Ottomans experiencing fighting against powers of equal strength more often then that of the Chinese. I broke it down and am not seeing it. Why don't you list examples that I have missed?
Different individual Chinese in different time periods and different regions have different self-conceptions about themselves, which one are you talking about? Provide evidence. For example, the Gongyang school believes that being Chinese have to do with adopting Hua customs. Barbarians who adopt Hua customs are Chinese and Chinese who adopt barbarian customs are Barbarians. On the other hand, the Huayi school thinks it is near impossible for barbarians to become Chinese, but believes that it's possible for Chinese to become barbarians. The Jin dynasty called themselves Chinese and the Song as Southern Barbarians. The Song called themselves Chinese and called the Jin as Northern Barbarians. So in terms of talking about Chinese self-perception, you need to be more specific because it sounds like you are trying to use a simple stereotype to describe a complicated viewpoint.
 
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Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
Again that depends on time period, I thought I made that obvious. You gave the examples of Romans/Byzantines/Ottomans experiencing fighting against powers of equal strength more often then that of the Chinese. I broke it down and am not seeing it. Why don't you list examples that I have missed?
Right, so no then. Good luck!
 

HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,494
So I see you're not going to give examples of those states you listed. The truth is not up to barter. You want me to be convinced, you need to use evidence, not bargaining.
 
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Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
Look Hack, the first point in any discussion that you want to be meaninful is admitting that your counterpart has a point. If they do have a point that is. The truth is always shades of grey, not the actual truth - but our understanding of it. You could admit that I have a point, but you won't will you? You want everything to be perfectly, autisticially correct. Fine. You can debate that way, but I don't find it interesting. It's not conducive to finding out meaningful and interesting things about the world, and it's intellectually dishonest (even though that's not your intention), and I don't see why I should participate.

Now of course, you are free to feel that I am completely wrong. That everything is identical geopolitically between Western Eurasia and the area around China, and that one succession of powers in Western Eurasia that are more or less the same culturally have remained dominant for 2000 years. You yourself explicitly used the counterexample of "if the Roman Empire never fell" in the West, which seems to imply that there was at least some truth to what I'm saying, at least after the Qin Empire (where I admitted you had a point). I'm not going to "give you examples" because it is self evident that I do have a point, and everyone knows this. All I will do by feeding you more information is give you more lines of attack, similarly to how when the politicians of a country make the tax-code longer and more complex they are essentially creating more jobs in the legal profession.

You are bending the goal posts using horse nomads as examples of real competitors, which they might be from a purely military standpoint, but not in any other realm - which also means that the threat (what is "threat" anyway? These things are subjective Hack, to an ancient Greek citystate the notion of survival is not entirely identical to our own) is considerably more limited, or at least different. The Ottomans conquered the Byzantine Empire. The various Germanic tribes conquered the Roman Empire. When you say that the Mongols conquered China, or that the Xiong nu could have conquered China or whatever, what you are essentially saying is that there would have been a bit of hustle and bustle, the leadership would have changed but more or less most things would have gone on as usual. No doubt there is a component of this in all conquests, but these examples (horse nomads) seem to be even more strongly slanted towards this. You say that I "move the goal posts" when I explicitly employed two conflicting definitions of power in my first post, implying that maybe this is an ambivalent and complex subject and that it would perhaps be more useful to try to understand the complexities of it rather than whining about definitions and phrasings. But clearly you can't do that. So bye, once again. Until next time.
 
Dec 2018
113
North Dublin
I don't really evaluate societies based on their "power", but on their culture & even then, I don't really evaluate them, in the sense that all have some defining characteristics which should be known, by people who have ambitions of erudition, unless they are completely culturally barren, which is often not actually the case. There has never really been a society that has not produced some form of visual or literary art.
 
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HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,494
Look Hack, the first point in any discussion that you want to be meaninful is admitting that your counterpart has a point. If they do have a point that is. The truth is always shades of grey, not the actual truth - but our understanding of it. You could admit that I have a point, but you won't will you? You want everything to be perfectly, autisticially correct. Fine. You can debate that way, but I don't find it interesting. It's not conducive to finding out meaningful and interesting things about the world, and it's intellectually dishonest (even though that's not your intention), and I don't see why I should participate.
I will admit you have a point when you have brought valid evidence to the table. You made ZERO effort to earn it, you expect people to GIVE you automatic agreement with what you say. You expect me to reach a middle ground with you, yet I have brought more than enough evidence whereas you brought zero, your entire argument relies not on bringing evidence but on changing the goalpost. So much for your statement "Correct me if I'm wrong". Let me be clear what that sentence means. It doesn't mean telling you where you are partially right. It means telling you where you are wrong, period. Don't say "Correct me if I'm wrong" if you don't mean it.

NordicDemosthenes said:
You are bending the goal posts using horse nomads as examples of real competitors, which they might be from a purely military standpoint, but not in any other realm - which also means that the threat (what is "threat" anyway? These things are subjective Hack, to an ancient Greek citystate the notion of survival is not identical to our own) is considerbly more limited. The Ottomans conquered the Byzantine Empire. The various Germanic tribes conquered the Roman Empire. When you say that the Mongols conquered China, or that the Xiong nu could have conquered China or whatever, what you are essentially saying is that there would have been a bit of hustle and bustle, the leadership would have changed but more or less most things would have gone on as usual. No doubt there is a component of this in all conquests, but these examples (horse nomads) seem to be even more strongly slanted towards this. You say that I "move the goal posts" when I explicitly employed two conflicting definitions of power in my first post, implying that maybe this is an ambivalent and complex subject and that it would perhaps be more useful to try to understand the complexities of it rather than whining about definitions like an autistic five year old. But clearly you can't do that. So bye, once again. Until next time.
The question is if the Chinese were ever amongst the 3 most powerful state in the world, that is the OP. If the Byzantine empire was conquered by the Ottomans, then the Byzantines were NOT the most powerful state in the world during the time it was conquered. The Ottomans would be a better choice for that title. Likewise, when the Germanic tribes conquered the Western Roman Empire, it meant that the Western Roman Empire was NOT the most powerful state in the world at the time, or else it wouldn't have been conquered by other powers.

You say you bring "nuance", but what nuance did you bring? You dismissed the Goturks/Xiongnu for simply being nomadic horse tribes, how is that nuanced? When I told how the power of the Xiongnu caused massive migrations fleeing from Xiongnu might, migrations that reached all the way to Parthia, you dismissed it as just "winning victories" with no long term impact. Seriously, did you even bother doing any research before you say these things? How is that nuanced? In post 68, the post which started it all, you initially count the Mongols as a noteworthy military competitor to the Chinese, but then to avoid being wrong, in later posts you dismissed the very same Mongols based on a new criteria centered around CULTURE, not military might. Where in the OP did it say anything about Culture? How is that not changing goalposts? How is that nuance? Let's face it, you started this subject in post 68, you were not speaking about culture, you were not speaking about existential threats on language/religion/histiography, you were speaking about military might otherwise you wouldn't have counted the Mongols in that post. If you were talking about powers with advanced cultures then you wouldn't have included the Mongols in post 68, but the fact of the matter is you did. It was later on that you added the criteria of culture which made you not count the Mongols as a noteworthy power.

It doesn't matter if you gave two different definitions of power. What matters at hand is that one of your premises (China rarely had to contend with an existential outside threat, as opposed to the Romans/Byzantines/Ottomans) is wrong. You gave a list of three other powers, but when I broke down the number of times that they had to face an existential outside threat in post 91, it's not anymore than what China faced. Having an alternative definition of power does not give your premise any weight. You can have a million alternative definitions and it wouldn't add an ounce of evidence to your premise. If you could point out which other existential outside threats that the Romans/Byzantines/Ottomans faced which I didn't put into consideration, THEN such a point actually have something to do with the matter at hand, but that's not what you did.

You can call me an "autistic five year old" all you want, but that just means an autistic five year old brought more evidence than you and you need to up your standard because it's embarassing that an autistic five year old did more research on this subject than you. And it's embarrassing that an autistic five year old is more capable of sticking to the subject matter at hand and in the OP (Military power) whereas you are going off on a tangent about culture. So let me know when the power of Jazz contributed more to American military power than its nuclear arsenal.
 
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