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

Mar 2012
4,323
No, it is not irrelevant. Besides, this thread is about China, isn't it? In case you haven't noticed, it's the same great thinkers and artists that you disparage that make sure that China is a culture that is still talked about today, and that still exists today in any meaningful way (unlike Mongolia, or the various Stans- for example. The only point of having power is if you can create something lasting, meaningful and unique with it. If not your power is pointless, and while I'm sure you're a great conqueror, you're never going to convince me that a civilization like that is worth taking seriously. The biker gangs of the pre-modern era, essentially. Sometimes very professional biker gangs, but biker gangs nonetheless.

"Power" is a difficult metric to begin with before the modern era anyway, when talked about from a global context. What "power" did Tang China have in 9th century Europe? Yes, you can argue that they were "more developed" than Charlemagne's Empire, but essentially it is a pointless discussion because they never interacted in any meaningful way and never could. What I was trying to do therefore was to nuance the discussion a bit, and ask "what is power - in relation to China, and how is it different", and point out the fact that China exists in a completely different context from much of the other high cultures in the world.
Read the title again, this thread is called "Was China ever in the top 3 most powerful empires of the world"? Whether its pointless is not for you to decide, whether it is powerful at all is what is relevant to this thread.

Power has a very specific meaning in international relationship, its the ability to coerce another polity to do something it would otherwise not do; either directly through the application of military force or indirectly through economic pressure. Culture does not factor into it, and that's why any quantifiable measurement of power (whether it be Comprehensive national power measurement used in the PRC, or the correlate of war project used in the west) ignores culture as something remotely tangible. At least things like the military and budget are tangible attributes which can transfer into power, strictly speaking, culture is not remotely relevant; because its not a crucial instrument of coercion.
 
Feb 2011
6,343
The wikipedia description of Sassanian-Gokturk wars seem to paint a misleading picture for everyone. Gokturk Empire was never weaker than the Sassanids, especially the eastern half, unless its fragmented into many parts. The Persians were vassals of the Hephalites and it was the Gokturks who first dealt them a fatal blow, Persia simply joined the spoil. Every one of the so called Gokturk-Sassanian wars were fought by the Western Khanate only, and except for the first encounter, even the Western Khanate was often fragmented into 2-3 smaller polities or just had their khan killed by the Eastern Khanate. At the end, the Sassanids still lost most of Afghanistan to the Western Khanate. Not to mention, the Sassanids always fought a defensive war, and never took the war to the core of the Western Khanate. We should also be wary of these records, as the Persians often lump all nomads from the east into one, and do not distinguish the Gokturks themselves and their vassals. The so called "Turkish Khan" which the Sassanians claimed to have killed had the name Sawa, and Pelliot noted that it was a Sogdian name, and was probably just a local lord of the Gokturk Empire, and not the Khan.
Do you have the source and quote for the Western khagnate being fragmented?
 
Mar 2019
46
Canada
Every time a major dynasty ended China became divided into separate states and there were massive civil wars in the next decades or centuries that dwarfed all Roman civil wars put together. There were even bloody civil wars where millions died during some dynasties that were not enough to topple those dynasties. A strong case could be made that China suffered much more from internal civil wars than Rome did.
Ah, if you don't realize, the power in Roman empire is to the Legions, which is MADE FROM CITIZENS.
In China, EVERYONE IS A CITIZEN, in Roman empire, MOST PEOPLE ARE NOT CITIZENS.
Therefore, in a civil war, when a Legionary dies, you have to find a CITIZEN, which is rare compared to random Chinese peasant number 50000000000.
Therefore, when a Roman army dies in a Roman civil war, that faction is dead.
When a Chinese general lost his entire ******* army? He enters the nearest town, and then ten weeks later, his got ANOTHER 10,000 MEN ARMY.
Moreover, in China, conscription is in place, which means, ANY PEASANT WHO ISN'T A CRIPPLE can wield spear and saber as well as form a pike square.
All you need is a weapon and a armor to make him a soldier. Moreover, China makes weapons for storage even in peace time, for example, after Ming lost like 500,000 dudes to the Mongolians due to a retarded general, Beijing requested weapons and armor from Nanjing, one month later, 12,600,000 Weapons and 600,000 full sets of armour arrived, Nanjing only emptied out their armory to replenish the Beijing armoury, then Beijing formed a VOLUNTEER force of 220,000 MEN IN ONE WEEK and beat back 126,000 Mongolians.
Moreover, China was practicing TOTAL WAR from the WARRING STATES PERIOD, about the time when Rome burned down Carthage, which means Chinese armies are larger and used much more resources than Roman counterparts.
Limited War+Low Centralization+Low Recruitment Pool+Inexperienced Population+Weapon Production on Demand Only=Short Decisive Battle Royal
Total War+Extremely Centralized State+Large Recruitment Population+Experience from Conscription+General War Readiness=Longer Drawn out Battle Royal
Therefore that is why Chinese civil war battles didn't focus on killing the enemy soldiers, but it's always decisive when the enemy general is killed or captured, then instantly the enemy army serves you instead.
 
Mar 2019
46
Canada
You know this for a fact do you? The Greeks and Romans might have merged together (and did somewhat during antiquity as well, in the Romans own minds), the Carthaginians... no, I don't buy it, especially not since the 3rd Punic war ended the way it did. They were a semitic people, and were considered different both by posterity and by the Romans at the time. I don't think you are correct in this, and even if you would have the Romans still had the Parthians to relate to later on, and then the Sassanids and then Islam.

More importantly though: Rome fell. This is, as you too point out, also my point. China is a continuous civilization over time (or is considered that today) largely because they have not had to contend with any serious cultural existential threats for much of their history. The Mongols were never going to destroy Han culture, but instead became a ruling elite and eventually sinicized. Same with the Manchu.



Sure. But the Qin still conquered everybody.... and things are the way they are. How different were the states of the warring states period from each other anyway? Did they understand each other? Speak similar enough languages? Similar religious practices? I'm not doubting that there were differences, but they seem to have had more in common with each other than for example the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians, or the Greeks and the Phoenicians. How different were their scripts? Were they intelligible, or were they as different as Greek/Phoenician/Cuneiform?



Okay? What does this prove? The Goths and Alans killed the Roman Emperor at Adrianople, are they now more powerful than the Roman Empire?

China was conquered by people like the Xiongnu twice (that I am aware of), and it doesn't seem to have resulted to any meaningful changes to Chinese culture and civilization. In some ways you could perhaps say that this is one of the most remarkable and powerful things about China, that it seems so immutable, compared with many other cultures.



Okay, sure. And how were the Kushan an existential threat to the Han? Did they fight numerous wars? Did they ever conquer the Han capital? Did the Han ever conquer their capital? Or did they fight over shitty border provinces in modern day Tibet that nobody cares about? They had the Himalaya's between them, nothing serious was ever going to happen. The only civilizations that have ever conquered or even threatened China before the modern era are various kinds of steppe nomads or other Chinese. The nice thing about steppe nomads is that they are generally quite useless at everything that is not warfare, and also tend to make poor long term Empire builders, maintainers of culture etc. etc. What uniquely Mongol thing (besides his genes) has Ginghis Khan left in the parts of the world that are not Central Asia?

That you can speak of "when the Kushans fought the Han" and pinpoint this as a time when they were mightier than the Parthians also tells me that the interaction between the Kushan and the Han were very much different from that of the Romans and the Parthians.



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.
OK, to understand how the warring states are different but same, you need to understand what are they.
They are basically client kingdoms to the Zhou, they began as barbarians, but then were conquered by the Chinese, and then turned Chinese, but their language of Chinese is slightly different. Frankish, Norman, and Germans are different languages, but they were very similar and to an extent, they can communicate with each other, and had different scripts, but they are all branches of German. The different Chinese states had people who saw each other as barbarians, just like the Franks later saw Vikings and Germans barbarians. If China didn't unite then, China will end up similarly to Europe.

To say that China didn't fight large threats is ******* retarded on so many levels, it was the Romans that didn't have much threats. They fought inferior armies, most of the large empire were using the outdated super long phalanx formation where as Romans formations were much more flexiable, you can see the Parthia's and later the Sassanian Persians as equal enemies to Rome, but no. Their GDP and Population were much lower and therefore, they were only fighting only a part of the Roman might at all times, they were settled peoples too, so they rely on gold for war the same way Rome was.
Now China's enemies were always, super empires that crossed between Eurasia, for example, the Han empire fought like 300,000 Xiongnu, and won most battles with similar amount of men and ended up losing less. Whereas Romans struggled against much smaller forces of nomads.
Moreover, in the Middle Ages, China was battling against hundreds of thousands of Nomads, and later, a Northern Chinese state ruled by a nomadic elite, combining the strength of Central Plains heavy infantry with superb heavy and light Calvary. All of which would have had no problem wiping their asses with the remains of any, and I mean any large Europe's entire armies, and by entire armies, I mean you could empty out every single city, village and castle in europe of their militas, nobles, and retainers, form a grand army, and that army would be half the size of any nomadic empire's army China was up against.
For example, several thousand Mongolians showed up in Eastern Europe, and you guys thought that was "scourge of god", but several tens of thousand Mongolians is like a annual test of defense for any frontier Chinese colony.
Moreover, the Mongolian force that defeated the Song dynasty, was 900,000 thousand strong, I would like to see the Tutenics defeat that 900,000 men army like they did with Genghis Khan.
To say that China wasn't the strongest force on earth from the classical era to the late Renaissance is retarded, when in some Chinese civil wars, one single Chinese province sometimes had a larger military than all of Europe combined.
Just for a perspective, during the period when China defeated the Mongolian empire and restored Chinese rule, Mongols at one point were defeated in southern China, in southern China, two Chinese Han rebel armies prepared to fight for the final supremacy in China, on a river, that naval engagement became the largest in human history, where both sides loaded up 600,000 men to large ships and had a massive boarding action, clogging the river with corpses and ship wrecks after several weeks of fighting. The "Invincible" and "great" Spanish armada was like 200 ships, most of the ships were also smaller compared to the ones used in that engagement.
 
Mar 2012
4,323
Do you have the source and quote for the Western khagnate being fragmented?

The history of the early Gokturk is very complicated. There are in fact more than just two khanates. In 583, the Turuk empire fragmented into several portions. Abo Kaghan of the west attacked Shatilue (Eastern kaghan). However, these two aren't the only Kaghans in the Turuk empire. Tardu supported Abo when he rebelled, but in 685, when Abo declared himself the main Kaghan after defeating Shatilue and established his base at the Hanggai, Tardu rebelled, and attacked Abo, defeating him. Shatilue submitted to the Sui south of the Gobi, and his son Mohe Kaghan retook Mongolia from Abo, capturing him in 687. Abo's son Nili Kaghan then succeeded him. Mohe died in 588 while campaigning westwards (some historian speculate that he was the kaghan who was said to be killed in Persian sources, but considering Tardu was still in the west and was never conquered, this seems unlikely). Mohe was succeeded by Dulan Kaghan. So there were three main powers in the Gokturk Empire at the time, and Tardu was the only part which bordered Persia. Yet these aren't even all the Kaghans in the Gokturk empire. In 587, the Byzantines record that Sparzeugoun (Panna Kaghan), Rounxola (probably Nili), and Touldikh (Tuli) were three other Kaghans aiding Tardu against Dulan Kaghan after Tardu defeated the Persians (the Sassanians seem to only have drove the Turks out in 589 after Tardu's main forces were sent east against Dulan).
In 597, Tardu defeated Persia, forcing truce and land on the Sassanians and turned eastwards (this Turkish victory is unmentioned in Wikipedia). By 599, Tardu defeated Dulan and entered Mongolia, but Tuli Kaghan captured Hanggai Mountain and submitted to the Sui. Tuli was immediately attacked by Tardu and Dulan (who now submitted to Tardu). The Sui army defeated Tardu and made Tuli into Qimin Kaghan, who drove Tardu out of Mongolia; this is the real beginning of the Eastern Kaghanate. After Tardu was defeated by the Sui in 603, the western portion of the Gokturk Empire was in numerous fragments, with Nili's son Daman Kaghan seizing the main portion (but Tardu's son; with his base near Suyab or Aksu, would later counter attack in 611 and drive Daman east, who later submitted to the Sui, before 611, the Tiele also rebelled and briefly established a kingdom in Zungaria).

Therefore only in 603 did the Eastern Khanate form, and only after 611 was the Gokturk Empire formally divided into the Western and Eastern half. Between 583-611, there were multiple Kaghans fighting for the throne. Sassanian Persia only dealt with Tardu (whose main force was in the east) or Daman when it scored its victories (and was still defeated by Tardu in 597).
 
Mar 2019
46
Canada
Post 1991 yes. Otherwise probably not though it's debatable.
Wut? China after 1600s isn't the most powerful country in the world due to lack of military and industrial technology compared to the west, how is post 1991 a date worth considering?
China didn't have a modern air force, basically only J-8 is domestically designed and it's already behind the West by a decade, ground forces, composed of outdated heavy weapons and complete lack of decent anti air, and the navy is basically Chinese made battleships that relied on cannons more than missiles. Not to mention the doctrines in place and the economy barely starting to roll.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,709
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
This is a list of major Imperial dynasties of China.

Qin 221BC-207BC

Western Han 202 BC -AD 8

Xin AD 9 -AD 23

Eastern Han 25-222

Sui 581-618

Tang 618-690

Wu Zhao 690-705

Tang 705-907

Northern Song 960-1127

Southern Song 1127-1279

Yuan 1271-1368

Ming 1368-1644

Qing 1636-1912

When each of those dynasties was at the height of its power, it was certainly among the 3 most powerful states on Earth, and might have been the most powerful state on Earth. The period when a particular Dynasty was the most powerful state on Earth would probably be a shorter period within the period when it was one of the three most powerful states on Earth, which in turn might be a shorter period within the total rule of that dynasty.

During periods when China was divided into several empires, kingdoms, and other states, there may have been times when one, two, or three of those smaller states were among the three most powerful states on Earth.

It is possible that some of the dynasties before 221 BC, and some of the dynasties after 221 BC, that are not listed here, may have also been among the top three most powerful states on Earth for various lengths of time, and possibly even the most powerful states on Earth for shorter periods of time.

IMHO the above statements seem certain, and the only questions to discuss are during which periods was a Chinese government among the three most powerful states on Earth and during which shorter periods was a Chinese government the most powerful state on Earth.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,709
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
This is a list of major Imperial dynasties of China.

Qin 221BC-207BC

Western Han 202 BC -AD 8

Xin AD 9 -AD 23

Eastern Han 25-222

Sui 581-618

Tang 618-690

Wu Zhao 690-705

Tang 705-907

Northern Song 960-1127

Southern Song 1127-1279

Yuan 1271-1368

Ming 1368-1644

Qing 1636-1912

When each of those dynasties was at the height of its power, it was certainly among the 3 most powerful states on Earth, and might have been the most powerful state on Earth. The period when a particular Dynasty was the most powerful state on Earth would probably be a shorter period within the period when it was one of the three most powerful states on Earth, which in turn might be a shorter period within the total rule of that dynasty.

During periods when China was divided into several empires, kingdoms, and other states, there may have been times when one, two, or three of those smaller states were among the three most powerful states on Earth.

It is possible that some of the dynasties before 221 BC, and some of the dynasties after 221 BC, that are not listed here, may have also been among the top three most powerful states on Earth for various lengths of time, and possibly even the most powerful states on Earth for shorter periods of time.

IMHO the above statements seem certain, and the only questions to discuss are during which periods was a Chinese government among the three most powerful states on Earth and during which shorter periods was a Chinese government the most powerful state on Earth.

Here are links to various threads discussing which states were the most powerful in the world at various times:

Most powerful state/empire/kingdom through history

https://www.quora.com/Who-were-the-...s-in-the-world-at-different-points-in-history

Strongest military powers throughout history:A Timeline

Most powerful empires of each century

Most Powerful Countries throughout history
 

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