What factors led to China re-unifying multiple times throughout history while "Europe" failed to do so after Charlemagne?

heavenlykaghan

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Mar 2012
4,424
If one is excluding only Russia from Europe, then perhaps one needs to reflect that Greece hasn't exactly joined conventional "Europe" until the past century.
 
Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
I regret making this post. Nobody is even talking about Charlemagne or his empire at this point, just arguing pointlessly about semantics and irrelevant things.
 

MAGolding

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Aug 2015
2,931
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
I regret making this post. Nobody is even talking about Charlemagne or his empire at this point, just arguing pointlessly about semantics and irrelevant things.
It doesn't help that you made a vague post. It makes o sense to talk about "reuniting" "Europe" when Europe has never been united.

To answer your question, some of the factors that prevented the reunification of western Europe are:

1) The grandsons and later descendants of Charlemagne dividing the Carolingian empire. And the way that the kings of the various kingdoms it divided into would not obey the Carolingian emperor.

2) The Capetian kings of France from 987 onward refused to obey the authority of the emperor and from about 1250 began to steal lands from the emperor's kingdoms of Germany and Burgundy.

3) The medieval popes who lusted for political power, in direct and obvious disobedience to the command to "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's", and so undermined the authority of all rulers who opposed their power grabs, most notably the emperors who ruled the largest part of the former Carolingian Empire.

4) The Reformers who split the Catholic church into a number of different sects and caused many religious wars.

Those should do as a start.
 
Jul 2014
1,608
world
I regret making this post. Nobody is even talking about Charlemagne or his empire at this point, just arguing pointlessly about semantics and irrelevant things.
The simplest answer would be that China did not have a landed aristocracy. That alone had the power centralized with the emperor and not dependent upon the aristocrats.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,672
Cornwall
I regret making this post. Nobody is even talking about Charlemagne or his empire at this point, just arguing pointlessly about semantics and irrelevant things.
It doesn't help that you made a vague post. It makes o sense to talk about "reuniting" "Europe" when Europe has never been united.
.
Why on earth should it be? It's just a load of different states and countries in a geographical area now referred to as 'Europe'
 
Aug 2018
274
America
Carolingian Empire, Angevin Empire, the Latin Empire, the Holy Roman Empire at its greatest extent under Frederick II, the Habsburgs at their greatest extent under Charles V. Compare this to the periods of an unified China in the Qin-Han, Sui-Tang, Yuan, Ming and Qing. It's more accurate to ask why Europe is only unified today under a system of integration rather than a full-blown state in comparison with an unified China under a single state.

In this regard, I would say that it is because of Soviet intervention. The Soviets were the ones who protected and defended Chinese territorial integrity. They more or less defended the annexation of Tibet, which was if not a British colony then at least a breakaway state that the British carved from Chinese territory, they helped the Chinese also defeat not just the Kuomintang but also other breakaway groups and they prevented a Chinese partition between the various European colonial powers after the defeat of Japan.

We have to also remember China was very much divided by the time of the Chinese civil war, that Mongolia is in fact a breakaway state from the Qing that declared independence after the Xinhai Revolution, that Tibet, Shanghai, Hong Kong and other territories had also been taken away from the Qing and that the region to the north of Mongolia and Manchuria all the way to Vladivostok still belongs to the Russians to this day, having been taken away in one of the Unequal Treaties. The Soviets were very much the ones who put an end to this with their support for Mao Zedong and the Communists, though even then they opportunistically remained with the Chinese territory that had the Tsars had carved some 50 years earlier.
 
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Aug 2018
274
America
Now, granted, periods of Chinese unification lasted longer, and the Qing lasted as an unified state for some 200 years before the start of the Century of Humiliation, the Qing being an empire that recreated the Yuan Empire. In this regard, this is because of the lack of a naval power that could compete with the Qing during this period outside of Europeans, who were more interested in trade than in conquest before the Opium Wars. The reason why Europe under Charles V broke away again was definitely because all major Western European powers (England, France, Sweden, the northern Holy Roman duchies) had if not a standing navy, at least a significant fleet that challenged Spain. That wasn't the case in China, where even the Koreans and Japanese did not have any major navy that could truly challenge Qing hegemony.
 

Theodoric

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Mar 2012
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Yötebory Sveriya
Rome being a European Empire is an interesting sub-question. Technically, it IS a European Empire in that it originated in Europe. But prior to the Middle Ages Rome could better be described as a Mediterranean city, not a European one. While there were vague usages of the term Europe prior to the Carolingeans, it is only there that we begin to find an identity of roughly modern meaning (and it referred more to what we consider Western Europe, it didn’t include Greek, Balkans, Slavic, Scandinavian, or Baltic lands) and I think this is the definition we can use. The modern 19th century definition is wider in scope than the historical understanding; and I’m unsure if it is useful to redact earlier understanding of geography based on our modern understanding for this topic.

Anyway, I forget if I answered, this question rings a bell. The Carolingean Empire hasn’t really been reunified because of the systems of titles in the medieval era. There was no real nation, rather rulers with titles and their vassals: Anjou might have been part of England if the King of England owned the Duchy title, it might have been part of France if it was owned there, or the Duke of Anjou might have controlled the Kingdom titles of England or France.

But essentially, things were fluid, it was about noble succession, not nationality. Nationality only came into question when a ruler was trying to acquire other titles through force: like when Edward I if England wanted control over Scotland, he wrote the Pope indicating that Scotland was a historic vassal of the Kingdom of England since the time of King Arthur; when the reality was he wanted the land because he was an ambitious conqueror.

Anyway, this sort of thought of 13th century King Edward I became more commonplace, and England became one of the first really nationalistic nations. Nationalism brought titles into a more unified succession, so that duchies and counties weren’t constantly passing from noble to noble, but rather staying a part of a nation.

In easy terms: ownership of lands was based on nobles in the medieval era: they owned titles, vassals, and passed those on to heirs. Sometimes this would break national borders (as was the case with Charlemagne when he divided his lands between his sons). By the time of nationalistic focuses (more solid in the age of Henry, Francis, and Charles V) there was no power capable of controlling the (Western) European sphere for more than a short time. Now we’re in an era of liberal democracy when most people see government as being smaller in role, they are meant to manage the country for the people, not control a state: though we do still have heads of state, but unlike the US not often synonymous with the government: e.g. Sweden is Monarchy and a Democracy, its head of state is the Monarch, but the Prime Minister is head of government; in Germany, a republic, the head of state is the President (rather than a Monarch), but the head of government is the Chancellor. Heads of state are less important in the current times: Switzerland, for example, has no head of state (though they do have a Council which roughly fills that role) and IMO they’re mostly obsolete, only valuable as a tradition and will eventually fade to obscurity.

Sorry! Totally lost track on my rant. ANYWAY. This is sort of why there is no unified Europe, but if there is a unified European state. I think some form of the EU, a union of democratically elected governments, is probably the only unification forward for Europe: and such a thing may expand beyond what people consider Europe; but it won’t be like a nation as we understand them today; I just can’t see European countries ever doing that with the individualistic spirit of the people.
 

MAGolding

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Aug 2015
2,931
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
Why was China able to reunite?

The first time China was reunited was in 230 BC to 221 BC, when the Kingdom of Qin gained military superiority and conquered the other kingdoms in China.

The second time China was reunited was in AD 280 when the Jin Dynasty of the state of Chao Wei gained military superiority and conquered the state of Wu.

The third time China was reunited was in 588 when the Sui Dynasty of Northern China gained military superiority and conquered southern China.

The fourth time China was reunited was in 960 to 979, when the Song Dynasty of Northern China gained military superiority and conquered the rest of China (except for the Sixteen Prefectures in the north).

The fifth time China was reunited was in 1268 to 1279 when Kublai khan, Mongol Kakhan since 1259 and founder of the Yuan Dynasty in northern China in 1271, invaded and conquered the Song Dynasty of southern China.

The sixth time China was reunited was in 1644 to 1683 when the Qing Dynasty, founded in Manchuria in 1536, invaded and conquered China.

The seventh time China was reunited was in 1945 to 1949, when the rebellious Chinese communists defeated the Nationalist government and conquered all of China.

Of course there where a number of other times when China suffered civil wars and one side or the other finally won and conquered their enemies, and so some people might list other times when China was reunited.

But each case Chinese reunification was accomplished by conquering all or part of China in bloody wars where often millions were killed. In some cases at least one of the defeated states were more powerful than any contemporary state in Europe. In some cases the defeated states might have included one that was more powerful than all the states in western Europe combined. And in each case the defeated and conquered states were conquered by an even more powerful state.

So perhaps the reason why the the area of the former western administrative division of the Roman Empire was never completely reunited was that for many centuries no powerful state, like those in China, arose in that region that could have conquered the other states and reunited the western part of the Roman Empire. When powerful states did arise in that region, there were always two or more at the same time similar enough in power that neither was able to conquer the other. Thus there was a succession of competing powers in Europe, spreading death and destruction in their wars, but never bringing peace through unification..

If China had not not become disunited during the Zhou Dynasty and had remained united and internally peaceful, free of civil wars, rebellions, and foreign invasions, to the present time, that would have saved millions of lives, tens of millions of lives, and perhaps even more than a hundred million lives.

Europe's post Roman and pre modern history was much less bloody and horrifying than China's in the same period. It is quite possible that the total number, thousands and possibly millions. of deaths in the region of the western part of the Roman Empire from about 500 to 1500 were just a fraction of the total deaths in merely one of the many conflicts in China during that period.

Europe began to catch up with China in bloodshed and horror during the last few centuries as powerful states developed. During the 20th century alone, over a hundred million people in Europe and other continents died in wars because the western portion of the Roman Empire fell apart and was never reunited.

So I wonder which region, Europe or China, will have the better and more peaceful history, and which one the bloodier and more horrifying one, in the next century, in the next millennium, in the next ten thousand years, in the next hundred thousand years, and so on.