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The Empires Of Rome And China

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The Empires of Rome and China

"Government in [Han] China was more orderly, complex, and competent than that of Rome." In order to argue or defend a statement such as this, one must first understand the different governmental structures as well as their impact on society and culture. What is it that makes a government orderly? What constitutes complex and how does one define competent? One might say that an orderly government that is one that is uniform and virtually devoid of corruption. A complex government is a resourceful one with interrelated parts that make it possible for all the angles to be covered. A competent government is one that can deal with the issues at hand in the most efficient manner possible. China exhibited a more orderly government than did Rome as is evidenced by many things including the manner in which the emperor's throne was succeeded. The complexity of the government in China as opposed to that of Rome is demonstrated by China's ability to rise to the call as opposed to Rome's ambiguity regarding the question of what happens next. Competency is a natural consequence of order and complexity combined and is shown in the strength exhibited by the Empire. Let us first take a look at the governmental structure of early Rome.

Rome, before it was an empire, was a successful republic. The constitution provided for 2 elected consuls who would have virtually unlimited power for one year. In times of crisis the consuls could appoint a dictator to a term expiring after six months. The decisions made by that dictator, unlike the ones made by the two consuls, were not subject to appeal by an assembly of the people and were not subject to override by anyone. There would be a Senate composed of patricians (upper echelon Roman citizens) that would reason together over issues regarding finances and foreign policy .

After the consul's term expired, he would more than likely sit on the Senate. This encouraged the balance of power through reputation although it didn't entirely enforce it. Two censors were elected by the Senate every five years. The appointment of a politician to censor was a crowning achievement and it came with the power to classify citizens along with additional powers over the senators themselves .

The Republic defined Rome's government system from 509 B.C.E. until around 45 B.C.E. when the fall of the Republic paved the way for the empires that would follow. During that time Rome expanded itself. One way Rome did this was through the Punic Wars when they acquired Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. Other city-states were made protectorates as Rome extended her hands into regions beyond her borders, growing herself ever larger. The Republic, although ideal for a limited population, was eventually laden and unable to carry the vastness of Rome. Economic, social, and political factors contributed to the intense need to revamp and develop a new, more efficient form of government.

Meanwhile, the divided pieces of China were being united by the Qin, the first dynasty of the Imperial China. This was officially accomplished in 221 B.C.E. . The Qin government consisted of one ruler who is referred to as the First Emperor. Favoring Legalism as the official philosophy, the First Emperor created a uniform government with laws to which all were subject . He achieved centralization, which consisted of "standardized legal codes and bureaucratic procedures, the forms of writing and coinage, and the pattern of thought and scholarship" . This bureaucratic system gained its momentum from the Legalist minister Li Si, and was comprised of forty prefectures that were further divided into counties. The heads of the counties were accountable to the heads of the prefects who were accountable to the Emperor. In contrast to the Roman government, the Emperor ruled over all and did so until the day he died. For the First Emperor, this happened in 210 B.C.E. At this point the Qin Dynasty had overextended itself and the First Emperor's death was followed by rebellions and the eventual collapse of the Qin Dynasty .

To compare the two Empires thus far, the Roman Republic was built with shortsighted views while it held lofty ambitions. The two consuls could veto each other's decisions, and if that didn't happen then an assembly of the people could overrule the decisions. If a dictator was appointed, he was only to rule for six months. Although this for a long while prevented any sort of tyranny and kept a quasi-balance in place, it did not allow for a smooth process regarding decisions nor did it allot enough time for a dictator to resolve whatever situation he was appointed to fix. In contrast, the Qin Dynasty set up China with a bureaucratic system that was able to maintain growth while sustaining unity under one leader. This contributed to the Chinese Empire's reputation of an orderly, complex and competent governmental system. More factors came into play as each Empire matured and reformed policies of the preceding reigns.

When the Qin dynasty met its end in 206 B.C.E., a military general named Gaozu stepped up to reunite China once again under the reign that would come to be known as the Former Han Dynasty. Following him was a man named Wudi, who ruled over China from 141 B.C.E. to 87 B.C.E. , forty-two years before the fall of the Roman Republic. Cautious of the people's opinion regarding the overbearing First Emperor, Wudi held the pretense that this empire was to consist of independent city-states. The reality was that these states were not entirely independent, and that all the heads of state still reported to the Emperor. However, with the way the system was set up, the counties were in essence semi-autonomous with the Emperor Wudi essentially acting as an overseer. This enabled the people to retain peace of mind while allowing the Emperor to rule effectively. Indeed, Emperor Wudi is considered to be one of the greatest emperors in Chinese History . His reign was accompanied by vast territorial expansion as well as a strong, centralized Confucian state .

Within the Former Han government there were court officials and eunuchs to advise the Emperor. The setup was once again a very organized, very defined system of government. If the Emperor was too young to rule as a man, someone would rule in his name until he came of age. That someone could be a court official, the Empress Dowager (his mother), a court eunuch, or a military commander. However, military commanders were not given as much power in China as they were given in Imperial Rome . According to the Dynastic Cycle, a new Dynasty comes into power when a military leader unites the realm following a series of internal wars . The dynasties generally began with a military hero, and



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