Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rome vs China

Rome vs China
Andre Willers
18 Feb 2009

"SPQR" vs "The Mandate of Heaven" .

The underlying problem that has to resolved is how to unify Tribes .
Tribes are a natural social unit of humans .
Tribes are groups of families tied by similar language and customs from a common root . Successful tribes grow . The advantage of size is obvious to all , but how to get different tribes to co-operate effectively against competing alliances of tribes ?

1. SPQR means "The Senate and People of Rome" .
It means the whole state , rulers and ruled alike .
Inherent in the statement is some mechanism of achieving this consensus .

Adoption (also known as Incorporation)
This Roman mechanism developed from the Sabine-women episode (see previous posts .) "Roman woman shall not cook or grind corn" . From this humble beginning , Romans learned to grow by incorporation of different tribal elements .
The Sabine woman who led this intervention seems to grow in importance as a watershed person the more we understand of history .
Cf the use of the Gens mechanism to facilitate adoption of individuals .

Commercial Corporations became legal standard and became the workhorse of the Roman Republic , Empire and Roman Catholic Church (where they were known as Orders or Monasteries) , as well as present civilization's companies .

The Army .
If social mobility through the ranks is allowed , any army incorporates persons from different tribes .The later Roman Empire Army is often denigrated as an Army with a state . But this is exactly how they integrated the barbarians . It was essential . The Chinese did not , with ultimately fatal consequences .

("Divine Right of Kings" was a shortlived experiment in dynasties , ending with Charles I and ultimately WWI )

The Western Progression:
Roman Republic
Roman Empire
Roman Catholic Church

2. The Mandate of Heaven
This is the more natural progression .
The progression is by Dynasties .

A strong and capable leader unifies a number of tribes by force of arms . His relatives and tribe form a ruling class (Dynasty) . The other tribes submit as long as the dynasty is successful .

2.1 Losing the Mandate of Heaven
This is a particular , delineated pattern evolved through long history in China .
There is a pattern recognition meme involved .

2.2 The Pattern of Losing the Mandate of Heaven
2.2.1 Unfair taxation.
2.2.2 Official Corruption
2.2.3 Poverty , mainly due to official inability to handle population growth and natural disasters . (Poverty here means starvation)

Notice that losing wars against foreign aggressors does not qualify , unless it is seen as the fault of the ruling Dynasty due to above reasons .

The presence of all these factors means armed revolt of the tribes and provinces . The cycle repeats into a new dynasty .

By this definition , Chinggis Khan's Law(Yasuk recipe) to bind tribes together was a Mandate-from-Heaven system , as is most organized religious binding systems .(A really long story.)

Rome vs China : An Alternate Reality .
The closest when this could have happened was at the time of assassination of Julius Caesar.

Rome : End of the Republic , before the static empire of Augustus set in . Large armies of veterans of all nations , hungry for loot and land . Caesar (in full control) was preparing a very large-scale expedition to the East , trying to emulate Alexander .

China : The Han dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) was at it’s height . Very aggressive , with large armies , capably led .

Hsiung-Nu : a large confederation of nomad tribes on China's eastern borders , giving them considerable trouble . (The source of later Westerns troubles as the Hun).

If Julius Caesar was not assassinated :
Rome had fairly detailed knowledge of China and the surrounding areas via the Silk Routes . The purely tactical military problem facing the legions was how to handle highly mobile light-cavalry in open , semi-arid terrain . (Cf Parthians)

Caesar would have seen it as a strategic problem .
1. Split the Hsiung-Nu (the old divide-et-impera technique , as used successfully in Gaul) . They were a loose confederation open to bribes .
2. Enlist the Han to send expeditionary forces to threaten the rear of the Hsiung-nu and Parthians .

Defeat them in detail by pinning them between the legions and the Han .

Nomads can be pinned .
About a third (see "New tools: reserve" as well as historical records ) of Mongols (Artisans , bowyers , miners , children , pregnant women , old aged , trainees , etc) were in permanent settlements around the edges of the steppes . These had to be defended . If lost combat effectiveness declined drastically over three years . Used by Kitchener in SouthAfrica circa 1901 AD)
The romans had experience of this in Gaul , Palestine and elsewhere .

The Han would have considered this offer as worthwhile , since they could not imagine being defeated in straight , in-your-face battles (they had very good troops) , but had never faced hoplites or legionaires .

After this , there would be a confrontation between Rome and China .

Rome would need new conquests to maintain its system , while China did not .

Caesar would attack the strategically weak "Mandate of Heaven" by piece-meal assaults with local numerical superiority (after suitable feints) , then making deals with locals (or else) . This is the strategy Rome followed before , with great success.

(An aside : Compare this with the "Knights-and-Castles" defense against light horsemen evolved in Western Europe about 500 AD in our time-line , where everybody was expected to fight to the death . (That is why they needed a Religion involving self-sacrifice of the militant variety) )

In this conflict between strategic systems , Rome would have won . Indeed , it's descendants did win by using these same strategies in the twentieth century in the our time-line .

So , while the Han Armies and the Roman Legions would have been fairly equal , (except for sieges : Roman siege systems were far superior to Chinese) , the fatal weakness of the "Mandate of Heaven" command and control system is that it can be fractured more easily than the Incorporation system .
Alexander used this deliberately at Issus and Gaugamela , and the Romans would have done the same .

In this alternate reality , we would all be speaking Latin , but about half of the citizens and officers would be Chinese .

Would the Mongolian Eruption have happened ?
Chinggis would most probably have been a very senior Roman Officer , maybe even Emperor . But he would have been incorporated into the system .
Then we would definitely all be speaking Latin .
Chinggis starting with a base of the Roman Empire means a world empire .
He really was something else .

In our time-line , the Mongolian threat to China only went away when Russian expansionist pressure on their western flanks , combined with defensive superiority of fire-arms from forts , denied them mobility . They were pinned .(Circa 1759 AD)

The Relevance today ,
The use of these alternate realities is to understand the present time-line better .
We can immediately see why Russia and China went communist . They were both "Mandate of Heaven" systems , which had lost the mandate . Communists were the new dynasty . They went the "Big Founder" route , and only realized their mistake later .

When they lost the mandate in Russia , they were unceremoniously kicked out . Nobody lifted a finger . Not a shot was fired . Typical of "Mandate of Heaven" systems . Support just disintegrates by common consent .

China is different . They bend over backward (as with the latest earthquakes , corruption , etc) not to trigger the "Loss of the Mandate of Heaven" memes deeply imbedded in the population . This is probably better for the population than democratic systems , where representational voting means that the people of New Orleans will wait forever for any relief .

Will Chinese communists lose the Mandate?
No .
Look again at the triggers in "2.2 The Pattern of Losing the Mandate of Heaven " above .
I must emphasize again that these all triggers , and all must be present .
Unfair taxation seems to be the only reasonable complaint .

But all the flashpoints have been split by assigning certain provinces (previously tribal territory) as growth territories , with associated high-risks , and encouraging mobility .

Family and tribal units spread risks (they have been at it for literally thousands of years) by having a foot in every camp .

This is an incorporation mechanism , albeit slower than western systems .

The West .
Sigh . How the champions have fallen .
They are supposed to be superior by incorporating the needs of the people they are comprised of by incorporating the people . You know , Democracy .
Instead , a small group has highjacked the whole system for its own gain . It no longer even satisfies The Mandate of Heaven .

2.2 The Pattern of Losing the Mandate of Heaven
2.2.1 Unfair taxation.
2.2.2 Official Corruption
2.2.3 Poverty , mainly due to official inability to handle population growth and natural disasters . (Poverty here means starvation)

Tick the ones applicable to your country .

The election of Barack Obama is actually a dynasty change . The old system had degenerated into a dynasty system . It remains to be seen whether they can bootstrap themselves up again to a democratic , incorporating (ie SPQR) system .

The US system has proven surprisingly resilient . But inheritance laws need some major revision . Incompetent people have inherited about 80% of US capital , then left the management of it to "professional" managers . Ie , persons , who have control but no responsibility . Hence the present financial crisis .

And so it hops along .

Andre .

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