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Qin Dynasty

The Rise of the Qin Dynasty and Integration of China

The historical process and experience of China in the context of social fabric, territory and economic transformation is a distinctive case in world history. Martin Jacques in his work When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New World Order argued there are different claims regarding the antiquity of Chinese Civilization however its existence can be traced back to 221 BC. Chinese Civilization is credited with formulating and applying the core concepts of ethics and governance that is administrative codes, and meritocracy. In terms of infrastructure development, the Great Wall of China and Forbidden City are two classic examples to prove their capacity. The pool of the appointment of government officers was a distinctive amalgamation of two prominent strata that were scholars equipped with wisdom from the rural elite and merchants with insight into trade from the urban centres. Throughout history, the equilibrium between the ideological front, ethical ground and question of legitimacy was maintained by the scholars and they effectively conducted it with the philosophies of Legalism, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.

The integration of China into an empire was an outcome of conquests and annexation against the enemies under the state of Qin between 500 BC to 221 BC. During this period the policy of blood and iron was applied to deal with the rivals. The dominance of the Qin dynasty started from 770 BC to 476 BC and it was the time when China comprised numerous aristocratic kingdoms under the Zhou dynasty. In 476 BC many small states paved the way for the Warring States and this is known Warring States Period (475 BC -221 BC). One of the prominent reformers in the Qin Dynasty Shang Yang. From 380 BC he was patronized by the dynasty and his contribution was reorganization of the dynasty based on legalism (equality for all), effective bureaucracy and organized military. Furthermore, ruler began to focus on agricultural and developmental works. The Qin dynasty built up a standing army and administration with division of areas. These areas were further divided into households that make a strong liaison with law enforcement departments. In other words, the concept of collective punishment and reward was implemented which means the household kept a strict eye on the activities in the surroundings and reported it. If a household reported accurately, they could be rewarded. The core aim of the Qin Dynasty was to transform a society in an organized order to gain strength and economic stability. All the discussed reforms and administrative measures proved to be fruitful and created a smooth ground for the integration process of China.

Yang Sheng also known as Qin Shihuangdi first Qin emperor of the integrated Qin Empire. He became emperor at the young age of 33 and brave enough to opted an iron hand policy while dealing with the enemies and disloyal.

Afterwards, he took a further step toward the consolidation of the empire and took all the peripheral areas under his direct administrative control. During this process, he was confronted by the State of Zhao. As a result, thousands of people were killed during the military campaign. Finally, the milestone of unification was achieved in 221 BC. Now the important task was to focus on internal policies and reforms. The emperor divided the empire into 36 provinces. Each province was headed by the governor and this key appointment was done by the Emperor himself which means centralized administrative authority. Here, it is important to mention that the governor was responsible for both military and administrative affairs. The citizens were not allowed to carry weapons. To uplift the economy, an agriculture census was held to have an appropriate estimate of resources and tax collection.

In the context of financial management, the standardization of weights and measures took place. Furthermore, the standardization of the official language and script was implemented. In order to make the judicial system functional and effective reforms were done in the police department so that only the guilty came in the court of law. Rather the solely emphasising harsh punishments like exile and killing Judiciary focused on imposing fines. However, in case of serious crimes or disloyalty with the empire, punishments like enslavement, exile and the death penalty were awarded. Consequently, he became a source of revenue and it brought strength to the rule of law in the empire.

The model of governance introduced by the Qin Empire was centralized in nature. The two basic pillars of this centralized model were military and civil servants based on competence. It was a two process in which an organized state structure gave more power to the Emperor and an organized society strengthened the roots of the state. It was attained by punishments, division of society into households and engaged polity in the mega projects. The empire had transformed the model of governance and statecraft and zero tolerance for the disloyal and anti-state elements.

In a nutshell, the important components of the Empire later State were centralization, authoritarianism, and bureaucratic hierarchy were intrigued during the time of the Qin Empire and ultimately it carved out the modern form of governance which can be witnessed in today’s China.

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Mr. Gohar Ali Iftikhar is Lecturer in History & Pakistan Studies at Ali Trust College, Islamabad and Winner of the Article Writing Competition (1st position) on the theme “China’s Cultural Footprint Through the Ages” held in March-April 2024.