WI: China has a better 19th century

By "better" I simply mean they keep up with Japan and don't get semi-colonized by Europe, if this were to happen how would China fare in the 20th century?
 
Assuming competent leadership and luck continuing into the 20th century. Japan wont be able to get a toehold in Korea, as China is matching them techwise and has their massive resource and population advantage to swamp em.

A stronger China, prolly makes strong moves north and likely scaring the Russians off, cuz there's no chance in hell they can take on a modern Chinese force, so far away from their supply lines, when they got hostiles baddies close to their European industrial heartland. A fair chance that Great Britain decides to buddy up with China to be its enforcer in the Far East, assuming no massive bad blood for Opium Wars (likely a precursor for China to not start their spiral downward).

A more teched up China would make for a nice counterweight against Russia, so i see some nations willing to work with China and help keep it on its positive track.
 
By "better" I simply mean they keep up with Japan and don't get semi-colonized by Europe, if this were to happen how would China fare in the 20th century?
If "better" starts early enough, then the Brits would loose the 1st Opium War and have a negative trade balance with China because "opium for the tea" schema is not going to work. If it starts after the Opium Wars then the Amur area is lost to Russia (Chinese government seemingly did not care because the area was practically uninhabited) and Hong Kong to Britain.

Modernization, which started in OTL, goes along the Japanese model instead of being pushed by the individual governors. For it to be successful, the existing system has to be seriously revamped because in OTL it was killing all modernization efforts by the excessive corruption. Also, the Taiping Rebellion should be butterflied or at least minimized and opium trade abolished, which would require a successful war with the Brits.

Probably even in the case of modernization the Russian railroad concessions will happen because they were profitable for both sides and the options are not quite realistic (ditto for the land-based flow of the merchandise). After 1870 Germany would be most logical source of both military expertise and weaponry. Cozy relations with the Brits are unlikely due to the recent history but the US could end up as a major factor.
 
If "better" starts early enough, then the Brits would loose the 1st Opium War and have a negative trade balance with China because "opium for the tea" schema is not going to work. If it starts after the Opium Wars then the Amur area is lost to Russia (Chinese government seemingly did not care because the area was practically uninhabited) and Hong Kong to Britain.

Modernization, which started in OTL, goes along the Japanese model instead of being pushed by the individual governors. For it to be successful, the existing system has to be seriously revamped because in OTL it was killing all modernization efforts by the excessive corruption. Also, the Taiping Rebellion should be butterflied or at least minimized and opium trade abolished, which would require a successful war with the Brits.
I suspect that one route to a better Chinese 19th century involves avoiding the Opium War altogether - as far as I can tell/recall,
the Opium War was what made people realise you it was possible and worth it to make war and the kind of thinking on the Chinese
side that lead to it is not far from/overlaps with the thinking/factors that interfered with modernization.
 
I would suspect a better 19th century for China would lead it to do more to stand up to colonial powers which would in turn focus a lot of the distrust that America and the UK developed in the 20th century from Japan to China.
 
I suspect that one route to a better Chinese 19th century involves avoiding the Opium War altogether - as far as I can tell/recall,
the Opium War was what made people realise you it was possible and worth it to make war and the kind of thinking on the Chinese
side that lead to it is not far from/overlaps with the thinking/factors that interfered with modernization.
Of course, it would be better to avoid the Opium Wars but the question is how? The Brits had been exporting a lot of tea from China with a resulting negative trade balance and to reverse the pattern they wanted an unlimited right to import opium produced in India into China. The Chinese government, understandably, was trying to stop these imports because the negative impact was serious enough for even the Chinese government to start paying attention. There were, of course, the additional issues with the Chinese trade guilds holding a monopoly on trade within the country but they were secondary to the main issue.

So, to “avoid” the Opium wars, China had two main options: (a) to concede to all British demands (and allow the narcotics issue to continue) or (b) by the time of the 1st OW to be strong enough to defeat invasion so convincingly that there would be no new attempt in a foreseen future.

Needless to say that (a) would require an absolutely irresponsible government and hardly would help because the new demands are going to follow (freedom of trade in all China, freedom of a missionary work, etc. plus some territorial concessions to provide the Brits with a convenient base). (*)

For the option (b) China would need to start fundamental reforms in the early XIX and the open question is who at that time would play ...er... “unselfish benefactor” ready to supply the know how, the modern equipment, etc. The Brits would do “option (a)”, the US did not have a strong presence on the Pacific coast until 1840s, France was not yet too much into the Far East, “Germany” did not exist, yet, and Russia, while being an old trade partner, was not the most advanced European state and had serious limitations in its ability to get big volumes of things to the trade post in Kiahta (and Chinese would have problems with moving stuff inland just because on both sides of the borders infrastructure was minimal). Not that they did not try to take an advantage from the existing situation as well.

So, just as an idea, they could do better by putting the internal affairs in a good order, getting as much of the technical information and modern equipment as possible without getting into an excessive dependency and producing their own things which are not necessarily the top notch but adequate. While doing so, they had to reform their army fundamentally getting rid of the obsolete banner system and replacing it with the quasi-European well-drilled troops willing to fight. If they have a lot of them by the time of the 1st OW, the British invasion fails. Look at the CW: the technology gap between the Russian troops and the allies was quite serious (and if by 1830s Chinese have an infantry with the descent muskets, their gap would be lesser), the Russians were outnumbered, most of the Allies had been French troops with a considerable fighting experience and competent leadership and the Russians had to build fortifications when the siege started. Still, for all practical purposes, the war boiled down to a siege of a single geographic point having very tenuous communications with the Russian interior. Compare this with a complete disaster of the 1st OW. Chinese had more troops, better communications and the British steamships operating along the river had been quite vulnerable (still paddleships and no armor). If Chinese managed to hold one of their fortresses for a year or so, turning the war into Sevastopol-like affair, the Brits would be done. And for this they’d just have some reasonably good quality troops and relatively modern weapons.


_____
(*) Russian Aigun and then Beijing Treaties had been triggered by a fear of the further British expansion from Hong Kong base to the unprotected Russian Pacific coast. Prior to the OW Russia was quite satisfied with having for more than 1.5 century the border defined by the Nerchinsk Treaty and conducting trade with China in Kiahta (this trade was considered much more important than availability of the Amur as a route to the Ocean and acquisition of a big patch of almost uninhabited forest).
 
So, to “avoid” the Opium wars, China had two main options: (a) to concede to all British demands (and allow the narcotics issue to continue) or (b) by the time of the 1st OW to be strong enough to defeat invasion so convincingly that there would be no new attempt in a foreseen future.
Or (c) a change in trade policy/attitude that makes trade in other things than silver and opium meaningful options.
Maybe open a few more ports than Guangzhou to foreign trade as well.

So, just as an idea, they could do better by putting the internal affairs in a good order, getting as much of the technical information and modern equipment as possible without getting into an excessive dependency and producing their own things which are not necessarily the top notch but adequate. While doing so, they had to reform their army fundamentally getting rid of the obsolete banner system and replacing it with the quasi-European well-drilled troops willing to fight.
But again, that runs into the issue of "not-China provides and produces nothing that is needed or preferable to
what China already has" that lies at the heart of the run-up to the Opium War.
 
Or (c) a change in trade policy/attitude that makes trade in other things than silver and opium meaningful options.
Maybe open a few more ports than Guangzhou to foreign trade as well.


But again, that runs into the issue of "not-China provides and produces nothing that is needed or preferable to
what China already has" that lies at the heart of the run-up to the Opium War.
Well, this also would be an option (and to a certain degree happened) but it sounds close to “China must buy what Britain wants to sell”. ;)

Without internal strength and ability to defend itself implementation of that program would be a classic semi-colonial schema in which the foreign imports are killing the local production, the foreign merchants are getting preferential treatment and the foreign governments are dictating the domestic policy.

For the comparison, when Peter “opened Russia” (a BS term but nonetheless) he started with limiting number of ports (the existing trade through Archangelsk, Riga and Revel was severely restricted to favor St-Petersburg), regulated imports and exports and kept activities of the foreign merchants in Russia under strict control. Got away with it because he managed to create a strong army and for the next century (at least) Britain was OK with a negative trade balance with Russia.
 
Well, this also would be an option (and to a certain degree happened) but it sounds close to “China must buy what Britain wants to sell”. ;)
It can also be phrased as "Britain must sell something that China wants to buy"... which is why there eventually was the First Opium War. :)

Then there's "something that China is allowed to buy", considering that another, possible THE, key background event is the 17th century(?)
imperial decree that demanded that all Chinese goods must be paid in silver, and there is unclarity as to whether trade in foreign (Western)
goods was prohibited or just of little to no interest, and exactly why the latter.
Googling around hints that Chinese merchants entusiastically traded with Southeast Asia and that, ackshually, more ports/custom stations
than Guanzhou were open (but further away, making going there less profitable and thus less popular/common).

On the other hand, another way for China to have a better 19th century would be to have little or nothing special to offer (except for the
potential markets). If Britain (and Russia) never gets hooked on tea or if the Chinese tea monopoly gets broken earlier (cf. china/porcelain),
things become vastly different.

Without internal strength and ability to defend itself implementation of that program would be a classic semi-colonial schema in which the foreign imports are killing the local production, the foreign merchants are getting preferential treatment and the foreign governments are dictating the domestic policy.
The same googling around as above found some implications that some parts of the later Unequal Treaties were more of
clarifying or formally establishing what had already been going on, like a ban on Chinese merchants suing westerners in Qing courts,
than imposing foreign demands...

For the comparison, when Peter “opened Russia” (a BS term but nonetheless) he started with limiting number of ports (the existing trade through Archangelsk, Riga and Revel was severely restricted to favor St-Petersburg), regulated imports and exports and kept activities of the foreign merchants in Russia under strict control. Got away with it because he managed to create a strong army and for the next century (at least) Britain was OK with a negative trade balance with Russia.
I'm not sure Russia and China can be compared here.
Different, to some extent opposite, starting positions, from what I can tell.
 
If I'm not mistaken one of the reasons in Japan the whole country had united itself behind modernization, was the humiliation of China. This gave them the determination to not end up like China.
So maybe we could do the opposite and let Japan be colonized, in the hope of throwing China in a scare.
 
It can also be phrased as "Britain must sell something that China wants to buy"... which is why there eventually was the First Opium War. :)

Then there's "something that China is allowed to buy", considering that another, possible THE, key background event is the 17th century(?)
imperial decree that demanded that all Chinese goods must be paid in silver, and there is unclarity as to whether trade in foreign (Western)
goods was prohibited or just of little to no interest, and exactly why the latter.
Googling around hints that Chinese merchants entusiastically traded with Southeast Asia and that, ackshually, more ports/custom stations
than Guanzhou were open (but further away, making going there less profitable and thus less popular/common).

On the other hand, another way for China to have a better 19th century would be to have little or nothing special to offer (except for the
potential markets). If Britain (and Russia) never gets hooked on tea or if the Chinese tea monopoly gets broken earlier (cf. china/porcelain),
things become vastly different.


The same googling around as above found some implications that some parts of the later Unequal Treaties were more of
clarifying or formally establishing what had already been going on, like a ban on Chinese merchants suing westerners in Qing courts,
than imposing foreign demands...


I'm not sure Russia and China can be compared here.
Different, to some extent opposite, starting positions, from what I can tell.
Speaking of the markets, China “always” had trade with Russia through Kiahta and nomenclature of the imports had been pretty much defined by the Chinese demands with Russia not expressing any serious interest in changing the border or trading inside China until after the 1st OW. Even naval expedition at the mouth of Amur River happened only in 1849. A prevailing majority of the Russian cabinet was holding a strong opinion that existing profitable trade with China is better than the military adventures and only possibility of the British post-1st OW expansion into the Russian Pacific coast allowed governor of the East Siberia to get an approval for his expedition down the Amur River.

So the Chinese rulers had at least some options in getting access to the reasonably modern things, which they preferred not to use.

Not sure why do you think that he Russian parallel is not working. Of course, the positions were different but Russia pre-ToT was quite closed state and even during the reigns of the first Romanovs the attitudes had been changing gradually. Peter did not really “opened” country to the foreigners: just as China, Russia kept things under the strong governmental control (in some aspects probably stronger than in China with all its domestic problems). For example, by the time of Taiping rebellion the foreign settlements in China had their own armed personal and had been actively involved in the weapons trade. Nothing of the kind could even be imagined in pre-/post-Petrian Russia.

Just as China, Russia was a source of the items popular/needed in Britain and the government was also controlling the nomenclature of the imports and exports and maintaining a positive trade balance with Britain (as I understand, the surplus was in cash, not in cargo 😜).


The main difference that I can see was a weakness of the Chinese government in pretty much every area with a resulting absence of the effective military force.
 
What to avoid is a nice wish list, but how to avoid it is a huge problem.

One easy accidental win is not to give away all the territory they did in the Amur Maritime region, which was done mostly by accident, IIRC. The Russian claim was extended by some Chinese incompetence. I can't remember the exact details but Russia got a good outcome there that they did not even intend to.
 
If I'm not mistaken one of the reasons in Japan the whole country had united itself behind modernization, was the humiliation of China. This gave them the determination to not end up like China.
So maybe we could do the opposite and let Japan be colonized, in the hope of throwing China in a scare.
If memory serves, Japan had growing calls for opening up and modernization well before the Opium War, not to mention
that it wasn't opened until a decade after it, but it was a major part in it.

On the other hand, China didn't exactly view Japan as anything near an equal, so I'm not sure the colonization of Japan would
worry it.

A prevailing majority of the Russian cabinet was holding a strong opinion that existing profitable trade with China is better than the military adventures
Note the key word.
Also the British parliament woted for war with a majority of only nine.

So the Chinese rulers had at least some options in getting access to the reasonably modern things, which they preferred not to use.
Yeah, that's one of the key points. There was sufficient disinterest/active opposition to modernization at sufficiently high levels of government.

Not sure why do you think that he Russian parallel is not working. Of course, the positions were different but Russia pre-ToT was quite closed state and even during the reigns of the first Romanovs the attitudes had been changing gradually. Peter did not really “opened” country to the foreigners: just as China, Russia kept things under the strong governmental control (in some aspects probably stronger than in China with all its domestic problems). For example, by the time of Taiping rebellion the foreign settlements in China had their own armed personal and had been actively involved in the weapons trade. Nothing of the kind could even be imagined in pre-/post-Petrian Russia.
Because, as I said, they started in different positions.
As you yourself described it, Peter's "opening"* involved getting foreign trade and merchants under stricter control, which China already had
at the point of comparison.
And again, there is the whole "enough people at the top are in favour of modernization and maybe considering the possibility that the way
people do things in foreign parts might in some cases have some small advantage over the proper way of doing things". Russia did and China didn't.
Furthermore, regardless of how "closed" Russia was, it was still part of the larger European cultural sphere, including
things like Roman law. There was as little perceived need for one's own armed personel as in France or Spain.

*I think this discussion is the first time I've seen it described in those terms.

The main difference that I can see was a weakness of the Chinese government in pretty much every area with a resulting absence of the effective military force.
And that is a pretty major difference.
 
China had plenty of laborers and light troops. If they'd gone hog-wild building railroads from 1830 on like America did the awful civil wars might have ended sooner as the winner could move troops in fast enough to settle things, and of course there's the massive increase in wealth you get from being able to move goods faster. 'Millions of quick brains, no longer stifled in trumpery tasks', said John Buchan about 1930's China. Would that it had been 1830's China.
 
The analysis (Irigoin and Man-houng Lin) I like of the Opium War and seems to make most sense is that the tea trade was driven by a complex arbitrage involving colonial Spanish silver dollars.

Roughly; colonial Spanish silver dollars were a reliable currency which traded for well above base silver value in China (because of lack of reliable silver currency standard), so Brit merchants traded a rough of triangle colonial Spanish silver dollars for tea, sell tea for profit in Europe, reinvest profits to buy colonial Spanish silver dollars. (Also purchase uncoined silver in China for export, because dollars high value:uncoined silver). Latin American revolutions collapse production of Spanish silver dollar, so merchants use opium cultivation and trade to maintain tea trade. (Not about "British governments wanted to avoid 'drain' of silver").

So to avoid Opium War, if you keep Spanish silver dollar production going (whether avoiding disruptions or not), probably never turn to opium as a substitution.

(If opium not practical to use as a substitute because Chinese more credible enforcement, the tea trade probably stops or slows down to smaller volumes, because no arbitrage opportunity.

Alternatively, if Qing able to solve monetary standard problems, trade for tea probably never really gets started in the first place, because arbitrage opportunity doesn't exist, and that butterflies the war.)
 
Because, as I said, they started in different positions.
As you yourself described it, Peter's "opening"* involved getting foreign trade and merchants under stricter control, which China already had
at the point of comparison.
And again, there is the whole "enough people at the top are in favour of modernization and maybe considering the possibility that the way
people do things in foreign parts might in some cases have some small advantage over the proper way of doing things". Russia did and China didn't.
Furthermore, regardless of how "closed" Russia was, it was still part of the larger European cultural sphere, including
things like Roman law. There was as little perceived need for one's own armed personel as in France or Spain.

*I think this discussion is the first time I've seen it described in those terms.
Perhaps I was not quite clear. Peter’s “opening” is a BS term (created by the political reasons) because Russia was already “open”. He spent a big part of his youth entertaining himself in the “German” Settlement near Moscow and there were already numerous foreigners on Russian service involved in modernization of the Russian army and other areas. However, before, during and after the Peter’s reign the government kept them under control in the terms of activities and freedom of movement. The preferred model for those hired to the Russian service was an offer to become the Russian subject.

Of course, China was different. If it was not, there would be no Opium Wars and other issues. The point is that there were no objective reasons for China not to adopt the similar course before it become too late. For Russia the triggering events was the ToT which made it clear that the existing system can’t stand up to the foreign invasions. For China similar even came too late and the existing system(unlike the case of Japan) did not allow a proper modernization. But these reasons were subjective rather than objective and could be changed without intervention of the ASBs.

Not sure about Russia having a Roman law at the time of the first Romanovs. Most probably it did not and the first serious attempt of the codification of what was there happened, AFAIK, only during the reign of CII. Prior to that the law was pretty much defined by the wishes of a current monarch. Peter was especially prolific in that area but I’m not sure that the Roman law was regulating fashion of the trousers. 😜

General country-wide exposure to the “Western” things had been quite limited in both cases and in Russia the Petrian drastic changes of fashion did not produce the universal excitement and, anyway, did not apply to the overwhelming majority of population so we are talking about a limited number of people on the top who were more (as in Russia) or less (China) willing to adopt the new things. Could that attitude be different in China? Why not?

The part about “one's own armed personel as in France or Spain” is not quite clear as well. Are you talking about the military bands raised by the individual nobles? In Russia they disappeared in the practical terms only in 1712 (one such unit formally existed until 1764): the whole traditional Russian military system was based upon the “land for service” model with nobility being obliged to come to the service on call with an armed band size and equipment of which was defined by the size of a granted land. But starting from the first Romanovs none of these bands would amount to a private army. BTW, during approximately the same period, the French aristocrats did have the armies of their own and even the royal army was quite often an army that “belonged” to its commander (look at Turenne, Conde and others during the Fronde) and the same goes for the smaller units. Situation changed only during the reign of Louis XIV. And in Russia’s main Western opponent, the PLC, the private armies existed all the way to the mid-XVIII.

All that being said, you are seemingly missing the main point. Russia had a truly autocratic government well before Peter. Which means that all regional governors and other officials had been powerful only toward their “subjects” but powerless toward the government. Any of them could be at any moment removed from his position, tortured, executed or imprisoned just because the ruler said so. And government’s representative coming with such an order would not have to be a high-ranking person coming with a military force to back him up: Tsar’s written order was the only thing needed. The troops stationed in the area were Tsar’s troops.

During Peter’s reign the decorum completely flew out of the window: he was regularly sending the non-coms of the Guards to oversee the local officials with the right to put in chains a governor of the province and to do pretty much whatever they wanted. Enough to say that at one case Sheremetev (Field-marshal, Count, and one of few people whom Peter respected) complained to Menshikov (second most powerful person in Russia after Peter) about behavior of a permanently drunk sergeant of the Guards who was interfering into his mission (dealing with a regional unrest). Menshikov answered that both of them know that the person in question is useless scumbag but nothing can be done because he is in the area on Tsar’s order. In China, AFAIK, the regional governors were practically semi-independent monarchs with their own military forces. And the banners armies also had been some kind of the quasi-independent forces with a minimal governmental overseeing. Could this be changed if China started the process before and not after the OWs? If not, why?
 
If they'd gone hog-wild building railroads from 1830 on like America did
But first you need to get a China that is able and willing to go hog-wild building railroads from 1830 on...

The analysis (Irigoin and Man-houng Lin) I like of the Opium War and seems to make most sense is that the tea trade was driven by a complex arbitrage involving colonial Spanish silver dollars.

Roughly; colonial Spanish silver dollars were a reliable currency which traded for well above base silver value in China (because of lack of reliable silver currency standard), so Brit merchants traded a rough of triangle colonial Spanish silver dollars for tea, sell tea for profit in Europe, reinvest profits to buy colonial Spanish silver dollars. (Also purchase uncoined silver in China for export, because dollars high value:uncoined silver). Latin American revolutions collapse production of Spanish silver dollar, so merchants use opium cultivation and trade to maintain tea trade. (Not about "British governments wanted to avoid 'drain' of silver").

So to avoid Opium War, if you keep Spanish silver dollar production going (whether avoiding disruptions or not), probably never turn to opium as a substitution.
I fear you (or they) may have missed or misphrased some step in the analysis or situation... the opium trade began at
a time when according to conventional history the only American revolution was Anglo-American. If even that.
Then again, the later disruption of Spanish silver production can't have made opium less interesting/practical.

Perhaps I was not quite clear. Peter’s “opening” is a BS term (created by the political reasons) because Russia was already “open”.
And perhaps I wasn't quite clear in pointing out that I can not recall having heard it being called "opening" until you used the term in this very discussion?
(I am however pretty sure that I was not very clear that part of my point was that Russia was already open to the rest of Europe pre-Peter,
especially compared to how open China was ca 1800.)

Of course, China was different. If it was not, there would be no Opium Wars and other issues. The point is that there were no objective reasons for China not to adopt the similar course before it become too late.
No one has argued otherwise. The questions has always been "How can this be done?" and "Why was it not done?" not "Can this be done?".
And the counterpoint is that it was the subjective reasons that was the problem.

Not sure about Russia having a Roman law at the time of the first Romanovs.
Not A Roman law, Roman law, or strictly speaking its descendant Civil law, as opposed to Common law and very separate from
Confucian law.
I have been given the impression that the laws of third Rome, and of many other Slavic states, were influenced by those of
second Rome, which in turn has its basis in those of first Rome. (Even if the concept of third Rome as little or nothing to
with Roman/Civil law). Just like most of the legal systems ofthe rest of Europe.

I’m not sure that the Roman law was regulating fashion of the trousers.
Rome did have some sumptuary regulations, if not laws, but more importantly, due to the Romans' reverence
for the actual wording on the laws, any legal arguments regarding trousers would presumably have to
refer to them as tunica or whatever piece of clothing was referred to in the original text.

we are talking about a limited number of people on the top who were more (as in Russia) or less (China) willing to adopt the new things. Could that attitude be different in China? Why not?
Yes, that is one of the key questions. Or rather, what would it take to change the attitude/number of relevant minds in China earlier, since two Opium Wars, one Tai-Ping Rebellion, one Sino-Japanese War and one Boxer Rebellion seems to have just barely done it.

The part about “one's own armed personel as in France or Spain” is not quite clear as well. Are you talking about the military bands raised by the individual nobles?
These own armed personal guards:
For example, by the time of Taiping rebellion the foreign settlements in China had their own armed personal and had been actively involved in the weapons trade. Nothing of the kind could even be imagined in pre-/post-Petrian Russia
which, phrased that way, sounds like somehing else and more than the thief-burglar-robber-deterring guards and possibly bodyguards that one would
expect of merchants in Europe.

All that being said, you are seemingly missing the main point.
That depends. Is the main point that Russia had a truly autocratic government (even before Peter) and China did not,
meaning, as I've said, that their "starting" conditions are so different that comparisons are not very useful for
questions like "How can this be done?". Or is it something else?

Could this be changed if China started the process before and not after the OWs?
Yes, and the questions are "How far back do we have to go?" and "What needs to happen for it to start, and to stick?".
 
@Lord High Executioner

Term “opening” had been routinely applied to Peter’s activities. The difference was in a definition what exactly he opened, “the door” or “the window”. The 2nd option is more popular and it was pointed out (at least recently) that the this is quite indicative of Peter’s style of doing things because the normal people tend to walk through the door. 😂

As far as the laws are involved, I’m not a specialist but AFAIK, “Sudebnik” of 1497 had nothing to do with the Roman laws being partially based upon the codex of Yaroslav the Wise (based upon the Russian traditions) and for the rest addressing specifics of the existing Russian realities (taxes, bribes, drinking, rights of the serfs, rights of the service people, etc.). The following rulers kept adding regulations addressing specific issues they had been facing. The Russian state did not have a class of the (more or less) independent jurists probably all the way to the reign of AII (there were some “free lancing” legal specialists before that but they were few and on the low steps of a social ladder).

It seems that we both agree that, to be of a meaningful effect, the reforms in China should start well before XIX century and that they’d need to result in a strong government interested in keeping the country reasonably up to date and capable of creating, maintaining and updating a powerful army serving the central government.

What could trigger this? In the case of Russia it was a comprehensive beating which almost amounted to the existential threat. In the case of China a beating seemingly happened too late (*) and it seems that he system already was almost beyond the repair i. the terms of a central power. Could this be changed century or so earlier?

Edit: An as far as the armed personal bands and the excessively powerful provincial governors are involved, look at France. Eliminating the governors as a quasi-independent power started happening on a systematic level only during the reign of Louis XIII and finalized only after government’s victory against the Fronde. Pretty much the same happened with the army controlled by the government: it was created during but mostly after the Fronde. So the whole affair took few decades, not centuries, and was not truly backed up by a solid tradition. Basically, prior to the later stages of the 30YW France did not even have a regular army. Why would it be impossible (in theory) for the Chinese government to do the same?
____
(*) Actually, there are some similarities: in both cases the foreign threat was accompanied by the massive rebellions. But the results were noticeably different because in the case of Tsardom it ended with a strong central power and in China the result was opposite. But was this inevitable? Could it be at least partially due to the “nationalist factor”?
 
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I fear you (or they) may have missed or misphrased some step in the analysis or situation... the opium trade began at
a time when according to conventional history the only American revolution was Anglo-American. If even that.
Then again, the later disruption of Spanish silver production can't have made opium less interesting/practical.
Eh, if we want to go full pedant about when "the opium trade" began, well, I can out pedant that and note that it well predates the American Revolution! But I think it's clear that we're talking about the period in the early 19th century when the opium trade of Indian opium into China accelerated sharply.
 
But first you need to get a China that is able and willing to go hog-wild building railroads from 1830 on...


I fear you (or they) may have missed or misphrased some step in the analysis or situation... the opium trade began at
a time when according to conventional history the only American revolution was Anglo-American. If even that.
Then again, the later disruption of Spanish silver production can't have made opium less interesting/practical.


And perhaps I wasn't quite clear in pointing out that I can not recall having heard it being called "opening" until you used the term in this very discussion?
(I am however pretty sure that I was not very clear that part of my point was that Russia was already open to the rest of Europe pre-Peter,
especially compared to how open China was ca 1800.)


No one has argued otherwise. The questions has always been "How can this be done?" and "Why was it not done?" not "Can this be done?".
And the counterpoint is that it was the subjective reasons that was the problem.


Not A Roman law, Roman law, or strictly speaking its descendant Civil law, as opposed to Common law and very separate from
Confucian law.
I have been given the impression that the laws of third Rome, and of many other Slavic states, were influenced by those of
second Rome, which in turn has its basis in those of first Rome. (Even if the concept of third Rome as little or nothing to
with Roman/Civil law). Just like most of the legal systems ofthe rest of Europe.


Rome did have some sumptuary regulations, if not laws, but more importantly, due to the Romans' reverence
for the actual wording on the laws, any legal arguments regarding trousers would presumably have to
refer to them as tunica or whatever piece of clothing was referred to in the original text.


Yes, that is one of the key questions. Or rather, what would it take to change the attitude/number of relevant minds in China earlier, since two Opium Wars, one Tai-Ping Rebellion, one Sino-Japanese War and one Boxer Rebellion seems to have just barely done it.


These own armed personal guards:

which, phrased that way, sounds like somehing else and more than the thief-burglar-robber-deterring guards and possibly bodyguards that one would
expect of merchants in Europe.


That depends. Is the main point that Russia had a truly autocratic government (even before Peter) and China did not,
meaning, as I've said, that their "starting" conditions are so different that comparisons are not very useful for
questions like "How can this be done?". Or is it something else?


Yes, and the questions are "How far back do we have to go?" and "What needs to happen for it to start, and to stick?".
'First you'd need a China that was able and willing to go hog-wild on railroads'-
They couldn't afford the Taiping Rebellion either, but oh well. A catastrophically bankrupt China crisscrossed by a huge rail network by 1860 would make good steampunk; but I think they could have managed to just let private companies build rails, go bankrupt, and be seized by their competitors.
 
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