Chapter One - Alternate History: Song Chinese Modernization

Throughout my years as a member of the large Alternate History forum, as well as a (formerly) frequent visitor to the Alternate History Wikia, I found myself bemused by the chauvinism of many when they write anti-Western timelines in which China, Japan, or some Eastern (especially East Asian) nation manages to colonize A) the World, B) Europe, or C) All of the Above.

Before I begin this timeline, which is just a vigorous exercise of my mind, I'd like to point out a few reasons why any of the above options would never have happened.

  1. No offense, Europe, but you're terribly lacking in terms of natural resources. Back in the day of the Ming, all China wanted (and needed) was silver. Silver, silver, silver - something both Japan, and eventually Spain, would provide in ample amounts, fueling rampant inflation. This, above all, is the biggest reason why China would never ever colonize Europe. As for India, one of the biggest products they export is mica, something used in computers. Yeah...I don't think China really needs that.

    Again, in the Song, what would China need? Evidently, Europe would have nothing to provide, so there's no impetus for colonization or imperialism.
  2. We're really ignoring the super-influential bureaucratic imperial examinations systems on China. They were especially important in the Ming, where emperors often did not participate in the government. Instead, a free-trade economy developed with the governmental laissez-faire policies. Unfortunately for the Ming, while this definitely adds a plus in my book, the reason why was because taxes remained low, even when inflation brought normal prices up, drying up the imperial coffers significantly.

    Many also forget that the Song and Ming were the peak of Chinese culture - namely, long novels and writings were being made in China at this time. Bureaucrats played an important role in the dissemination of these writings - notably, ships to trade and travel with nations farther than Malaysia would be hugely expensive, and there's no benefit to going further - anything further is already in China. The bureaucrats would be the biggest opposition, and that's not considering what Confucius says about trade - he argues that trade is horrible because merchants don't 'make' anything.
These reasons are why this timeline will not showcase a China that colonizes everything from Nanjing to Portugal and Rio de Janeiro. If that's what you came here for, feel free to turn around. If not, please read on.

Issues to clarify:
  1. The Butterfly Effect refers to the fact that different patterns in this timeline will mean that the same people born in our timeline will not - and I repeat, not, be born in this timeline. Sorry, no 20th century Mao Zedong or Mikhail Gorbachev. As much fun as it is to have these people pop up, different trading patterns mean that Mao might be born to an urban couple in Fuzhou instead of Hunan, and Mikhail might be an Ukrainian living in Kiev.
  2. Timelines are just...timelines. The history we know is our timeline, while this timeline is a different history.
  3. The change that causes this different timeline is the Point of Divergence. In this timeline, the change is going to be something that's very surprising.
Without further to do, let the timeline...begin!

Chapter One:

A History of Early Modern China, by Lin Xixing, published by the National Academy at Fujian:
"Wang Anshi is a very controversial history in modern history. Born on December 8, 1021, in Linchuan, modern-day Wangdi, Wang was from one of the southern provinces who was in favor of what we in modern times call Wangism. When he was 21, he earned his jinshi (advanced scholar) degree in the exams, and he spent around 20 years in the south as a local administrator. He decided that the continuous taking of land from peasants was hurting the economy, and submitted his "Ten Thousands Word Memorial" to the Emperor in 1058. He entered the central government around two years later, in 1060.

The Renzong Emperor died after a long illness, replaced by the Yingzong Emperor. Unfortunately, the Yingzong Emperor died quickly too, reigning until around 1063, and he was replaced by his son, the Emperor Shenzong.

Shenzong became interested in Wang Anshi's theories relatively quickly, and Wang catapulted up the rankings, eventually occupying the position of 2nd privy councilor. The three reforms he proposed in this position were 1) state finance and trade, 2) defense and social order, and 3) education and improving of governance.

To do this, he paid cash for labor instead of corvee labor. He minted more copper coins, improved management of trade, gave government loans to farmers for planting seasons for repayment by harvest. To stop speculation and monopolies, he brought price control and set wages and pensions. Public orphanages, hospitals, dispensaries, hospices, cemeteries, and reserve granaries were set up.

His military reforms included supplying militias and making them better organized.

Most importantly, he added law, military affairs, medicine, and mathematics to the examination system. There was large resistance to this by the old bureaucrats, and Wang was forced to form a coalition of free-thinkers he labeled the 'Imperials' (we call them Southerners because many of them came from the South) in response to conservatives like Su Dongpo and Ouyang Xiu. Further, the National Academy became a state-sponsored school, and Wang sought to make education available further.

His coalition managed to occupy the level of high officials. Wang was the Grand Counselor, and Shen Kuo became the Vice Grand Counselor. Reformists now occupied the heads of all three departments of the state financial commission - the Census Bureau, Tax Bureau, and Salt and Iron Monopoly Bureau. The Censorate and Remonstrance Bureau were expanded with more Reformists - something that would prove a thorn in the Song's side later on.

By this point, Wang's reforms were finally kicking in, and the economy was booming. Finally, Emperor Shenzong decided that it was the perfect time to attempt to pacify some of the barbarians on China's borders."

Note: The difference between this timeline and our timeline is that Shenzong comes to power earlier, bringing Wang up with him. Wang also creates a coalition, unlike in our timeline. Finally, Wang, with the support of his coalition, attempts more reforms.

If you're wondering, the 'textbook' is something from this alternate history. I hope you enjoyed it!

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