Nations are fictions which exist only as long as the right people continue believing in them. __ Attributed to Al Fin
For thousands of years, one Chinese dynasty has followed another. But not every dynasty has been able to control all or most of Chinese territory, and between the fall of one dynasty and the rise of another there has periodically been chaos. The Chinese Communist Party is just the latest Chinese dynasty, which itself emerged following a long period of war and chaos. __ http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2014/10/09/the_fear_of_greater_chaos_110739-2.html
“Here begins our tale: The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.” This opening adage of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, China’s classic novel of war and strategy, best captures the essential dynamism of Chinese geopolitics. At its heart is the millennia-long struggle by China’s would-be rulers to unite and govern the all-but-ungovernable geographic mass of China. It is a story of centrifugal forces and of insurmountable divisions rooted in geography and history – but also, and perhaps more fundamentally, of centripetal forces toward eventual unity.
This dynamism is not limited to China. ___ Zhixing Zhang
Empires — and nations — rise and fall. The USSR, Yugoslavia, India, and several other entities have experienced partial dissolution, and continue to experience strong centripetal and centrifugal forces that threaten to rip off yet more pieces of populated lands and cast them aside. Germany was divided and reunited. Vietnam has been divided and reunited multiple times across history. China may be the most famous of the “now you see it, now you don’t!” national entities and empires. But it is neither the first nor the last.
Why do empires begin to collapse, just when those “in the know” expect them to last forever?
Herodotus believed that there were invariable laws to the rise and fall of empires. Empires rose and fell—as they still do today—because of individual decisions made by individual leaders.
The greatest mistake made by those in power, like Darius, was the sin of hybris. That Greek word means “outrageous arrogance.” Hybris (and that is the way it should be transliterated) is the outrageous arrogance that marks the abuse of power. Only those invested with enormous power can commit the sin of hybris. Hybris is the imposition of your will, at all costs. __ Reflections
There are other ways in which the hubris of leaders cause the foundations of empire to crumble.
Rome and the Han Dynasty were quite powerful at their peak. And as many powerful empires seem to do at their peak, they began to degrade. Now one similarity between these two empires is the Government, which ultimately lead to the discontentment of the people. The Romans, who often favored the people of high society to the farmers that were the backbone of their empire, eventually learned that leaving the peasants out of political discussions would lead to their ruin, through peasant revolts. The same could be said of the Han, except not only did the peasants not get a say in government, but they also had more taxes imposed upon them, even after most of them had to retreat down towards south China because of the famine that was spreading in north China during the Yellow Turban Rebellion. __ Empire’s Collapse
There are many other reasons why empires begin their long death spiral, just when they seem to be at their peaks.
[Sir John] Glubb estimates that most empires do not last longer than roughly 250 years, with many of them lasting much shorter periods of time. He describes many of the stages of empire, and many of the reasons why they break down and eventually disappear.
… One of the reasons for decline of empire described by Glubb is the influx of masses of people from outside cultures, religions, and ethnic groups, who are different from the core populations making up the founders and conquering peoples who brought about the original empire. __ Span of Empire
See: Fate of Empires by Sir John Glubb (PDF)
Empires attract outsiders who are looking to improve their situations. The UK pulls in diverse peoples from the Commonwealth. Russia’s cities draw in hordes from Central Asia, former clients of the USSR. North America presently draws multitudes from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia. The EU attracts millions of fertile youngsters from Africa and the near East.
But as Glubb points out (PDF), what is good for the immigrant is not necessarily good for the recipient nation — particularly if assimilation is shallow, slow, or nonexistent.
We will be looking at some of the reasons that empires have fallen, and draw modern parallels to Russia, Europe, and the United States — among others.
As always, it is difficult to predict anything — especially the future. HFTB. PFTW. It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood.
Addendum: Remember that as the tools of organisation, resistance, and survival grow stronger, smaller, and more concealable, the need for powerful central governments will wither. Covert islands of resistance to tyrannical hubris should be able to hide in plain sight until the time is ripe for them to act.