State Power and Governance in Early Imperial China

The Collapse of the Qin Empire, 221–207 BCE

Expected to ship: 2024-09-01

Offers a new perspective on the first dynasty of imperial China and the reasons for its collapse.


State Power and Governance in Early Imperial China delves into the governance and capacity of the state by providing an empirical historical study of the collapse of China's Qin Empire. In contrast to the popular view that the Qin fell suddenly and dramatically, this book argues that the collapse was rooted in persistent structural problems of the empire, including the serious resource shortages experienced by local governments, inefficient communication between administrative units, and social tensions in the new territories. Rather than reducing Qin rulers to heartless villains who refused to adjust their policies and statecraft, this book focuses on the changes that the regime did make to meet these challenges. It reveals the various measures that Qin rulers devised to solve these problems, even if they were ultimately to no avail. The paradox of the Qin Empire seemed to be that, although the regime's policies and reforms could theoretically have strengthened the state's power and improved the governance of the empire, their ramifications simultaneously exacerbated the misfunction of local governments and triggered the military failures that eventually destroyed the empire.

Chun Fung Tong is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies at Heidelberg University.


"This truly is cutting-edge research. Chun Fung Tong's book changes our perception of the Qin, but it does much more than that. Tong grounds his discussion of Qin governance using data and theories from political science, providing us with a much better understanding of how premodern governments worked—or didn't. Next, he provides us with a granular look at the Qin that peels away all the layers of propaganda and bias, demonstrating that the Qin was not a mighty, all-powerful government, but one that was struggling to control all that it had conquered. It was aware of its problems and was actively finding ways to solve them, but, just like modern governments, those solutions often begat new problems or made the original ones worse. This type of realistic portrayal of the Qin is long overdue." — Keith Knapp, The Citadel