Southwest and East Asia have a long history of the development of societies and socio-political institutions. As for the Southwest Asia, due to mild climate and fertile soil its early development of food production and animal domestication resulted in the emergence of many of the world’s first city-states (Pollard et al. 33). In South Asia, people had to adjust to new living conditions when opportunities for hunting reduced. Hence, they began to grow rice to support the growing population. It is important to note that such forced development of agriculture has also led to the evolution of communities in the region. Therefore, these regions have similarities and differences, and it will be interesting to analyze the transformation of these communities in several aspects and compare them with each other.
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In the fourth millennium BCE, the Sumerian civilization appeared in Southwest Asia. Its territory consisted of 35 politically equal city-states, which meant that one large city controlled surroundings. However, in the third millennium, they were transformed into territorial kingdoms because the climatic conditions worsened. Therefore, the political center of Mesopotamia moved to the North. Ultimately, this transformation led to a political crisis and the strengthened influence of the Old Babylonian kingdom (Pollard et al. p.120). Then, the Persian Empire appeared on this territory in the middle of the first millennium. One of the most prominent rulers was Darius I, who established a system of provinces named satrapies, each ruled by a satrap (Farazmand, p. 40). The local bureaucrats administering the government worked under strict monitoring by military officers.
As for East Asia, in the late third millennium BCE, China suffered a prolonged drought, too. However, Chinese people managed to recover quickly and created agrarian systems using the Yellow and Yangzi Rivers (Pollard et al., p. 87). What is more, people developed extensive trading networks and established a social hierarchy system, which led to China’s transformation into centralized polity and consolidation of the independent communities. The further development of Chinese civilization resulted in the emergence of the Shang state, which did not have a defended permanent capital, as there were no rival territories (Pollard et al., p. 127). Later, the Zhou dynasty created a new empire, which included more than seventy small states. Zhou kings copied the Shang’s patrimonial state structure to enhance their authority.
The basis of the economy of the Sumerian civilization was irrigation agriculture and developed cattle breeding and trade. Another feature of this economy was its shift from the city-state domination toward independent private ventures (Pollard et al., p. 121). In the Persian Empire, Darius I created a system of fixed taxes and promoted trade throughout the empire by building roads, establishing a standardized currency and weights and measures system, which helped centralize vast territories.
As for East Asia, the Chinese began to engage in sericulture and agriculture during the Shang period. Besides, they hunted for wild deer and tigers and went fishing. Big farms were divided into small households and large fields. When the Zhou dynasty started ruling the country, the owner of the land was still the king. During this period, there was a tendency to turn properties into private ownership, and the slave-owning aristocracy freely disposed of their possessions, although formally they remained dependent on the will of the emperor.
Southwest and East Asian regions have definite similarities and differences. Despite the different climatic conditions, they developed on the same trajectory. For example, both regions became involved in agriculture and cattle breeding quite early. In addition, both Southwest and East Asia experienced transformation from a network of independent city-states to the establishment of strong imperial power. Perhaps, it happened because of specific historical patterns, within the framework of which states need consolidation for further development in any case. At the same time, it should be noted that economic institutions in these regions developed in different ways. If in Southwest Asia the king’s monopoly on trade was replaced by private ownership, in East Asia the emperors retained sole control in the economic sphere for a long time.
Pollard, Elizabeth, Rosenberg, Clifford, Tignor, Robert et al. Worlds Together Worlds Apart with Sources. Volume One: Beginnings to the Fifteenth Century. (2nd ed.). W. W. Norton & Company, 2019.
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Farazmand, Ali. Handbook of Comparative and Development Public Administration. CRC Press, 2019.