Someone may say that under fedual system the hereditary leaders are bound to cherish their lands and take good care of the people as their own childeren. The leaders will also foster good manners and accountable politics in the communites so as to administer the state adequately. Whereas the officials dispatched from central government care only for their own future promotion without much endeavor. How can people expect those officials doing a good job? Again, I think such a statement is incorrect.
Apparently, now we can see what the ills Zhou Dynasty have encountered. The arrogant and disobeying vassals engaged themselves in wealth and wars. The majority of the vassals malfunctioned; few were on the right track of domestic administration. The hegemonic dukes and earls were unwilling and unable to ameliorate the whole situation, and the emperors were unable to replace them. Scarecely could be found a sagacious vassal who cherished his land and loved his people. Therefore, the root cause for the failure of Zhou Dynasty had attributed to its feudal system, not to its governance.
Now we can also evaluate the situation of Qin and assert the reason of its fall. Qin established a system of administration and restrained counties from owning too much power, that was correct. The central government had capable officials to rule the whole country but did not give too much leeway to local governments, that was also correct. Nevertheless, the counties did not operate well enough with the system, and the local officials did not manage the people with reasonable measures. Draconian punishments and extreme overuse of conscripted services made million of people unbearable. Therefore, the failure of Qin was due to its bad administration, not the system itself. That is it.
Since Han Dynasty founded, the orders from emperors had always been duly carried out by counties. but not by vassal states with enfeoffments. Emperors could conmmand the officials in counties, but not the kings in vassal states. The emperors were unable to replace those kings for their being not accountable in ruling their states and thus bringing pains to the ordinary people. Only until those kings rebelled against the royal house, could emperors send punitive expeditions to annex them; otherwise, no matter how those vassal rulers were corrupt, bullying their people, and bringing people great pains, they were certainly intractable. By contrast, the central-controlled counties were more stable and manageable. How can we explain that? For example, Emperor Wen restored Meng Su by the recommendation from Tian Su, restored Wei Shang from Feng Tang; Emperor Xuan heard Huang Ba of his discernment and then appointed him; Emperor Wu appinted Ji An out of his expertise in simple and effective management, and sent him to do an appeasement task. Dishonest and incapable officials could be easily dimissed from office, whereas honest and capable ones could be promoted. An official who was appointed in the morning could be dismissed in the evening when proved incapable. An official who was appinted in the evening could be dismissed in the very next morning when proved dishonest. Supposed Han divided the whole country as enfeoffments to the members of royal family, those kings, dukes, and earls were totally intractable when they mistreated their people, and the central government could do nothing but lament. Those sagacious and capable officials mentioned above would have by no means ever been found and appointed. Even any emperor dared reprimand those kings in public, those nobles would overtly obey the emperor but covertly oppose him. If the emperor ordered to cut off part of their enfeoffments, the nobles in wrath would definitely unite to collaborate a rebel plan to overthrow the throne of the emperor. Even they did not take rebellious actions against the royal house, still the people in the remaining vassal lands would continue suffering pains. Why not abolish the vassals once for all to safeguard all the people? That was the situation Han Dynasty had confronted.
Now we have implemented county system all over the country, continuously dispatching governors, magistrates from central government. This is a situation that has been absolutely irrevocable. As long as we can well control our army and cherry-pick officials, then we can surely maintain a stable and smooth governance within our country.
Someone may say, "The dynasties of Xia, Shang, Zhou, and Han had all lasted for a long span of time because of fedualism, but Qin was short-lived because of county system." This is a statement of sheer ignorance.
The dynasty of Wei inherited the mixed system of feudalism and county from Han, and the dynasty of Jin followed suit without any change. Both lived only a short time as being transitional dynasties only. Now our Tang rectifies the defects of old system and has already lasted nearly two hundred years, and the foundation of our country is even more stable. Obviously, it has nothing to do with feudalism and enfeoffments.
Some people may also say, " The founder of Shang and Zhou are sagacious kings, but they have not changed the system; so it signifies that such an issue is not debatable." Absolutely wrong again.
Well, Shang and Zhou did not make the change because they had no choice but to adopt feudalism. At that time, there were three thousand vassals who submitted to the authority of Shang in helping Shang exterminate Xia. Therefore, the founder of Shang, Tang, could not dismiss those vassals. Time was when King Wu of Zhou exterminated Shang, the helpers were to the tune of eight hundred. King Wu could also do nothing but recognize those vassals as a customary pratice in exchange of stability. In short, there had been left no other choice to Tang and Wu. Since they had to deal with the situation that way, not out of a virtue of willingness to fairly share the lands with others, so they harbored sense of selfishness for themselves and their descendants. To the greatest extent, The county system adopted by Qin Dynasty was the one that could share the world with all people, though the motive of Qin was still selfish: the emperor wanted to solidify his supreme authority, and made all officials succumb at his command. Nevertheless, it was Qin Dynasty who first abolished vassal states and started to regard the world as a public property.
It is an axiom that only a stable, well-adminstered government can gain the allegiance from ordinary people. Let able and virtuous persons rule from top, and those inferiors follow at bottom, so as to guarantee an accountable, long-standing government. In the system of feudalism and enfeoffment, the rulers of the vassal states are all out of one family, from a generation to the next. Are all of the hereditary rulers able and virtuous? The people being ruled at bottom are all inferior to those on the top? Thus, no one can guarantee that whether people will live in peace or in tumult. It is of great benefit for a country with its people having the mind in one accord. But how can people do about it if the nobles of the vassal states divide the country and occupy all lands? Not even the sages in that time can do anything about it. Therefore, such a consequence stems from the system of feudalism and enfeoffment, and it is apparently not the system that has been mapped out by sages who are in the first place deliberately making the things of such an adverse consequence. Hence, I must say, "It is not the idea of sages, it is rather the result out of the trend by which the fedudalism is so established and malfuctioned at last."