During the ‘Warring States’ period in China (476–221 BCE), a number of kingdoms vied for supremacy. The Qin ruled a relatively modest fiefdom on the western periphery. In the mid 4th century BCE, the statesman Shang Yang established strong centralized rule, and founded their new capital, Xianyang. After the expansionist Qin were defeated by a coalition of rival states (295 BCE), they adopted the strategy of allying with distant states to overcome their neighbours. From 238 BCE, their new young ruler Ying Zheng (or Zhao Zheng) applied the strategy with devastating effect, conquering first Han, then Zhao. Now in a dominant position, he moved east to the Yellow Sea, subduing Yan, then south, successively overrunning Wei then Chu, whereupon the remaining independent kingdom Chi wisely surrendered. Qin’s ruler then took the title Shi Huang (First Emperor) in 221 BCE. In a decade of ruthless autocratic rule, he commenced construction of the Great Wall to bar nomadic Hsiung Nu incursions.
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