Looking at extra-European models of medieval government and I have to wonder if it was impossible for medieval Europe to have something like China ie instead of feudalism it’s more a bureaucratic state or a meritocratic system of promotion (in theory, at least). Was there not enough stability, did bodies like the Church have an investment in keeping power split within secular authorities, or are there under-reported instances of this happening in, say, East Europe or the Byzantines?

Not impossible at all. I would argue you could do it quite easily through a combination of the Carolingian succession working out more smoothly so that his empire doesn’t get divided, and then the Byzantines doing better so that Eastern Europe stays more, well, Byzantine. 

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