Eastern Industrial Revolution:
Not a brilliant one to be honest. In this world the Tang Dynasty are able to last a little longer and the scientific advances of their regime are better documented and even continue under slightly more supportive, or at the very least ambivalent, subsequent dynasties. This means that by the High Middle Ages a relatively efficient steam engine is invented in China.
Of course Confucian teachings and the vast ubiquity of human labour meant that there was little use for these inventions and they were mostly relegated to oddities or toys for the wealthy. Of course it did allow for the construction of some truly massive mechanised dolls, clocks and other steam and clockwork contraptions. However there was one area where steam engines saw practical use. Steam ships, made of wood and bamboo like always but with iron steam engines and propelled by paddles were moving along the coast by the 14th Century. Also minor noble houses who had less available labour did begin employing steam engines to mechanise mines and quarries which, whilst unpopular with the more powerful and traditional noble houses, did increase the prosperity of these early industrialists.
Butterflies erased the Mongol Empire from existence though the steppes would still produce a few minor khanates and empires as they always have. Thankfully none of them were as destructive as OTL. China also avoided the north-south divide of the OTL Middle Ages, the empire would fragment a few times but always pull itself back together eventually. It was in the 14th Century, during one of these periods of division, that the great age of Chinese seafaring took place. On their primitive steamships Chinese merchants and explorers left the southern kingdom and headed out into the Indian Ocean, interacting with the local civilizations and even introducing some new technologies to India and East Africa.
European history had continued much like OTL, minus the Mongol invasions which had spared them the Ottoman Turks and the devastation of nations like Poland, Hungary and the principalities of the Rus. As they travelled down the coast of Africa they eventually reached Chinese outposts in Southern Africa. Reaching further they entered an Indian Ocean that, whilst not under the control of Chinese hegemony was definitely influenced by it. This would begin the great age of Euro-Chinese cooperation/competition. Europeans picked up Chinese advancements and, unencumbered by Confucian doctrine (but still held back to a lesser extent thanks to some Christian doctrine), progressed them even further.
A Chinese expedition seeking trade in Polynesia would eventually discover the Americas barely a few years before a similar expedition from Iberia would do the same when looking for a route to Asia that bypassed Chinese South Africa via the Atlantic. A different and slightly larger cast of characters would be responsible for the eventual colonisation and partition of the New World. Unfortunately it would be the more enterprising, opportunistic and violently evangelist Europeans that would win the scramble for the Americas or in this world Yingzhou/Carlisles (Chinese and European names respectively) and take the majority of the land, even converting a few Chinese colonies in subsequent centuries. Amerindians would still suffer horribly from diseases but would do a lot better in Chinese lands once the pandemics had run their course. European colonists and conquerors would still be just as willing to assimilate or remove them as OTL. On the whole there seemed to be more of an initiative to convert the indigenous populations to Christianity and then their conquerors culture rather than exterminate them.
The Industrial Revolution began in the 17th Century and though progress was slower and hampered by conservative institutions it still happened. Europeans were the first to properly exploit their derivatives of Chinese steam engines and began applying them to as many different jobs as possible. At first there were engineering guilds that kept the secrets of mechanisation to themselves but as aristocrats and merchants used steam power in more and more of their own businesses soon enough private entrepreneurs and much later, state owned research institutions took over the development of technology. East Asia did fall behind and the power of Europe's empires replaced the old hegemonies, replacing it with a different status quo. Fortunately this served to stimulate them as well and East Asia rushed to catch up as well.
It is now 1970 and this world is very different. It is more technologically advanced thanks to an earlier and more widespread industrial revolution. A lack of Mongol invasions actually spared a lot of Asian and Muslim knowledge that also contributed to the advancement of scientific learning. Climate change and pollution are more advanced though fortunately for most of the global population sea level rise is not very severe yet. Smog is a real danger in many cities, especially in the crowded metropolises of East Asia and in some areas it is only possible to go outside if you are wearing a gas mask.
Medical technology benefits from decent cybernetic limb replacements and the cloning industry is beginning to make artificially grown organ transplants that are not immediately rejected by the patients body. The climate change and deforestation have unleashed many previously unknown diseases into modern society that have no known cures. Pandemics and pandemic scares have become unsettlingly common now and pharmaceutical companies are all scrambling to engineer new cures and vaccines (vaccines make more money) for the people. Antibiotic resistant bacteria and viruses are also common which has made antibiotics largely obsolete. Genetic engineering and the biological sciences in general are more advanced than OTL with GM crops now replacing natural strains especially in areas suffering from unpredictable weather patterns and growing desertification. Some nations are trying to engineer faster growing trees that can survive in arid conditions in order to prevent erosion of topsoil in certain areas. A new initiative has also appeared to replant or extend forests in order to create a carbon sink. Whether these trees will be natural or genetically engineered has yet to be agreed upon. Cloning is still in the early stages of development and people are debating its practical applications.
Robotics are another field in its teething stage. True artificial intelligence is still centuries away at best and this world still has the 'AI is a crapshoot' trope so no-one is really that enthusiastic about genuine artificial intelligence, especially in complex and vital systems lest it try to take over the world. The world is beginning to look a little cyberpunk as more things become digitised in this world. Social networking systems have become popular even in authoritarian states where it now makes it easier to monitor people via their digital messages. Hackers are on the most wanted lists across the world and entire government agencies are devoted to cracking hacker communication codes as well as cleaning up their messes. There is a sort of internet in development but the world appears to be very tentative in trusting the other powers to set up a proper worldwide information network, especially one that they will have more trouble censoring than their own existing individual networks. Great efforts have also been made to reinforce said communications networks. They were originally created to coordinate national defence like OTL and they need to be able to withstand nuclear weaponry.
China is still an empire and has bounced back considerably since the Europeans eclipsed them at the beginning of the industrial revolution. They modernised just as well as the Europeans and while they still lag in terms of a lot of high technology they more than make up for it with volume. They have the prestige of being the first industrialised nation but European do like to rub the fact that they never did anything concrete with it in their faces. Europe still managed to usurp China in much of the globe and stole most of their colonies from them but they have recovered and become a force to be reckoned with once again.
China itself is still a very traditional society. A sort of bureaucratic monarchy exists that still keeps the trappings of older imperial regimes but often leaves matters of government to the vast number of different governmental departments and institutions. The monarchy are still divine but their power is theoretical at best and they are discouraged from actually exercising it by most of the government. Instead there is an idea of leaving government to those who's job it is to concern themselves with it. Micromanagement and specialisation are key features of China's regime with each institution dealing with their particular duty and cooperating with other specialists whenever more complicated matters appear. It is an admittedly unwieldy system but it works and the costs have yet to outweigh the benefits. Social harmony is the order of the day. Built on existing Confucian principles, Harmonialism is based on the concept of social stratification in order to maintain order and cohesion in a community. The idea that jobs should be left to those who's duty it is to perform maintains the status quo and is supposed to a means of providing security and focus to the population. It is possible to navigate this system and move up the social classes as it is strictly meritocratic and allows for those with talent to exploit it but radicalism is not tolerated and anyone who wishes to completely reorder society will find themselves in a cell, preferably a padded one.
China has rebuilt its influence over a number of nations since they modernised. These nations usually follow some form of Harmonialism but are often use it as an excuse to be authoritarian rather than try to organise an efficient ordered society (the theory behind the ideology). They're all non-European states as well which is another unifying factor for this alliance system. By this point the Chinese have taken over their economies as well which has both strengthened ties and created tension between nations that are not that comfortable with the Chinese having so much control.
Europe used to be the centre of the world during the 18th and 19th Century. Now they have genuine competition. The death of the Holy Roman Empire in the 1910s to economic stagnation and (not)-nationalist and republican ideals has left the western portion of the continent fragmented once again. They were saved from complete dissolution thanks to competent/sane leadership emerging in the successor states. A lot of old nationalities have re-emerged once again and new ones created by the HRE have now been embraced as completely independent identities. Despite the damages of the authoritarian HRE, Europe's economy has recovered and once again they are one of the economic centres of the world. Collectively they even outdo China's total output. A new economic and loose political alliance has grown in order to maintain European prosperity, Christian integrity and protect them against the resurgent Muslim states.
The Republic of France is currently the leader of the European League as the nation with the largest single economy and the strongest military. They do have direct influence over a couple of neighbouring republic but for the most part the other members of the EL are fully self-autonomous. Italy is still divided and at an impasse over their proposed unification. Greater Lombardy does not want to be ruled by a king and the latest Neapolitan plebiscite is very pro-monarchy. All members of the EL are democracies of some form whether it is a republic or a constitutional hereditary state (some HRE nobility and vassals were clever enough to keep their thrones after the revolution, usually by supporting them). There are certain rules and regulations that all member states must abide by including a primitive form of human rights. Of course these measures are all very tentative and any attempt at actually centralising control and giving the European Consulate real power usually resurrects bad memories and horror stories of life under the Holy Roman Empire.
There is also tension between the various Churches including the Revived Roman Papacy (originally left Rome in the 1660s during the short lived Emirate of Rum, restored in the 1690s), the Francian/Burgundian Ecclesiastical Council at Avignon and the various Dissension Churches scattered here and there across the Continent. Then of course there is the matter of openly devout non-Christians who are a completely separate problem.
Russia had a much more difficult time at first. There was no Mongol Invasion which thankfully preserved more of their old culture, retained their links with Western Europe and prevented them coming under the domination of the more belligerent principalities. They still expanded into Siberia but Central Asia proved to be a more difficult prospect than OTL. Thus their attention was pushed further to the South and the squabbling sultanates and emirates of the Middle East. Russian expansion has been a slow crawl South but in the last century, after the Great War and a number of smaller wars, they have pushed down to the Persian Gulf, annexed Central Asia and even conquered most of the Balkans. Whilst officially part of the Empire itself Central Asia is still very Muslim and most of their indigenous culture survives. Russia's industrialisation was rather difficult but they managed to modernize through imported experts and entrepreneurs. The government is a strange form of Harmonialism (which the Tsars have found very agreeable) that also incorporates clericalism and a slight democratic influence from their European neighbours. Muslims in Russia and their dependencies are tolerated and are allowed to practice in the open but religious enthusiasm is often frowned upon, it tends to upset the Orthodox Christian rhetoric of the government.
The British Isles spent the last two centuries as a bastion against the Holy Roman Empire and long before that preferred to divorce itself from most Continental affairs. This is what led to their rapid inclusion into the Colonial Era. The Kingdom of England, later Britain, has a strong maritime history and whilst they never ruled the waves in this TL they were a major power. The rise of republicanism on the Continent has caused an increase in reactionary ideals in both politics and society. Whilst not exactly Harmonialist (largely because China doesn't like them and it interferes with the whole endorse innovation) they place a lot of emphasis on the status quo and the importance of the hierarchy. They still industrialised and like OTL got a strong head-start on their rivals thanks to their abundant coal supply and ease in transporting it to wherever was necessary. Successful industrialists and other businessmen often get incorporated into the nobility (sometimes forcefully) and the purchasing of noble titles is still a practice that keeps the upper class titled. Their fight against the HRE also led to the industrialisation of their colonies in order to provide more economic and political muscle. They have also re-appropriated a lot of HRE colonies after the collapse of the rest of the Empire. Whilst behind the Continent in terms of high technology the British are enthusiastic modernisers and understand the importance of research and development. Their meritocratic government also encourages entrepreneurs and inventors to discover and develop new research. Whether they succeed or not is more difficult as upsetting the status quo is discouraged but like with other Harmonialists it works for the present and the foreseeable future. They were also one of the first states to implement state education in order to create a more skilled labour force. These methods, along with state encouragement of invention and industrialisation, has allowed the British to counter the corruption and inefficiency of their own political system.
Britain is the home of the oldest and largest Dissension Church. Originally created as a form of nationalised Catholicism the Anglican Church has evolved into its own entity. It was the first church to translate the Bible from Latin into the local language, English.
Socially this world is rather more traditional if not authoritarian than OTL. It is a more Catholic world and with, more advanced technology as well as governments that are both traditionalist and likely to encourage more large families, the global population is higher at around 8.5 billion. Scientific racism never developed in a world where it was the Asians who first discovered simple mechanisation and even taught it to Africans and other races successfully. Cultural racism though does still persist in areas and the big powers do still hold a semblance of the White (but not necessarily white) Man's Burden. Imperialism is alive and well and the major powers that still practice it are developing and re-branding it into a new and more efficient form of cooperation and mutual exploitation. Also despite the focus on maintaining old social cohesion the importance of technology has never been ignored or actively discouraged which explains how such advanced technology exists in a somewhat more repressive and stratified world.