China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia

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Press:Belknap Press of Harvard University Press Belknap Press; Reprint edition (September 30, 2010)
Publication Date:2010-9-30
Author Name:Peter C. Perdue
Edition:Reprint Edition


From about 1600 to 1800, the Qing empire of China expanded to unprecedented size. 
Through astute diplomacy, economic investment, and a series of ambitious military campaigns into the heart of Central Eurasia, the Manchu rulers defeated the Zunghar Mongols, and brought all of modern Xinjiang and Mongolia under their control, while gaining dominant influence in Tibet.
The China we know is a product of these vast conquests.Peter C.
Perdue chronicles this little-known story of China's expansion into the northwestern frontier.
Unlike previous Chinese dynasties, the Qing achieved lasting domination over the eastern half of the Eurasian continent.
Rulers used forcible repression when faced with resistance, but also aimed to win over subject peoples by peaceful means.
They invested heavily in the economic and administrative development of the frontier, promoted trade networks, and adapted ceremonies to the distinct regional cultures.
Perdue thus illuminates how China came to rule Central Eurasia and how it justifies that control, what holds the Chinese nation together, and how its relations with the Islamic world and Mongolia developed.
He offers valuable comparisons to other colonial empires and discusses the legacy left by China's frontier expansion.
The Beijing government today faces unrest on its frontiers from peoples who reject its autocratic rule.
At the same time, China has launched an ambitious development program in its interior that in many ways echoes the old Qing policies.China Marches West is a tour de force that will fundamentally alter the way we understand Central Eurasia.

About the Author

Peter C. 
Perdue is Professor of History at Yale University.


Science & Math,Earth Sciences,Geography,Regional,Textbooks,Humanities,History,Asia,Asia,China

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Comment List (Total:10)

  •     A fine narrative and analysis of the Manchu Dynasty's invasion and conquest of Turkistan and Mongolia, Perdue brings to the readers' attention the complexities of the modern Peoples' Republic of China.
  •     Really nicely written, very revealing. There is a slight anti-empire tone of the author but still great source material for China history enthusiasts.
  •     This book provides an fairly indepth account of dynastic expansion. The Qing retained the instincts of steppe cavalry for almost 150 years and their expansion into Central Asia showed their determination to prevent a rival steppe empire rising on their flanks. Their efforts were opposite to the Ming who spent relatively little time on the steppes, which allowed Manchu rivalry.I enjoy this book very much and impressed with the illustrations.
  •     This well written and thoughtful book covers a number of interesting aspects of early Modern Chinese history. The most important is the Qing conquest of central Eurasia and the end of the influence of central Eurasian nomads on surrounding sedentary societies. Perdue also addresses the impact of the conquest of Central Eurasia on Qing state formation, the historiography of the conquest, and includes some discussion of the comparative history of state formation in early modern Eurasia.Perdue presents a fascinating narrative and analysis of the the fall of the Ming, the accession to power of the Qing, and the Qing incorporation of central Asian nomadic cultures into the Qing state in the 17th and 18th centuries. This is the concluding chapter of sveral centuries of often violent interaction between the central Eurasian steppe peoples and the surrounding sedentary societies. The Mongol conquest of China and much of Eurasia is the best known of these conflicts but conflict and interactions with the steppe peoples is a recurrent theme of Chinese history back to the early Imperial period, the Hunnish incursion played a crucial role in the demise of the later Roman Empire, and Turkic and Mongol steppe peoples were major actors in the Near East, Iran, and India. Why did the Qing succeed when prior Chinese Imperial states failed? Perdue presents this as a confluence of several factors. The Qing emerged from Manchuria and were part of and familiar with the steppe peoples in a way that was foreign to the Ming. Using a combination of trade, force, and diplomacy, the Qing were able to take advantage of the chronic lack of political unity among the various Mongol groups to establish supremacy and incorporate Mongols into the Qing state. Perdue sees the Qing as aided by parallel developments at the other end of the Eurasian steppe as the expanding Muscovite state was similarly able to subordinate Mongol states. As with the Qing, the long experience with the Mongol states and incorporation of some Mongol political institutions equipped the Muscovite rulers with the knowledge to pursue appropriate policies. Perdue points out 2 other features that probably contributed significantly to Qing success. Like the native peoples of North America, the Mongols were epidemiologically isolated and suffered from devastating smallpox epidemics. The economic expansion of the Qing state provided the Qing with the economic resources to mount sustained campaigns out on the steppe. This would allow the Kangxi and Qianlong emperors to pursue the difficult and costly campaigns needed to expirpate (and in the case of Qianlong, this appears to be actual efforts at genocide) the Zunghar Mongols, the last vigorous central Eurasian state. Perdue points out that the late Ming period saw the increasing monetarization of the Chinese economy, something made possible by massive imports of silver from Japan and later the western hemisphere, suggesting that true globalization of the world economy that emerged with European expansion was necessary for the conquest of central Eurasia. Perdue takes pains to point out that there was nothing inevitable about the Qing conquest. Despite their advantages, it is plausible that the Zunghars could have resisted the Qing into the 19th century.Perdue also suggests that the efforts to establish control over central Eurasia had an important effect on the formation and nature of the Qing state. The relatively sophisticated and polyglot diplomacy required led to a dynamic and administratively vigorous state, particularly under the decades of leadership by the highly competent Kangxi and Qianlong emperors. This is an application of the idea that inter-state conflict in Europe was a source of the dynamism and development of European states. In an ironic way, success in central Eurasia way have had adverse long term consequences. With the conquest of central Eurasia, Perdue suggests that some of impetus for vigorous administration left the Qing state. Perdue suggests also that when confronted with British-European expansion in South China, the Qing attempted to apply methods successful in central Eurasia, which proved to be a mistake. Implicit in Perdue's narrative is the suggestion that Ming efforts to deal with the Mongols pulled them away from an expansionist policy in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, creating an opportunity for Portugese, Dutch, and British imperialism.Perdue has some interesting sections dealing with the historiography of the Chinese conflict with the steppe peoples. These include both how the Qing state used the conflict with the nomads to bolster its legitimacy but also how the conflict has been used by modern nationalist (including Communist) historians.Perdue concludes with some thoughts on the nature of state formation. He suggests that the emergence and later troubles of the Qing state are part of a larger pattern of the emergence and fragmentation of large states across Eurasia in the early modern period. These seems quite creditable. Like several other writers, he suggests that Qing China, Europe, Mughal India,and the Ottoman Empire were broadly similar and that the industrial revolution and global hegemony could have emerged from any one of them. This is unlikely. As pointed out by Robert Allen, there were distinctive demographic and economic features in Europe, particularly in Britain, only Europe developed science, and only Europe had the windfall of occupation of the Western hemisphere.
  •     This is a very good account on how the China under Qing Dynasty gained the mastery over the Mongolia, it gave the account on how the Manchu ruler who originally also came from the steppes expanded the territory far beyond the native Chinese ruler had ever done.
  •     This is possibly the best history if any kind I have ever read. Perdue takes very complex subject and very carefully lays out the 100 yer Manchu (Qing dynasty) conquest of...
  •     i am a amateur sinologist who is thoroughly informed on chinese ancient and medieval history but well acquianted am i with these voluminous works in original chinese texts i have...
  •     a good book searching for Xinjiang history
  •     China's western push in the 17th and 18th centuries was every bit as important to China as the U.S.'s own western expansion was to the United States, yet the topic did not have a complete and authoritative record in one book until "China Marches West." This long and detailed account might be too much for a casual reader, but what a story. Armies of tens or hundreds of thousands with months of supplies crossing the Mongolian steppes in pursuit of recalcitrant Mongols, building forts and supply points along the way, gradually consolidating Chinese control of a vast region. Of particular interest is the Chinese decision to completely eradicate the state and people of Zungaria, a powerful steppe empire wedged between China and Russia. Understanding the current and ongoing Chinese disputes with their Tibetan and Turkic Muslim peoples (in Xinjiang) is not even possible without access to this history. Very well illustrated. The only shortcoming is that the maps are not detailed enough; the author mentions many towns and areas which you will not find on the maps provided, and there are many places with more than one name or for which the names change over time. A great read for anyone with an interest in Chinese history, Central Asia, Tibet, Xinjiang, or the Mongols. This book draws from many Chinese, Mongol, Russian, and other sources in those languages, and the bibliography and notes sections are extensive.
  •     This book talks about the 18th century campaigns waged by the Qing Empire against Muslims and Mongolians in Western China, Mongolia, and Turkestan. the Russians were also involved. a very good read to those who have a interest in Chinese history.

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