From Frontier Policy to Foreign Policy: The Question of India and the Transformation of Geopolitics in Qing China

From Frontier Policy to Foreign Policy: The Question of India and the Transformation of Geopolitics in Qing China

From Frontier Policy to Foreign Policy: The Question of India and the Transformation of Geopolitics in Qing China

From Frontier Policy to Foreign Policy: The Question of India and the Transformation of Geopolitics in Qing China

Synopsis

Between the mid-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries, Qing rulers, officials, and scholars fused diverse, fragmented perceptions of foreign territory into one integrated worldview. In the same period, a single "foreign" policy emerged as an alternative to the many localized "frontier" policies hitherto pursued on the coast, in Xinjiang, and in Tibet. By unraveling Chinese, Manchu, and British sources to reveal the information networks used by the Qing empire to gather intelligence about its emerging rival, British India, this book explores China's altered understanding of its place in a global context. Far from being hobbled by a Sinocentric worldview, Qing China's officials and scholars paid close attention to foreign affairs. To meet the growing British threat, they adapted institutional practices and geopolitical assumptions to coordinate a response across their maritime and inland borderlands. In time, the new and more active response to Western imperialism built on this foundation reshaped not only China's diplomacy but also the internal relationship between Beijing and its frontiers.

Excerpt

In 1638, Hong Taiji, the Manchu ruler of a small state on the northeastern fringe of the Asian continent, made a prophetic boast to a visiting envoy. The Mongol Yuan and other earlier dynasties, he declared, had campaigned as far as India, and his own Qing dynasty was now their equal. Almost preposterous at the time, this assertion was realized by the conquests of his successors, who expanded the empire westward far into Inner Asia and ultimately extinguished their tenacious foe, the Junghar Mongols. In July 1757, Amursana, last pretender to the rule of an independent Jungharia, fled pursuing Qing forces into Russia. When the Qianlong emperor fully absorbed Amursana’s domain two years later, the Qing realm reached its greatest extent, and its western border in Tibet and Xinjiang indeed abutted the Indian subcontinent. Never had the empire appeared more secure.

Yet the ramifications of another battle, fought far to the south almost at the moment Amursana fled the field, eventually confronted the Qing with a new and more powerful neighbor. In June 1757 the East India Company and its allies routed the nawab of Bengal, making the first in a patchwork of conquests that would in time establish British rule over virtually the whole of India. For the next hundred years, Company forces expanded their domin-

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