China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia

By Peter C. Perdue | Go to book overview

Preface

I began the research for this book in more peaceful times, purely out of intellectual curiosity about a little-known region of the world and a neglected topic in Chinese imperial history. Today, the issues raised by this study have come all too close to home, both for the Chinese and for us. The PRC government has now convinced the UN Security Council to classify the East Turkestan Independence Movement as a terrorist organization. At the same time, the PRC has launched a visionary project to "develop the West," so as to bring the Central Eurasian and interior regions of China firmly into the economic web generated by the reform program of the last two decades. Although 1 believe that China will maintain control over this region for the foreseeable future, I make no predictions. But the imperial legacy of conquest still hangs heavy over the future of the Chinese nation-state.

Specialists have, for disciplinary convenience, usually divided the region in two. "Inner Asia," conventionally defined as modern Mongolia (Inner and Outer), Manchuria, Xinjiang, and Tibet, has historically been primarily the province of those knowledgeable in Chinese, Mongolian, and Manchu languages. "Central Asia" generally refers to the area of Turkic peoples bounded by the former Soviet Union, and much of its scholarly literature is in Russian. But we cannot let a simple Russian-Chinese divide define a cultural arena, especially for the early modern period, centuries before either nation existed. "Inner Asia" has its uses as a subdivision of Asia setting it off from East, Southeast, and South Asia, but it is misleading to set its boundary simply along the former Sino-Soviet border. "Asia," a European concept not embraced by any indigenous peoples of the region until

-xiii-

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