China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia

By Peter C. Perdue | Go to book overview

Introduction

FROM the seventeenth to the mid-eighteenth century, three great empires— the Manchu Qing (16441–911), the Muscovite-Russian (1613–1917), and the Mongolian Zunghars (1671–1760)—contended for power in the heart of Eurasia. The distances were vast, communications slow, military campaigns extended and costly, and cultural alienation was huge. By the end of this epic confrontation, an early version of the "Great Game," only two empires were left standing.1 The Qing and Russians faced each other along an extended border. They had become two of the largest empires in world history.2 The Zunghars had vanished. Despite nineteenth-century upheavals, this binary division of Eurasia lasted until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.3 This book examines the division of the continent between the two empires, emphasizing the Qing empire's conquest of Mongolia and Xinjiang. (See Maps 1 and 2.)

No one could claim that the Qing campaigns in Central Eurasia have been ignored. Every textbook mentions them. This is not the recovery of a long-forgotten event. And yet, there has never been an adequate full-length study of them in English.4 Studies in other languages also have their limitations. This book, based on primary sources, archival and published, in several languages, tells a dramatic story almost unknown to English-language readers.

It also critiques some of the dominant paradigms of modern Chinese historiography, most prominent in the work of Chinese scholars but also implicitly adopted by many in the West. In brief, most historians, supported by the prevailing nationalist ideology that reigns on both sides of the Tai-

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