China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia

By Peter C. Perdue | Go to book overview

14

Writing the National
History of Conquest

FROM the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. Western and Chinese historians' views of the Qing frontier converged upon a common geopolitical perspective. Although they gave divergent evaluations of the soundness of the dynasty and its policies, they came to agree that China was a powerful entity in eastern Eurasia, one whose autonomy was vital to global security. Imperialists and nationalists were secret sharers, especially in their analysis of the future of the Qing frontiers.


Statecraft Writers and Empire

The statecraft writers Wei Yuan (1794–1856) and Gong Zizhen (1792– 1841) built on the achievements of the eighteenth century to support their arguments for strong national defense. Both used history to defend the heavy cost of frontier conquest. They placed Qianlong's campaigns in a lineage reaching back to Han dynasty relations with the Xiongnu, claiming that he had successfully resolved the nearly two-millennia-long issue of securing the northwest frontier. China's borders were now stable, but the empire needed to invest in integrating the frontier regions with the interior. Like the emperor's official historians, they saw Heaven's will manifest in these unprecedented imperial victories, but like Qishiyi, they knew that a wide world existed beyond the frontiers. Carrying on the eighteenth-century project into the nineteenth-century world of international geopolitics, these writers defined the framework within which the Qing in its last century would attempt to maintain control over its conquered peoples.

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