China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia

By Peter C. Perdue | Go to book overview

15

State Building in
Europe and Asia

THE Qing conquests decisively changed the history of the Chinese empire, the Russian empire, and the Central Eurasian peoples in between. I have analyzed the Qing–Zunghar conflict as a process of competitive state building, in which both sides had to mobilize economic and military resources, build administrative organizations, and develop ideologies of conquest and rule. The Qing was not an established state facing a disorganized group of "bandits." In the early seventeenth century, the Manchus constructed a state apparatus designed for military conquest. Expansion of their state's territory remained the primary task of the dynasty's rulers until the mid-eighteenth century. At the same time, the Mongols who rejected Manchu domination also created an increasingly "statelike" apparatus of rule in Central Eurasia, one that grew from a loose tribal confederation to approach the structure of a settled regime. Both Manchus and Zunghars built a capital city, promoted agricultural settlement, sponsored trade, and developed bureaucratic procedures as part and parcel of their constant military campaigning. War fed the state as the state supplied the materials for war. The Manchus, once they had conquered the core of China, had far greater economic resources at their disposal than the Zunghars, and they inherited a transportation network that linked the crucial resources of men, grain, and money in dense systems of exchange. The Zunghars had to collect much more fragmented materials over a vast, unintegrated space, and this made their state-building project much more challenging and, ultimately, ephemeral.

Still, the Zunghars were able to hold out for a surprisingly long time

-518-

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