Qing Expansion in Xinjiang in Eighteenth Century
Ecologically mixed peoples of Central Manchuria, founded Qing dynasty which swallowed Ming dynasty in 1644 and governed China’s vast territories and population for almost three centuries. The Qing rulers devoted considerable resources and energy to pacify their frontiers, expand their territories through further military conquests and consolidate their hold on power. The Qing more than doubled the geographic expanse of Ming empire, tripled the Ming's population and governed people not only Chinese but also never have previously been Chinese subject including Uyghurs, Tibetans, certain groups of Mongols, Burmese and Tais. (Rowe 2009, p. 1.)
The territorial expansion and bureaucratic apparatus of Qing rule in Inner Asia was unprecedent size. In the mid 18th century the empire ruled from Beijing reached its greatest extent ever. With a series of military campaigns Qing rulers defeated their major rivals, the Zhungar Mongols, brought Tibet, Zhungaria and Mongolia under their control and opened up new terrain for colonial settlement, trade and administration. Unlike their predecessors the Qing rulers were able to preserve their control in the region by pursuing administrative means distinct to local inhabitants, promoting migration and trade networks.
This paper aims to examine the Qing expansion and rule of Zhungaria and Altishahr in 18th century. This paper will seek to adress three primary basic questions: What motives might have driven Qing expansion into Inner Asia? How was Qing dominion established and maintained in Zhungaria and Altishahr today known as Xinjiang? And what kind of multiethnic measures that the Qing employed to govern such "outer provinces"?
Transformation of the Qing into a Central Eurasian empire began with ambitious expeditions of Kangxi emperor into the Inner Asia following the two treaties which settled a longstanding territorial dispute in the northern frontiers. One of the most important of China's history in terms of its long term effects, Treaty of Nerchinsk signed in 1689 between Muscovy Russia and the Qing stabilized northern frontiers by providing for border demarcation, control of populations and regularized trade relations. The treaty divided the steppe between Muscovy and Qing and deprived the Zhungars of a potential ally. Later in 1727 the Treaty of Kiakhta fixed the northern border of today's Mongolia. These two agreements trapped Zhungars between the Qing and Russia, secured Russian neutrality in a potential confrontation with the Zhungars and helped Qing rulers to expand westward. (Spence 1999, p. 66; Millward and Perdue 2004, p. 49; Perdue 2005, p. 172, Lieberman 2008, p. 284)
Following the two treaties Emperor Kangxi declared on a campaign into the steppe over the aggressive Zhungar leader Galdan. Located between the Altay to the north and Tian Shan to the south the Zhungarian steppe acted as a gateway connecting the plateus of Mongolia with the lowlands to the west. Major nomadic empires always tried to occupy the Zhungarian basin because of its vast grasslands and productive oasis towns. The last in a series the Zhungars Khanate led by Oirat Mongols, a semi nomadic people, gave their name to it. (Perdue 2005, p. 32-33) For many Qing soldiers and statesmen a "civilizing mission" was associated with the conquest of the inland empire of "greedy, violent and untrustworthy" Zhungars, since it was useful for the dynasty's own purposes. But for the most part perceived need for the imperial security was the main motive in furthering Qing's expansionist agenda. (Rowe 2009, p. 73)
The Zunghar Mongols had resisted to incorporate into the Qing empire instead they searched for allies to hold their state together. During the late 17th and early 18th century Qing military campaigns over the Zhungars continued. Qianlong's victory came when the death of Galdan Tseren in 1745 stimulated a succession crisis within
Zhungar confederation and one faction invited Qing forces into Zhungaria. (Perdue 2005, p. 256) In the 1750s Zhungarian steppe have been completely integrated into the territory of China. To impose a "final solution" to China's northwestern frontier problems Qianlong emperor ordered his generals to massacre all the male captives and send their children and women as servants to Manchu bannermen and other Mongol tribes. Eventually the Zhungars disappeared as a state and as a people (estimated around 600,000) and the Zhungarian steppe was almost left blank. (Perdue 2005, p. 282-283, 285)
Qing extermination of the Zhungars in what is now northern Xinjiang were followed by campaigns that brought Turkic oasis-dwelling population of Altıshahr under imperial control. In response to a Zhungar invasion, the Qing also established a protectorate over Tibet in 1720 and 1750. By the end of the 1700s, these areas together with Manchurian homeland, Taiwan, Kokonor (Qinghai), the southwest provinces, Tibet and China proper was unified under the Qing rule. (Lieberman 2008, p. 284)
The oases south of the Tianshan range had been under the leadership of Makhdumzada Khojas of a Sufi background. They were autonomous to a great extent under the rule of Zhungars. Qianlong emperor send frontier general Jaohui who had completed his mission in Zhungaria to the south to complete the conquest of Altishahr. Contrary to modern rhetoric there was no unified Uyghur nationality at that time but rather there were division between the remote oasis communities. Khojas had bitterly resented Qing rule and sought to create an autonomous state yet harsh repression brought tight control and Turkestan joined the empire as a "by-product of the Zhungar campaigns". (Perdue 2005, p. 289-292)
Emperor Qianlong had to persuade Han literati to embrace Qing frontier policies in the 1750s. A number of Han officials were strongly against the conquest of the northwest of China proper questioning whether it was worth such an effort. They saw no need to conquer this huge pastorland whose peoples never belonged to China and had not traditionally threatened the Chinese homeland. Emperor Qianlong ignoring criticisms rejected the position held by such officials and announced formal annexation of the region under the name of Xinjiang (New Frontiers) in 1768. (Rowe 2009, p. 74; Zhao 2006, p. 11-12, 18)
The Qing conquest of the northern and western provinces and of south, Nicola Di Cosmo argues, are two distinct processes of colonization. Chinese settlements grew steadily in south China and Taiwan in 18th century, whereas in Tibet, Mongolia and Xinjiang the Qing policies differed significantly and relied largely on local governors and institutions staffed by natives and supervised by Qing military and civilian officials. In the southern provinces measures were aimed at assimilating natives by immigration, land grab and strong government presence. In Inner Asia however, Di Cosmo continues, the Qing did not pursue for assimilation and left local chieftains in charge. (Di Cosmo 1998, p. 292-294)
Outer provinces of Tibet, Xinjiang and Mongolia were administered seperately from the Chinese mainland. The administration in such regions was divided into three: the Lifan Yuan, the court for the administration of the outer provinces, imperial residents and native elites. Lifan Yuan was the central military and civil bureaucratic structure of Mongolia, Qinghai, Xinjiang and Tibet. Initially it was set up in the first half of 17th century to manage relations with Mongols. As the Qing empire expanded, Lifan Yuan was upgraded and became a key department within the central government. The Lifan Yuan was largely composed of Manchu officials and ethnic Chinese were excluded from official positions in a deliberate manner. It was divided into six departments, one of which set up in 1760 and responsible for relations with Xinjiang. (Di Cosmo 1998, p. 294-295). After the conquest of Xinjiang Qianlong allowed Han people to immigrate Xinjiang and launched a deliberate policy of agricultural colonization in an effort to guarantee self-sufficiency for the administrative and military purposes. By the mid of the 19th century approximately 600,000 acres of land in Xinjiang had been converted into agricultural land. Agricultural colonies came in many forms: Turkic Muslims, bannermen, Han Chinese from Gansu and Shaanxi, Chinese Muslims; military agrarian colonies and penal colonies. Many of the Manchu elites of Lifan Yuan sent to Xinjiang were also in favor of transferring large numbers of Han people to the region. Mongol names of the cities were changed, prefectures and counties were established for new settlers. Land grants, free tools, seeds, loans of cash and livestock were also awarded for new settlers. These were viewed as an important step in consolidating Qing rule in newly acquired territories. (Zhao 2006, p. 18; Rowe 2009, p. 92-93)
The maintenance of Xinjiang territory remained a financial burden throughout the dynasty. Because Xinjiang depended heavily on substantial support from China proper its security costs were always controversial. (Perdue 2005, p. 336) Neither exploitation of newly discovered natural resources such as silver, gold and jade mines nor the system of self supporting military agricultural colonies or trade networks were effective enough to cover the military and administrative costs. (Rowe 2009, p. 75) But Xinjiang served well as a penal colony. Exiled criminals and soldiers brought from China proper became first settlers. An estimated 10 percent of the empire's governor generals served from 1758 to 1820 in Xinjiang under punitive banishment. (Rowe 2009, p. 75; Perdue 2005, p. 232)
From the Chinese nationalist perspective colonization contributed to the integration of China's minority people's into the nation. (Perdue 2005, p. 333) There are different perspectives concerning the significance of, in Perdue's terminology, Central Eurasia. Many theorists decribe the region as a remote, isolated, backward and culturally fragmented territory and inevitably open to imperial quests. Perdue rejecting such an automatic classification argues that Central Eurasia was indeed the crossroads of the Eurasian continent in early modern period. Thanks to trade routes crossing the region religious diversity, linguistic pluralism and cosmopolitanism characterized the oasis cities (Perdue 2005, p. 10) It was the conquest of the region, Perdue continues, by Chinese and Russian empires was the underlying factor in the backwardness of the region not any essential features of the region.
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