This groundbreaking book analyzes the dramatic impact of Han Chinese migration into Inner Mongolia during the Qing era. In the first detailed history in English, Yi Wang explores how processes of commercial expansion, land reclamation, and Catholic proselytism transformed the Mongol frontier long before it was officially colonized and incorporated into the Chinese state. Wang reconstructs the socioeconomic, cultural, and administrative history of Inner Mongolia at a time of unprecedented Chinese expansion into its peripheries and China’s integration into the global frameworks of capitalism and the nation-state. Introducing a peripheral and transregional dimension that links the local and regional processes to global ones, Wang places equal emphasis on broad macro-historical analysis and fine-grained micro-studies of particular regions and agents. She argues that border regions such as Inner Mongolia played a central role in China’s transformation from a multiethnic empire to a modern nation-state, serving as fertile ground for economic and administrative experimentation. Drawing on a wide range of Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian, and European sources, Wang integrates the two major trends in current Chinese historiography—new Qing frontier history and migration history—in an important contribution to the history of Inner Asia, border studies, and migrations.
Yi Wang is associate professor of history at Binghamton University.
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1 A Changing Frontier: Inner Mongolia in Context
2 Merchants, Monetization, and Networking: Han Commercial Expansion in the Steppe
3 Beyond the Western Pass: Sojourning and Settlement Across Han-Mongol Borders
4 The Rise of Land Merchants: Irrigation, Commercialization, and Local Autonomy in Hetao
5 Cultivation for Salvation: Missionaries, Migrants, and Catholic Expansion
6 Moving People to Strengthen the Border: Official Reclamation and State Building
Yi Wang puts the colonization of Inner Mongolia in a new context: world markets, capital, land, and labor. Her documentation of capitalist agriculture in the Hetao region makes a powerful intervention in debates over China's premodern economy.
In this theoretically sophisticated study, Yi Wang marshals a stunning array of sources—from corporate legal documents to folk songs—to reveal the fascinating history of the colorful cast of characters—including Manchu officials, Chinese irrigation entrepreneurs, Russian merchants, and Belgian missionaries—who played a role in integrating Inner Mongolia into the Qing state. In so doing, she reveals not only how the global processes of imperialism, capitalism, environmental degradation, migration, and nationalism shaped this particular borderland region but also how Inner Mongolia was the crucible that forged modern China.
If you haven't thought of the Chinese as settler-colonists, think again. Yi Wang explores in remarkable depth one of the great frontier movements of modern times, the Chinese colonization of Mongolia, with a passion reminiscent of Owen Lattimore. Her careful account of how the Mongols lost their lands—under relentless pressure by Chinese merchants, the global economy, and the centralizing Chinese state—gives us a clear example of how Chinese ‘secondary imperialism’ worked.
Current Chinese policies in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region have brought the plight of the Mongolian population in the People’s Republic of China to a wider audience. In truth, current events are but a continuation of oppression that began long before the establishment of the People’s Republic. It is, in essence, a legacy of changes that occurred during the Qing Empire. Inner Mongolia has long been a borderland between steppe and sown, but not until the 19th century did it attain a majority sedentary population. In this study, Wang amply demonstrates that the transformation of Inner Mongolia was not a monocausal event. Rather, it was the culmination of Qing policy, environmental and economic issues, and the unintended consequences of the presence of Christian missionaries in the region and European imperialism. These factors resulted in clashes between the Mongolian population and Han immigrants, which transformed Inner Mongolia not only culturally and demographically, but also economically, environmentally, politically, and socially. Wang’s work is an exemplar of the New Qing History and will benefit anyone interested in the region, regardless of era. This book is highly recommended for advanced undergraduates through faculty.