In This Review

China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia
China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia
By Peter C. Perdue
Harvard University Press, 2005, 752 pp

In this major work, Perdue challenges historians' focus on China's struggles with European powers and argues that the more important historical event was the Manchu Qing empire's fight with the Zunghar Mongolian state and the Muscovite Russian empire for domination of Central Asia. He traces the rise of the Qing and how they -- with military conquest and repression, but also through trade policies, economic development, and administrative effectiveness -- established a claim on Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia that holds to this day. Perdue has had to write a massive book to make a convincing case against the conventional wisdom, and his analysis goes from the role of the environment in affecting communications to descriptions of the living conditions of various armies to vividly detailed accounts of the judgments of various leaders as recorded in the archives. Although he does pull open the curtain on this "great game" for control of central Eurasia (preceding the later "great game" between the British and the Russians), no single book can demolish the deeply held views of the "Western impact" interpretation of modern Chinese history. Still, Perdue succeeds in giving new life to matters that have succumbed to stale conventional thinking.