China as imperialist; China as colonist – Macabe Keliher
In the 17th and 18th centuries, China as a state underwent a great transformation, the consequences of which reverberate to the present day. Through extensive and sometimes protracted military conquest, China’s last imperial dynasty, the Qing (1644-1911), effectively altered the special understanding the empire ruled from Beijing by doubling the territory under its command and colonizing the lands of what we know today as China.
The territory directly controlled by the Qing’s predecessors, the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), only went as far north as Beijing, and the western frontier began at Gansu. Taiwan lay overseas and beyond the fringe. With the rise of the Qing dynasty in the mid-17th century, and its extensive state-building enterprise in the 18th, Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia, Manchuria and Taiwan came under the jurisdiction of the Chinese empire for the first time in history. Indeed, in less than 200 years the Qing widened their frontiers in a fashion as dramatic, if not more so, than the US. Through literary and scientific works, and state-building institutions, the Qing redefined the entire spatial and ethnic composition of what constituted the Chinese state.
Macabe Keliher is the author of Out of China: A History of Seventeenth-Century Taiwan (Taipei: SMC Publishing, 2003) and Small Sea Travel Diaries: Yu Yonghe’s Records of Taiwan (Taipei: SMC Publishing, 2004). More articles by this author.