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From alien land to inalienable parts of China: how Qing imperial possessions became the Chinese frontiers

Li, Andy (2022) From alien land to inalienable parts of China: how Qing imperial possessions became the Chinese frontiers. European Journal of International Relations, 28 (2). 237 - 262. ISSN 1460-3713

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Identification Number: 10.1177/13540661221086486


Scholarship on the origins of modern territoriality and the modernist conception of territory has largely been confined to Europe and its colonial histories. Few attempts have been made to understand modern territoriality from an alternative epistemic starting point. This article moves beyond critiques of Eurocentrism by examining the territorial metamorphosis of the Qing Empire to modern China. Like the United States and Russia, China has retained its early modern continental colonial possessions. In order to explain the territorialisation of the multi-ethnic Qing empire, this article engages empirically with cartographic and textual representations of China from Confucian literati scholars, European Jesuit cartographers and the Manchu imperial court from the 17th to the early 19th centuries. The empirical study shows that by the early 19th century, a new territorialised conception of ‘China’ closely resembling that of modern territoriality had emerged. This ‘modern’ and Sinocentric form of territoriality encompassed areas that were hitherto seen as foreign and non-Chinese. In opposition to the extant Eurocentric historiography, this article traces the emergence of modern territoriality in imperial China to a nexus of European cartographic techniques, Qing imperial conquests and the literati synthesis of Manchu imperial and Sinocentric forms of territoriality. By showing the deep historical processes and global entanglements behind the emergence of modern China as a territorial state, the article makes a case for a polycentric account of modern territoriality.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2022 16:03
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2024 23:20

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