This book provides a distinctive perspective on Chinese history that delves deeply into the economic activities occurring on the Qing dynasty’s frontiers, which Kim places within the changing global economy and relates to the status of Turkestan within the Qing polity. It offers a persuasive account of the different economic interests of Muslims in the region, moving beyond the conventional ethnic taxonomies that other historians have used to explain events there. In the eighteenth century, this area (today part of northwest China) was affected economically by global flows of silver as well as by the international market for ginseng that held great value for the imperial household.
Kim links the economics of the area to the political interests of the Muslim beg (or beig) leadership and the Qing court. The local Muslim economic elites needed Qing military force to ensure their new claims, including the displacement of older claims on common lands with privatization using a variety of labor forms. Qing officials were committed to a form of agrarian economic development for which the Muslim beg leadership became the local beneficiaries. The Qing state consolidated its political position in the area by making the new forms of economic exploitation beneficial to both the begs and themselves.
This book argues for the linked nature of the expansions of empire and of capitalism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, thus integrating [End Page 288] Qing history into global history in ways that complement and qualify earlier scholarship. The complementarity concerns both the politics of incorporation into empire and the economics of frontiers in a globalizing economy. Kim’s claim that this development of Turkestan/Xinjiang connects Ming and Qing history is cogent. It distinguishes the Qing from earlier dynasties—in a way that the proponents of the “New Qing History” have failed to recognize in their enthusiasm for the Manchu nature of the Qing—and makes its agenda seem more similar to that of other early modern empires than to its own past. Finally, the book largely misses the opportunity to contrast the fiscal character of military mobilization for this region with the usual arguments about European state-making that highlight a particular kind of fiscal history tied to European military expansion. [End Page 289]