- Borderland Capitalism: Turkestan Produce, Qing Silver, and the Birth of an Eastern Market by Kwangmin Kim
Borderland Capitalism brings to the foreground what in previous studies on Qing expansion into Eastern Turkestan (renamed Xinjiang by the Qing) often lies in the second plane—the agrarian and [End Page 278] economic transformation of this region under Qing rule. This book presents a provocative departure from two bodies of literature. In contrast to Qing-state centered studies, this work highlights the agency of Eastern Turkestan's Muslim elites, as traders, commercial farmers, and "capitalists" responding to "market demand" (pp. 12, 74). In contrast to the works of New Qing History, which turn to issues of ethnicity, religion, and cultural identity to underscore the Qing Empire's difference from imperial expansion under the preceding Chinese empires, Kwangmin Kim's study directs its attention to economic change as key to understanding Qing rule in this borderland.
Kim follows the immense land reclamation projects in Eastern Turkestan's oasis districts that the Qing state and its Muslim allies undertook from the early eighteenth to the late nineteenth century, the period when Qing rule held sway. Characterizing this agricultural development as "capitalist," the book attributes the submission of the oasis begs (headmen) to the Qing Empire to their economic self-interest and "capitalist agenda" (p. 12). Noting the class conflict that accompanied this development, the author finds resistance to Qing rule to be emanating more from "intra-Muslim tension (between the khwaja [Sufi leaders] and the begs)," than from conflicts between the oasis Muslims and Chinese migrants (p. 191).
The book follows the career of several prominent Muslim allies of the Qing Empire, beginning with Emin Khwāja, the beg of the oasis city Turfan who surrendered with his community of Muslims to the Qing in 1731. Muslim elites had become "major agrarian developers" prior to the Qing's arrival to this region, Kim notes (p. 23). But it was during Qing rule that the oasis region of Eastern Turkestan underwent a massive economic and agrarian transformation within a relatively short time. Existing scholarship often points to the Qing state as the agent of this transformation.1 Kim stresses instead the endeavors of "commercially oriented [oasis] begs" like Emin Khwāja, who, behaving as "a vanguard of individuals seeking new opportunities" (p. 30), used their alliance with the Qing to expand their land holdings (p. 20).
Tracing the activities of Ūdui and his son Osman, governors of Yarkand and Kashgar in the late eighteenth century, the book shows that Qing dependence on the oasis begs for "revenue development"—through mining, for example, to pay for the administration of the [End Page 279] frontier—gave the begs new ways to expand "their commercial enterprises based on capitalist principles" (p. 17). The begs' growing claim on the region's land, water, and labor increasingly impoverished the Muslim villages surrounding the oasis cities, Kim affirms, thereby setting the stage for the armed rebellions directed against the begs and the Qing Empire that sided with them.
The author thus ties the various khwaja-led attacks on Xinjiang beginning in the 1820s to "the class-based dynamic" of the oasis society (p. 92), noting that these wars were joined by oasis Muslims uprooted by the region's "capitalist transformation" (p. 91). Similarly, the author sees the 1847 khwaja war as interconnected to renewed land grab by oasis begs following the first khwaja wars, when the Qing state's efforts to install tuntian (military agricultural colonies) in the oasis districts turned Qing military funding into "a new entrepreneurial investment opportunity" for the begs (p. 137), and the oasis region, subsequently, into "a cauldron [that] simmered" with social tension (p. 150). Previous scholarship has attributed the success of these wars to a combination of Qing administrative inadequacies, and tax burdens passed on to the population by the Qing's beg allies.2 Kim, by contrast, presents these wars as indicative of "a new sociopolitical fault line incurred by beg capitalism, a...