Between the mid-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries, Qing rulers, officials, and scholars fused diverse, fragmented perceptions of foreign territory into one integrated worldview. In the same period, a single "foreign" policy emerged as an alternative to the many localised "frontier" policies hitherto pursued on the coast, in Xinjiang, and in Tibet. By unravelling Chinese, Manchu, and British sources to reveal the information networks used by the Qing empire to gather intelligence about its emerging rival, British India, this book explores China's altered understanding of its place in a global context. Far from being hobbled by a Sinocentric worldview, Qing China's officials and scholars paid close attention to foreign affairs. To meet the growing British threat, they adapted institutional practices and geopolitical assumptions to coordinate a response across their maritime and inland borderlands. In time, the new and more active response to Western imperialism built on this foundation reshaped not only China's diplomacy but also the internal relationship between Beijing and its frontiers.
"To the old narrative of Chinese ignorance of diplomatic relations, Mosca's work provides, not a complete revision, but an intelligent and persuasive reformulation in term of intellectual history, and in doing so outlines a methodology that might well be applied to other fields of Qing political history. The book impresses with its philological dexterity, and draws on a rich body of previously untapped archival sources in Manchu and Chinese. Its scope makes it a contribution, not only to Qing history, but to the history of Chinese foreign policy more generally, and of Sino-Indian relations." - David Brophy, China Journal "Matthew W. Mosca has made a graceful and substantial contribution to our understanding not only of late imperial China (the expansive and multicultural Qing Empire in particular) but also of Inner Asian politics, the growth of 'British' India, and the nature of global interactions during the period from 1750 to 1860." - Richard J. Smith, H-Net "Matthew Mosca's impressively researched and carefully structured new book maps the transformation of geopolitical worldviews in a crucial period of Qing and global history... Readers from beyond the field of Chinese studies will find useful discussions here of multiple Qing modes of cartography, geography, and lexicography that inform a broader historical epistemology of the early modern world." - Carla Nappi, New Books in East Asian Studies "Mosca presents a fresh, convincing take on Qing foreign affairs via close examination of how the state learned about and understood British India between 1757 and 1860... Mosca analyzes the uneasy relationship between frontier policy and foreign policy in a multiethnic empire, offering much food for thought to theorists of international relations and to historians of Asia. Excellent scholarship, written with clarity and precision... Highly recommended." - K. E. Stapleton, CHOICE "Meticulously researched and compellingly presented, this book reads like a detective story. Where and what is the true India, and what does it mean for the Qing? Linking politics, foreign relations, cultural and intellectual history, this work is a must read in the current re-conceptualization of the early nineteenth century in China." - R. Kent Guy, University of Washington
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