Imperialism and Colonialism in the Qing Context
This paper outlines a framework for using the concepts of imperialism and colonialism to analyse the Qing empire, by relating the political goals of the Qing state with the economic and demographic centrality of China proper within the empire. In Inner Asia, state-driven imperialism often restricted the penetration of Han Chinese migrants and economic networks. In predominantly non-Han regions of southern China, by contrast, state policies often promoted migrant settlement and cultural transformation in forms that reflected a colonial dynamic. Southeast Asia was also deeply influenced by China proper’s economic growth and out-migration, but here the lack of Qing state interest prevented the emergence of a dynamic resembling that of European colonialism. After 1860, the Qing state increasingly abandoned efforts to balance the interests of various subjects, and shifted to a colonial policy of integrating all parts of the realm as closely as possible with China proper.