In the second half of 18th century, intensive economic and political relations were established between the Qing Empire and the Kazakhs. One modern legacy of this historic relationship is the perception within contemporary Chinese historiography that the territory east and south of Lake Balkash (in present-day eastern Kazakhstan) had historically been a part of China, before being appropriated by Tsarist Russia during the Qing dynasty. Using newly-released Qing dynasty archival documents, this talk will examine the origins of such perceptions, in order to shed new light on the significance of the Kazakh-Qing historical relationship, and to challenge the depiction of this region as primarily an object of bipolar territorial rivalry between the Qing Empire and Russia. To do so, the presentation will pursue two major arguments. First it will undermine the bipolar historical interpretation by highlighting the active and independent voice that the Kazakhs themselves injected into political debate over the sovereignty of the region. Second, it will demonstrate that in fact a wide variety of perceptions regarding the area east and south of Balkash existed at this time; a variety characterized both by ambiguity and flexibility in Qing policy, and by Kazakh counter-narratives that gained force from Kazakh eastward migration in the mid eighteenth century, and were well established by 1760.
This event sponsored by the East Asia Resource Center. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.