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Wang, Yingzi (2019) The transition of Manchuria into an integral part of "China" in the early twentieth century. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00035336

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Abstract

The key to maintaining the vital balance between the ethnic groups which had led the Qing to power, primarily the Manchus and the majority Han (漢) population, lay in accepting the latter’s demographic weight and cultural preponderance. The wholesale acceptance of Han culture helped the Qing government obtain legitimacy, but on the other hand, it struggled to retain its own characteristics and to prevent complete assimilation (“sinicisation”). Creating Manchuria as an “ancestral homeland” and “prohibiting access” to Han Chinese settlers were thus two policies which formed part of the plan to maintain the Manchus’ distinctiveness. From the beginning of the Qing era until almost its very end, the North-East was administered differently from the Han provinces. Instead of a provincial system, Manchuria was controlled by the military, and only in the last decade of the Qing era were reforms initiated by the government which were implemented in Manchuria. These reforms should be seen not only as vitally important administrative adjustments, but also as a transformation in essence from the “Manchu Homeland” to a Qing border region. My thesis aims to analyse the functional transition of Manchuria in the early twentieth century, particularly during the Xinzheng (新政)period (‘late Qing reforms’, 1901–11). Based on both newly uncovered and already reproduced archival sources, mainly in Chinese but also in Manchu, this thesis postulates that it was the ethnic complexity of Manchuria that contributed to its transition from the cradle of Jurchen-Manchu civilisation, as well as ancestral home of the ruling Aisin Gioro clan, to an integral part of the emerging ‘New China’, also after the Qing era had ended. In geopolitical terms, Manchuria not only transformed itself into an important border region of the Qing empire, but also into an inter-regional centre connected not only with the Chinese heartland, but also with Tsarist Siberia, Korea and Japan. The effect of the Xinzheng reforms thus produced very different consequences compared to neighbouring Mongolia and other frontier regions such as Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan, a legacy which would last throughout the ‘long twentieth century’. In more general terms, my research on Manchuria will examine the way in which the Qing empire turned into a modern state. It will examine this period from the point of view of the Qing rulers and focus on what happened to non-Han populations during the Xinzheng period, reinterpreting the centralised history of China with a more “peripheral” border studies approach. Furthermore, whilst discussing the enduring legacy of Xinzheng during the early Republican period, my thesis attempts to connect historical research into Manchu-centric Qing history with that of modern China in general. These two aspects of late imperial / modern history are all too often regarded as two separate historical spheres, but what is important in the context of this thesis is that the reforms in Manchuria fully reflected the transition of the whole of China into a radically new era.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Lars Laamann
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00035336
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2021 13:19
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/35336

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