The “New Qing History” and Chinese Response

Friday, January 6, 2012: 9:50 AM
Chicago Ballroom H (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Liping Wang, University of Minnesota
This paper analyzes the different ways Qing history is done in the US and China, and how the two interact with each other. In recent years, a “new Qing history” has emerged in the US. This new scholarship challenges the conventional wisdom of attributing Qing dynasty’s success to Sinification, and it instead emphasizes the Qing as a conquest regime that maintained its Manchu distinctiveness. US scholars focused on Qing expansion in frontier regions, Qing control of Han territory by military force, and the court’s use of rituals and symbols that remind people of the conquest. Of particular importance is their argument that the longevity of the Qing dynasty came from the use of non-Han institutions and strategies. On the other hand, the recent development of Qing history in China is not predicated upon refuting the concept of Sinification. While acknowledging the Qing’s origin as a conquest dynasty, Chinese scholars tend to put emphasis on how Qing emperors adopted elements in Han political tradition to move beyond the rule by brute force. While Chinese scholars usually avoid theorizing the nature of Qing rule, their detailed empirical work contributes a great deal to our knowledge of Qing institutions and socio-economic life, as well as the influence of the emperors in these areas. This paper argues that we need to understand American scholars’ interest in ethnic relations in the Qing in terms of the broader socio-political and intellectual trend within the US: a nation still dealing with its own past of racial discrimination and segregation, and ethnic tension remains a major problem in the society. The paper also proposes to see Chinese scholars’ engagement with the “New Qing History” as something that has as much to do with their understanding of the Qing empire as with their view of US cultural imperialism.