Theses Doctoral

Making the State on the Sino-Tibetan Frontier: Chinese Expansion and Local Power in Batang, 1842-1939

Coleman, IV, William M.

This dissertation analyzes the process of state building by Qing imperial representatives and Republican state officials in Batang, a predominantly ethnic Tibetan region located in southwestern Sichuan Province. Utilizing Chinese provincial and national level archival materials and Tibetan language works, as well as French and American missionary records and publications, it explores how Chinese state expansion evolved in response to local power and has three primary arguments.

First, by the mid-nineteenth century, Batang had developed an identifiable structure of local governance in which native chieftains, monastic leaders, and imperial officials shared power and successfully fostered peace in the region for over a century. Second, the arrival of French missionaries in Batang precipitated a gradual expansion of imperial authority in the region, culminating in radical Qing military intervention that permanently altered local understandings of power. While short-lived, centrally-mandated reforms initiated soon thereafter further integrated Batang into the Qing Empire, thereby demonstrating the viability of New Policy reforms and challenging the idea that the late Qing was a failed state.

Finally, I posit that despite almost two decades of political, economic, and social upheaval in the post-Qing period, Nationalist officials' ability to repel central Tibetan attempts to assert their authority over Batang while effectively denying multiple movements for autonomous self-rule by local Batang political activists who were also Nationalist Party representatives directly contributed to Batang's incorporation into the Nationalist state. This analysis of Batang's transition from an imperial domain of the Qing Empire to a county in the newly created province of Xikang in 1939 highlights China's desultory and still incomplete transition from empire to nation.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Zelin, Madeleine H.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 22, 2014