Li Shiyao and Qing Frontier Governance from Sea to Tropics Open Access

Bonsall, Jonathan (Spring 2018)

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From Sea to Tropics argues that Qing officials, during the dynasty’s rapid eighteenth century expansion, developed a cross-frontier political culture based on commerce and urban geography rather than Confucian acculturation. High officials such as Li Shiyao granted internal autonomy to prominent local merchants in exchange for political loyalty, by merging privileged access to lucrative markets and security obligations to combat illicit trade. The clientage arrangement sped frontier expansion by relieving the Qing state of logistical and administrative burdens. Qing officials, in turn, sought to control a frontier’s extra-provincial links by funneling outside trade through their political clients. Economic malaise diminished clientage arrangements by weakening incentives for clients to cooperate with provincial officials. This in turn strengthened illicit markets both by actively drawing client merchants into illegal trade and weakening the political will to combat it. The thesis concludes that Li’s frequent reference to other frontier zones, whether he had previously served in them or not, demonstrates that he contemplated frontier policy in a cross-frontier context as he strove to maintain control over transprovincial links, illustrating the formation of a cohesive frontier political culture rooted in commercial access.

Table of Contents




Introduction                                                                                                               1         


Chapter 1: Li Shiyao and the Canton Trade, 1757-1765                                                       18


Chapter 2: Clientage in the Southwest, 1777-1780                                                            41


Chapter 3: Sea, Tropics, and Steppe: A Frontier System?                                                    61


Bibliography                                                                                                                                                79

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