This chapter offers an overview of the Muslim notables and the scope and structure of capitalistic commercial agriculture they developed in the Xinjiang oasis. In particular, it argues that the Qing empire played a pivotal role in the expansion of the beg enterprise, which caused social tensions within the oasis society resulting in a series of anti-beg and anti-Qing revolts led by Sufi holy man (khwaja). Their story revises the previous narrative on the Qing empire in Central Asia, which was written from a China-centered perspective, and contributes to the global understanding of capitalism by identifying native capitalist developments in Chinese Central Asia, which has often been considered a backwater of world history.
Offering an examination of a prominent pro-Qing beg Emin Khwaja's career and his family background, this chapter explores how the begs' interests in securing resources, labor, and silver set them on the path of a profitable partnership with the Qing Empire. At the center of this story was the presence of the Sufi migrants and their families, the mainstay of the pro-Qing begs. Sufi migrants' interests in developing commercial agriculture in the oasis under the changing environment of trade in Eurasia spurred their settlement into Eastern Turkestan and into an alliance with the Qing also. They had experienced a crisis in the local political economy in the seventeenth century caused by a sudden, if temporary, decline in the Chinese tribute trade. In their view, an alliance with the Qing, especially one that provided a direct connection to the China market would be a solution to this problem.
Through the lives of Ūdui and Osman, a powerful father-son duo who served as native governors in the oasis districts, this chapter examines the formation of the beg client regimes in Eastern Turkestan, the agendas entailed and the consequences that ensued in the aftermath of the Qing conquest in 1759. The Muslim clients appropriated the political and commercial connections provided by the empire to build a highly diversified commercial enterprise comprising three major interlocking sectors––revenue farming, mining, and agriculture. The beg clients took advantage of the empire's utter dependence on their resource development and radically expanded the scope of their enterprises, building new irrigation facilities and organizing new land and mining development. In order to facilitate this, they also aggressively expanded their private domination of formerly common resources such as wildland and waters, in spite of the resistance from the rural village communities.
This chapter examines the careers of Jahangir and Yusuf, two Sufi khwajas who led local resistance against the Qing-beg state in the early nineteenth century. The violent process of beg-initiated agrarian development contributed to the emergence of a rapidly expanding community of refugees in the rugged mountainsides of Pamir and Tianshan. By leading revolts, the two khwaja transformed themselves from being mere émigrés to "organic" religious leaders who represented the mountain people's energy, frustration, and anxiety. The Qing response, the Nayancheng reform policies (1828 -1829) ironically increased the power of the khwaja coalition. The empire's military reinforcement increased burdens of taxation and forced labor on the oasis villagers, contributing to an upsurge of number of the refugees. The Qing trade embargo on the Khoqand merchants also forced its ruler, who had been a reliable ally of the Qing, to join forces with the khwajas instead, if reluctantly.
Through the examination of Zuhur al-Din, a powerful governor of Kashgar District, this chapter discusses the ironic result of the previous khwaja wars, namely, the emergence of new prosperity in Eastern Turkestani cities. The increased Qing military presence there in the wake of the khwaja wars had the effect of sheltering the begs and their merchant associates from the double threats from the neighboring Central Asian rulers and the refugees. In addition, the Qing military presence also invited a new investment opportunity, official and illicit, by granting permissions for the development of its government land in the oasis. The begs took charge of the tuntian in collaboration with caravan merchants who were also increasingly interested in investing in local land development. However, this new development created its own problems, reproducing into its midst the most politically dangerous elements of its society, the displaced oasis population, local and foreign.
Through the career of Ahmad, a governor of Kashgar in 1850s, this chapter examines how Opium War (1839-1842) and the subsequent discontinuation of the silver transfer from China to the oasis created crisis in both the Qing military financing and oasis capitalism in Central Asia. The oasis capitalists adopted monetary solution to solve the crisis. They developed copper mining and minted local copper currency to compensate for the loss of the silver provision. Its inflationary affect aggravated the economic stratification long underway in the oasis, privileging wealthy merchants and landlords, while worsening the livelihood of the wage earners. In combination with the burden of the labor mobilization imposed on the oasis farmers to work the copper mines, this growing socio-economic tension resulted in increasing local violence and the out-migration of the people from Eastern Turkestan. The Qing empire fell in 1864, amid a new round of khwaja attacks.
Offering a comparison with Yunnan, a southwestern region of the Qing Empire which also witnessed the native initiation of economic development, this chapter highlights the broader applicability of Xinjiang's story for understanding the Qing empire: the Eurasian borderland societies, undergoing rapid commercialization since the sixteenth century, were the locus of imperial history, where the success and undoing of Qing empire took place. Also presenting the close parallel between developments in Qing Central Asia and British North India, where the imperial military financing also played a critical role in the expansion of the wealth and power of the "native" capitalists, this chapter illuminates the possibility of a truly coherent history of imperialism and capitalism, one that does not privilege the maritime world and the European vector of expansion, but highlights instead the convergence of political and economic transformations of the world on a global scale from the sixteenth century onward.