Pivot of Asia. Sinkiang and the Inner Asian frontiers of China and Russia
By Owen Lattimore
Short review by Taylor, G. (1951):
…only the first page is “public access” but there’s literally only 5 sentences on the next page so if you want to read the rest of it just ask me.
The title gives the clue to Lattimore’s thesis, a provocative one, — that Sinkiang. China’s inner Asian province, is not a pawn of international politics, but rather a new center of gravity, dangerous because of its accessibility to Russia and the kinds of power Russia wields, rather than to America. “Sinkiang is China’s India” — here Lattimore puts a finger on its basic complexities. It is a land of many frontiers, not only geographical, but linguistic, cultural, religious, political, industrial. It inherits traditions of an ancient culture — how ancient only modern archeology has revealed. Lattimore explores three ancient traditions, a civilization predating the Christian era; he traces the drive of history, as Sinkiang became part of the agricultural barrier against the barbarian fringe that extended from Britain to the Pacific; as migrations of warrior bands brought it into the Chinese; as in the 19th century it assumed the role of province rather than possession, its political, national resurgence as an outgrowth of rebellion against Chinese misrule. For 100 years and more. Sinkiang has been a symbol of British vs Russian procedure — accumulation vs incorporation. As history repeats itself, Sinking is still disproportionately important, because of its strategic position in relation to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran. Lattimore analyzes the century of Anglo-Russian rivalry in this buffer state; China’s relations with Sinkiang are reviewed, from the period of feudal bureaucracy to the opportunism of Communist control in a country with no democratic roots. Personalities emerged during these years — their contributions are discussed. He then goes on to a scholarly survey of the peoples of the province, the anomalous position of the Chinese minority, the geographic and economic developments, the social structure, the relations with adjoining and surrounding territories, the evaluation of changes wrought by world revolution. In conclusion he assesses the probabilities, that the Chinese Communists will renounce no sovereignty in land claimed as Chinese, but that –to districts ripe for change, they will attempt to apply new policies stemming out of the Soviet, and to use Sinking in the role its unique position places it…. While unlikely to reach the public of his earlier books, this makes a signal contribution to better understanding of a vital factor in Asia — and in international politics — today. Don’t overlook it.