The Qing dynasty went to war against the Dzungars in the Dzungar–Qing War. The Dzungars lived in the area stretching from the west end of the Great Wall of China to present-day eastern Kazakhstan and from present-day northern Kyrgyzstan to southern Siberia (most of which is located in present-day Xinjiang). They were the last nomadic empire to threaten China, which they did from the early 17th century through the middle of the 18th century.
After a series of inconclusive military conflicts that started in the 1680s, the Dzungars were subjugated by the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1911) in the late 1750s. Clarke argued that the Qing campaign in 1757–58 "amounted to the complete destruction of not only the Zunghar state but of the Zunghars as a people". After the Qianlong Emperor led Qing forces to victory over the Dzungars in 1755, he originally planned to split the Dzungar Khanate into four tribes headed by four Khans, the Khoit tribe was to have the Dzungar leader Amursana as its Khan. Amursana rejected the Qing arrangement and rebelled because he wanted to be leader of a united Dzungar nation. The enraged Qianlong Emperor then issued orders for the eradication of the entire Dzungar nation and name. Mongol banners and Manchus would receive Dzungar women and children as slaves. The remaining Dzungars were to be killed.
The Outer Mongol Khalkha Prince Chingünjav conspired with Amursana to revolt against the Qing in 1755. Chingünjav then started his own rebellion in Outer Mongolia against the Qing in 1756, but it was crushed by the Qing in 1757. Chingünjav and his entire family were executed by the Qing after the rebellion was put down. The Manchu Eight Banners were then ordered by the Qing Qianlong Emperor to conquer the Dzungars.
The Qianlong Emperor issued the following orders, as translated by Peter C. Perdue:
Show no mercy at all to these rebels. Only the old and weak should be saved. Our previous military campaigns were too lenient. If we act as before, our troops will withdraw, and further trouble will occur.
If a rebel is captured and his followers wish to surrender, he must personally come to the garrison, prostrate himself before the commander, and request surrender. If he only send someone to request submission, it is undoubtedly a trick. Tell Tsengünjav to massacre these crafty Zunghars. Do not believe what they say.
Qianlong issued his orders multiple times as some of his officers were reluctant to carry them out. Some were punished for sparing Dzungars and allowing them to flee, such as Agui and Hadada, while others who participated in the slaughter were rewarded like Tangkelu and Zhaohui (Jaohui).
Young Dzungar men were especially singled out by the Emperor. Loyalist Khalkhas received Dzungar Khoit women as slaves from Chebudengzhabu, and orders to deprive the starving Dzungars of food were issued. Manchu Bannermen and loyalist Mongols received Dzungars women, children, and old men as bondservants, and their Dzungar identity was wiped out. Orders were given to "completely exterminate" the Dzungar tribes, and the genocide left Dzungaria mostly depopulated.
The Emperor saw no conflict between his order of extermination and upholding the peaceful principles of Confucianism. He supported his position by portraying the Dzungars as barbarians and subhuman. The Qianlong Emperor proclaimed that "to sweep away barbarians is the way to bring stability to the interior", that the Dzungars "turned their back on civilization", and "Heaven supported the emperor," in their destruction.
The Qianlong Emperor moved the remaining Dzungar people to other places in China. He ordered the generals to kill all the men in Barkol or Suzhou, and divided their wives and children among the Qing soldiers. In his account of the war, Qing scholar Wei Yuan, wrote that about 40% of the Dzungar households were killed by smallpox, 20% fled to Russia or the Kazakh Khanate, and 30% were killed by the army, leaving no yurts in an area for several thousand li, except those of the surrendered. Clarke wrote 80%, or between 480,000 and 600,000 people, were killed between 1755 and 1758 in what "amounted to the complete destruction of not only the Dzungar state but of the Dzungars as a people." 80% of the Dzungars died in the genocide.
Qing Bannermen and Mongol cavalry made up the initial expeditionary army. As the campaigns progressed, tens of thousands of Green Standard infantrymen were also brought in. The men, women and children of the Dzungars were all slaughtered by Manchu soldiers according to Russian accounts. It was not until generations later that the population of Dzungaria began to rebound.
Historian Peter Perdue has shown that the destruction of the Dzungars was the result of an explicit policy of extermination launched by the Qianlong Emperor, Perdue attributed it to a "deliberate use of massacre" and has described it as an "ethnic genocide". Although it has been largely ignored by modern scholars, historian Mark Levene wrote that the extermination of the Dzungars was "arguably the eighteenth century genocide par excellence." According to the Encyclopedia of genocide and crimes against humanity, Volume 3, under Article II of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the Qianlong Emperor's actions against the Dzungars constitute genocide, as he massacred the vast majority of the Dzungar population and enslaved or banished the remainder, and had "Dzungar culture" extirpated and destroyed.
The Dzungars had conquered and subjugated the Uyghurs during the Dzungar conquest of Altishahr, after being invited by the Afaqi Khoja to invade. Heavy taxes were imposed upon the Uyghurs by the Dzungars, with women and refreshments provided by the Uyghurs to the tax collectors. Periodically, Uyghur women were gang raped by the tax collectors when the amount of tax was not satisfactory.
Anti-Dzungar Uyghur rebels from the Turfan and Hami oases submitted to Qing rule as vassals and requested Qing help for overthrowing Dzungar rule. Uyghur leaders like Emin Khoja 額敏和卓 were granted titles within the Qing nobility, and these Uyghurs helped supply the Qing military forces during the anti-Dzungar campaign. The Qing employed Khoja Emin in its campaign against the Dzungars and used him as an intermediary with Muslims from the Tarim Basin, to inform them that the Qing only sought to kill Oirats (Dzungars), and that they would leave the Muslims alone. To convince them to kill the Dzungars themselves and side with the Qing, since the Qing noted the Muslims' resentment of their former Dzungar rulers at the hands of Tsewang Araptan.
The Qing genocide against the Dzungar, made the Qing sponsored settlement of millions of Han Chinese, Hui, Turkestani Oasis people (Uyghurs) and Manchu Bannermen in Dzungaria possible, since the land was now depopulated. Professor Stanley W. Toops noted that today's demographic situation is similar to that of the early Qing period in Xinjiang. In northern Xinjiang, the Qing brought in Han, Hui, Uyghur, Xibe, and Kazakh colonists after they exterminated the Dzungar Oirat Mongols in the region, with one third of Xinjiang's total population consisting of Hui and Han in the northern area, while around two thirds were Uyghurs in southern Xinjiang's Tarim Basin. In Dzungaria, the Qing established new cities like Ürümqi and Yining. After the Chinese defeated Jahangir Khoja in the 1820s, 12,000 Turki (Uyghur) Taranchi families were deported by China from the Tarim Basin to Dzungaria to colonize and repopulate the area. The Dzungarian basin, which used to be inhabited by Dzungars, is currently inhabited by Kazakhs.
The Qing unified Xinjiang and changed its demographics. The depopulation of northern Xinjiang led to the Qing settling Manchu, Sibo (Xibe), Daurs, Solons, Han Chinese, Hui Muslims, and Turkic Muslim Taranchis in the north, with Han Chinese and Hui migrants making up the greatest number of settlers. Since the crushing of the Buddhist Öölöd (Dzungars) by the Qing led to promotion of Islam and the empowerment of the Muslim Begs in southern Xinjiang, and migration of Muslim Taranchis to northern Xinjiang, it was proposed by Henry Schwarz that "the Qing victory was, in a certain sense, a victory for Islam". Xinjiang, as a unified, defined geographic identity, was created and developed by the Qing. It was the Qing who led to Turkic Muslim power in the region, increasing since the Mongol power was defeated by the Qing, while Turkic Muslim culture and identity was tolerated or even promoted. The Qing gave the name Xinjiang to Dzungaria after conquering it, reshaping it from a steppe grassland into farmland cultivated by Han Chinese farmers, 1 million mu (17,000 acres) were turned from grassland to farmland from 1760-1820 by the new colonies.
While some have tried to misrepresent the Qing actions in light of the contemporary situation in Xinjiang with Han migration, and claims that the Qing settlements and state farms were an anti-Uyghur plot to replace them in their land, Professor James A. Millward pointed out that the Qing agricultural colonies in reality had nothing to do with Uyghur and their land, since the Qing banned settlement of Han in the Uyghur Tarim Basin, and in fact, directed the Han settlers instead to settle in the non-Uyghur Dzungaria and the new city of Ürümqi, so that the state farms which were settled with 155,000 Han Chinese from 1760-1830 were all in Dzungaria and Ürümqi, where there was only an insignificant amount of Uyghurs, instead of the Tarim Basin oases.
The Dzungar genocide has been compared to the Qing extermination of the Jinchuan Tibetan people in 1776.
The Qianlong Emperor commemorated the Qing conquest of the Dzungars as having added new territory in Xinjiang to "China", defining China as a multi ethnic state, and rejecting the idea that China only meant Han areas in "China proper". According to the Qing, both Han and non-Han peoples were part of "China", which included Xinjiang which the Qing conquered from the Dzungars. After the Qing conquered Dzungaria in 1759, they proclaimed that the land which formerly belonged to the Dzungars, was now absorbed into "China" (Dulimbai Gurun) in a Manchu language memorial. The Qing expounded on their ideology that they were bringing together the "outer" non-Han Chinese (like the Inner Mongols, Eastern Mongols, Oirat Mongols, and Tibetans together with the "inner" Han Chinese) into "one family" united in the Qing state, showing that the diverse subjects of the Qing were all part of one family The Qing used the phrase "Zhong Wai Yi Jia" 中外一家 or "Nei Wai Yi Jia" 內外一家 ("interior and exterior as one family"), to convey this idea of unification. Xinjiang people were not allowed to be called foreigners (yi) under the Qing. In the Manchu official Tulisen's Manchu language account of his meeting with the Torghut leader Ayuka Khan, it was written that, while the Torghuts were unlike the Russians, the "people of the Central Kingdom" (dulimba-i gurun 中國, Zhongguo) were like the Torghut Mongols, with the "people of the Central Kingdom" referring to the Manchus.
The Qianlong Emperor rejected earlier ideas that only Han could be subjects of China and only Han land could be considered as part of China, instead he redefined China as multiethnic. In 1755 he said, "There exists a view of China (zhongxia), according to which non-Han people cannot become China's subjects and their land cannot be integrated into the territory of China. This does not represent our dynasty's understanding of China, but is instead that of the earlier Han, Tang, Song, and Ming dynasties." The Manchu Qianlong Emperor rejected the views of Han officials who said Xinjiang was not part of China and that he should not conquer it, putting forth the view that China was multiethnic and did not just refer to Han. Han migration to Xinjiang was permitted by the Manchu Qianlong Emperor, who also gave Chinese names to cities to replace their Mongol names, instituting civil service exams in the area. He implemented the counties and prefectures of the Chinese style administrative system, and promoted Han migration to Xinjiang to solidify Qing control. A proposal was written in The Imperial Gazetteer of the Western Regions (Xiyu tuzhi) to use state-funded schools to promote Confucianism among Muslims in Xinjiang, by Fuheng and his team of Manchu officials and the Qianlong Emperor. Confucian names were given to towns and cities in Xinjiang by the Emperor, like "Dihua" for Ürümqi in 1760, and Changji, Fengqing, Fukang, Huifu, and Suilai for other cities in Xinjiang.
The Qing Qianlong Emperor compared his achievements with that of the Han and Tang ventures into Central Asia. Qianlong's conquest of Xinjiang was driven by his mindfulness of the examples set by the Han and Tang. Qing scholars who wrote the official Imperial Qing gazetteer for Xinjiang made frequent references to the Han and Tang era names of the region. The Qing conqueror of Xinjiang, Zhao Hui, is ranked for his achievements with the Tang dynasty General Gao Xianzhi and the Han dynasty Generals Ban Chao and Li Guangli. Both aspects pf the Han and Tang models for ruling Xinjiang were adopted by the Qing. The Qing system also superficially resembled that of nomadic powers like the Qara Khitay, but in reality the Qing system was different from that of the nomads, both in terms of territory conquered geographically and their centralized administrative system, resembling a western style (European and Russian) system of rule. The Qing portrayed their conquest of Xinjiang in official works as a continuation and restoration of the Han and Tang accomplishments in the region. The Qing justified their conquest by claiming that the Han and Tang era borders were being restored, and identifying the Han and Tang's grandeur and authority with the Qing. Manchu and Mongol Qing writers who wrote about Xinjiang did so in the Chinese language, from a culturally Chinese point of view. Han and Tang era stories about Xinjiang were recounted and ancient Chinese places names were reused and circulated. Han and Tang era records and accounts of Xinjiang were the only writings on the region available to Qing era Chinese in the 18th century and had to be replaced with updated accounts by the literati.