China Foreign Trade Brief History
Issuing time:2018-03-27 00:00

China Foreign Trade Brief History

我国当前对外贸易的现状配图.png


正文China?has?been?engaging?in?foreign?trade?since?ancient?times.?Overland?trade?in? luxury?goods?such?as?silk,?slaves,?and?spices?took?place?with?the?Mediterranean?along?the? famed?Silk?Road?since?around?1,000?BC.??In?the?4th?and?5th?century?CE?Chinese?junks? appeared?in?Siam?(Thailand),?Ceylon,?and?India,?and?by?the?8th?century?Canton?(Guangzhou)? had?established?itself?as?the?center?of?sea‐going?trade?with?the?Arab?merchants?from?the? Persian?Gulf.?The?majority?of?China’s?early?trade?by?the?11th?century?was?with?relatively? proximate?countries,?mostly?in?Asia.?Trade?routes?with?Japan?and?Korea,?as?well?as?the? Philippine?Islands?were?established?by?the?12th?century,?and?by?the?early?1400s?a?Ming? dynasty?(1344‐1644)?admiral?commandeered?expeditions?from?China?going?west?to?as?far? as?West?Africa.??Much?of?China’s?substantial?trade?with?Asian?countries?was?initiated?by? China,?and?conducted?well?into?the?19th?century?with?seagoing?Chinese?junks.? ?


When?trade?costs?along?the?Silk?Road?increased?due?to?the?disintegration?of?the? Mongol?empire?as?well?as?the?Ottoman?conquest?of?Constantinople?(year?1453)?and? Alexandria?(1517),?this?provided?one?more?reason?for?European?countries?to?explore?the? sea?route?to?the?East:?to?trade?in?silk,?pepper,?ginger,?and?other?goods.?In?the?year?1517,?the portuguese?were?the?first?to?reach?China,?and?in?1557?they?were?allowed?to?settle?in?Macao.?? Other?European?countries?with?trade?interests?soon?followed—the?Spanish?reached?China? in?1575,?the?Dutch?in?1604,?and?the?British?in?1637.?The?latter?two?nations?established?a? lasting?interest,?with?the?Dutch?gaining?a?hold?on?Taiwan?and?British?traders?operating?out? of?Zhousan??(in?Zhejiang),?Xiamen?(in?Fujian),?and?Guangzhou?(in?Guangdong).?? ?


The?extent?of?international?trade?was?not?only?affected?by?the?state?of?technology? (ships,?navigation,?etc.),?but?also?by?the?policies?towards?trade?from?the?respective? governments.??The?East?India?Company,?for?example,?held?a?monopoly?for?British?trade?with?China?since?the?year?1600.??Arguably?this?restricted?British?trade?with?China.??For?its?part,? while?China’s?policy?towards?foreign?trade?seesawed?back?and?forth?between?being?more?or? less?open?over?the?centuries,?on?average?it?was?fairly?restrictive,?often?allowing?only?limited? exchange?between?specific?domestic?and?foreign?traders?in?specific?areas.??Foreign?trade?– when?legal—occurred?generally?under?a?tributary?system,?under?which?foreigners?received? the?right?to?trade?in?China?for?limited?periods?of?time.?



China’s?official?policy?to?limit?trade?with?the?West?has?been?at?times?expressed?very? clearly.??Yet?foreign?trade?in?China?was?confined?to?a?single?port?as?of?the?end?of?the?18th century?not?because?the?government?was?blind?to?potential?gains?of?trade,?but?because?it? seemed?the?most?expedient?way?to?manage?trade.??The?court?considered?the?potential? benefits?of?foreign?trade?to?be?small?relative?to?the?difficulties?of?managing?the?discord? between?foreigners?and?native?populations?in?China.??The?overriding?concern?was?that?the? foreign?traders,?who?were?not?always?engaged?in?peaceful?trading?activities,?would?threaten? domestic?stability?by?inciting?unrest,?disorder,?and?promoting?piracy.??Considering?the?fates? of?many?under‐defended?populations?and?territories?during?of?this?period?of?European? empire?building?overseas,?this?was?not?a?completely?irrational?decision.??Trade?restrictions? in?China?were?thus?employed?to?achieve?domestic?policy?goals.???


Was?there?evidence?for?strong?demand?for?foreign?goods?in?China????James?Matheson,? a?partner?in?Jardine?Matheson?&?Co.,?one?of?the?top?trading?firms?in?Asia,?remarked?in?1819? after?a?public?auction?sale?of?Lancashire?cotton?piece?goods?that?although?it?was?well? attended?by?numerous?dealers,?the?shirtings?were?impossible?to?sell?because?they?appeared? to?be?inferior?imitations?of?a?local?substitute.??As?late?as?the?1830s,?Matheson?traders? reported?that?the?Chinese?native?nankeen?cotton?cloth?was?superior?in?quality?and?cost? compared?to?Manchester?cotton?goods.


Absent?a?suitable?commodity?for?export?to?China,?silver?(which?was?had?to?be?mined? in?the?Americas)?was?used?to?purchase?Chinese?silk,?porcelain,?and?tea.??In?an?increasingly? mercantilist?Europe,?this?gave?cause?for?concern,?and?the?Chinese?demand?for?opium?as?a? recreational?drug?slowed?this?drain?of?specie.??Opium?was?mostly?exported?from?British? India?and?smuggled?into?China?since?the?Chinese?government?outlawed?the?import?of? opium.??Although?enforcement?was?weak?and?smuggling?was?rampant,?the?ban?on?the? opium?trade?also?epitomized?the?sentiment?of?Western?traders?that?China?restricted?the? entry?of?foreign?goods.???When?in?1839,?a?newly?appointed?Chinese?commissioner?acted? relatively?forcefully?in?destroying?an?illegal?opium?shipment?into?China,?Britain?resorted?to? military?action,?beginning?the?First?Opium?War?(1840‐42).??The?course?of?defeat?was?swift.?? British?military?forces?took?Canton,?moved?up?the?coast?and?along?the?Yangtze?River,? captured?Shanghai,?and?eventually?reached?the?Grand?Canal,?on?which?provisions?were?sent? to?the?capital,?and?thus?in?effect?threatening?Beijing?itself.? The?Treaty?of?Nanjing?(1842),?which?China?was?forced?to?sign,?stipulated?that?an? indemnity?had?to?be?paid?as?compensation;?in?addition,?Hong?Kong?was?ceded?to?Britain.??


Moreover,?foreign?nationals?had?the?right?to?residence?and?to?own?property?in?treaty?ports,? and?while?living?in?China?they?also?were?subject?to?jurisdiction?according?to?their?own? nationality?and?not?to?Chinese?laws.??In?foreign?trade,?the?treaty?abolished?the?traditional? tributary?system,?liberalized?the?highly?regulated?Co‐Hong?trading?system?at?Guangzhou,? and?opened?additional?ports?(initially?only?four)?to?foreign?trade.??Trade?duties?were?limited? to?5%?or?less?on?all?goods.??Opium?was?not?mentioned?in?the?treaty,?implying?that?its?trade? was?now?legal?in?China.??Soon?after,?the?United?States?and?France?concluded?similar?treaties? with?China,?the?Treaty?of?Wanghia?and?Treaty?of?Whampoa,?respectively.? The?Treaty?of?Nanjing?ushered?in?the?era?of?the?Treaty?Port?System,?which?lasted? from?1842?until?1948.??


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