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Canton, where the business of trade was primarily conducted during this period, is depicted on this fan created for the foreign market.Seven national flags fly from the Western headquarters that line the shore.This was not only a time of Western and Chinese conflict over trade, but a time of great global transformation in which China played one important role. S., Turkey, India, and Southeast Asia as well as domestic Chinese merchants.
Qing merchants and officials also traded extensively with Central Eurasian merchants from Bukhara and the Kazakh nomads for vital supplies of wool, horses, and meat.
The court knew well the value of the southern coastal trade as well, since revenues from the Canton trade went directly into the Imperial Household department.
Conventional textbooks even date the beginning of modern Chinese history from the end of the first Opium War in 1842.
Although the wars, opium trade, and treaties did reflect superior Western military force, focusing only on Western impositions on China gives us too narrow a picture of this period.
As opium flooded into China, its price dropped, local consumption increased rapidly, and the drug penetrated all levels of society.
In the new treaty ports, foreign traders collaborated with a greater variety of Chinese merchants than under the Canton system, and they ventured deeply into the Chinese interior.
The Qing court was not in principle hostile to useful trade.
In 16, the court had negotiated treaties with Russia to exchange furs from Siberia for tea, and allowed the Russians to live in a foreigners’ guest house in Beijing.
The Opium Wars are rightly named: it was not trade per se but rather unrestricted drug trade by the Western powers, particularly Britain, that precipitated them.
As the wars unfolded, however, it became clear that far more than opium was ultimately involved.