Foreign Trade with China

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Foreign trade with China dates all the way back to 206 BC – 220 AD during the Han Dynasty when the Silk Road was first established. Since then, the world has developed into an interconnected web of relationships that has linked empires across the globe. The foundation of these ties was formed upon the physical exchange of commodities such as porcelain and silk. These transactions have more than just satisfied the demands of eager consumers. They have led to an intricate network of contacts unifying East Asian countries with the distant nations of Europe and North America. The results of these cross-cultural interactions are vividly portrayed in an oil painting of Canton titled “View of Foreign Factories,” which hangs inside the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Designed by Chinese artist Sun Qua, the picture depicts not only the emerging assimilation of economies, but also the spread of architecture, technology, and the integration of foreign culture into Chinese life. For centuries, China conducted its foreign affairs through an imperial tributary system, believing that they were culturally superior to their neighboring states. This method of exacting obedience and submission was extended with the Canton System in 1757. Adopted as a means of preserving national security, the policy limited foreign access to Canton, a trading port on the southern coast of China. Hong merchants served as exclusive liaisons between foreigners and the Chinese. Officially

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