CHINA'S FUTURE | The Economist.pdf - ESSAY CHINA'S FUTURE What China wants 1 2 3 4 WHAT CHINA WANTS As China becomes again the world's largest economy

CHINA'S FUTURE | The Economist.pdf - ESSAY CHINA'S FUTURE...

This preview shows page 1 - 3 out of 19 pages.

AsChinabecomes,again,theworld'slargesteconomy,itwantstherespectitenjoyedincenturiespast.ButitdoesnotknowhowtoachieveordeserveitMATTHEW BOULTON, James Watt’s partner in the development of the steam engine andone of the 18th century’s greatest industrialists, was in no doubt about the importance of Britain’s firstembassy to the court of the Chinese emperor. “I conceive”, he wrote to James Cobb, secretary of the EastIndia Company, “the present occasion to be the most favourable that ever occurred for the introductionof our manufactures into the most extensive market in the world.”In light of this great opportunity, he argued, George Macartney’s 1793 missionto Beijing should take a “very extensive selection of specimens of all thearticles we make both for ornament and use.” By displaying such a selection tothe emperor, court and people, Macartney’s embassy would learn what the183183W H A TC H I N AW A N T SE S S A YE S S A Y·C H I N A ' SC H I N A ' SF U T U R EF U T U R E12345WhatChinawants
Chinese wanted. Boulton’s Birmingham factories, along with those of hisfriends in other industries, would then set about producing those desideratain unheard-of bulk, to everybody’s benefit.That is not how things turned out. The emperor accepted Macartney’s gifts,and quite liked some of them—a model of the Royal Sovereign, a first-rateman o’ war, seemed particularly to catch his fancy—but understood the wholetransaction as one of tribute, not trade. The court saw a visit from therepresentatives of King George as something similar in kind to theopportunities the emperor’s Ministry of Rituals provided for envoys fromKorea and Vietnam to express their respect and devotion to the Ruler of AllUnder Heaven. (Dealings with the less sophisticated foreigners from innerAsia were the responsibility of the Office of Barbarian Affairs.)The emperor was thus having none of Macartney’s scandalous suggestion thatthe Son of Heaven and King George should be perceived as equals. Heprofessed himself happy that Britain’s tribute, though admittedlycommonplace, should have come from supplicants so far away. But he did notsee it as the beginning of a new trading relationship: “We have never valuedingenious articles, nor do we have the slightest need of your country’smanufactures…Curios and the boasted ingenuity of their devices I prize not.”Macartney’s request that more ports in China be opened to trade (the EastIndia Company was limited to Guangzhou, then known as Canton) and that awarehouse be set up in Beijing itself was flatly refused. China at that time didnot reject the outside world, as Japan did. It was engaged with barbarians onall fronts. It just failed to see that they had very much to offer.

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture