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Why were imperialist nations interested in China?Objectives:Describe the motivations behind imperialism in China. How did the Chinese view foreignersduring the Qing Dynasty? Many Europeans had contact with China over thecenturies. When Marco Polo traveled to China in thethirteenth century, he found European artisans already atthe court of the Great Khan. In the sixteenth andseventeenth centuries, priests such as the Italian MatteoRicci journeyed to China, learned Chinese, and tried tomake their religion more acceptable to the Chinese. Thesecontacts were made usually by individual entrepreneursor solitary missionaries. Although some Western science,art, and architecture was welcomed by the Qing court,attempts to convert Chinese to Christianity were by andlarge unsuccessful. Direct oceanic trade between China and Europe beganduring the sixteenth century. At first it was dominated bythe Portuguese and the Spanish, who brought silver fromthe Americas to exchange for Chinese silks. Later theywere joined by the British and the Dutch. In the 1750s,the Chinese limited Western trade to the southern port ofCanton (Guangzhou). Here there were wealthy Chinesemerchants who had been given monopoly privileges bythe emperor to trade with foreigners. The Chinese courtalso favored trading at one port because it could more easily collect taxes on the goods traded if all trade was carried on in one place under the supervision of an official appointed by the emperor. Such a system would make it easier to control the activities of the foreigners as well. Thus trade was restricted to Canton (Guangzhou), and foreigners coming to China in their sail-powered ships were allowed to reside only on the island of Macao as they awaited favorable winds to return home.1. Why did the Chinese limit trade with foreigners to the Port of Canton? There were wealthy Chinese merchants who been given monopoly privileges by the emperor to trade w foreigners.1
For many years this system was acceptable to both the Chinese and the Europeans. As the demand for tea increased, however, and the Industrial Revolution led them to seek more markets for their manufactured goods, the British began to try to expand their trade opportunities in China and establish Western-style diplomatic relations with the Chinese. This brought them immediately into conflict with the Chinese government, which was willing to allow trade without diplomatic relations, but would only allow diplomatic relations within the traditional tribute system that had evolved out of centuries of Chinese cultural leadership in Asia. In exchange for trading privileges in the capital and recognition of their ruler, neighboring states would send so-called tribute missions to China. These envoys brought gifts for the emperor and performed a series of bows called the "kow-tow" (koutou). Aside from a handful of foreigners who lived permanently in Peking (Beijing) and served the emperor, foreigners only visited the capital on such tribute missions. Therefore, when British citizens came to Peking in the late