We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Qing Opening to the Ocean

Chinese Maritime Policies, 1684-1757

Gang Zhao

Publication Year: 2013

Did China drive or resist the early wave of globalization? Some scholars insist that China contributed nothing to the rise of the global economy that began around 1500. Others have placed China at the center of global integration. Neither side, though, has paid attention to the complex story of China’s maritime policies. Drawing on sources from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and the West, this important new work systematically explores the evolution of imperial Qing maritime policy from 1684 to 1757 and sets its findings in the context of early globalization.

Gang Zhao argues that rather than constrain private maritime trade, globalization drove it forward, linking the Song and Yuan dynasties to a dynamic world system. As bold Chinese merchants began to dominate East Asian trade, officials and emperors came to see private trade as the solution to the daunting economic and social challenges of the day. The ascent of maritime business convinced the Kangzi emperor to open the coast to international trade, putting an end to the tribute trade system. Zhao’s study details China’s unique contribution to early globalization, the pattern of which differs significantly from the European experience. It offers impressive insights into the rise of the Asian trade network, the emergence of Shanghai as Asia’s commercial hub, and the spread of a regional Chinese diaspora.

To understand the place of China in the early modern world, how modernity came to China, and early globalization and the rise of the Asian trade network, The Qing Opening to the Ocean is essential reading.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (603.8 KB)
pp. 1-5


pdf iconDownload PDF (331.6 KB)
pp. v-vi

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (345.2 KB)
pp. vii-viii

This book is the result of a long intellectual journey begun in 2000. I have accumulated vast debts to many friends and colleagues while receiving financial aid from a number of institutions. Thanks to their support, this book is now ready to go forth into the world. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (508.0 KB)
pp. 1-18

In 1684, forty years after a Manchu army had seized power in Beijing, an extraordinary rumor shot along the Chinese coast, then across the ocean to Nagasaki, Batavia (Jakarta), and Manila: the three-hundred-year-old embargo on Chinese private maritime trade was being lifted. Soon the rumor caught the attention of English merchants serving the East India Company.1 ...

read more

Chapter 1. Chinese Private Maritime Trade and Global Integration

pdf iconDownload PDF (923.4 KB)
pp. 19-40

Strengthening the economic links between China and the outside world through private maritime trade would enrich the country—so hoped the framers of the new policy announced in 1684. The initiative represented a different approach to early globalization: whereas in Europe states sponsored overseas expansion, ...

read more

Chapter 2. Reconsidering Overseas Trade: The Chinese Intellectual Response to the Emerging Global Economy

pdf iconDownload PDF (554.5 KB)
pp. 41-56

Chinese scholars and officials were long aware of the impact of overseas trade. From Zhen Dexiu (1178–1235) in the Southern Song to Xu Fuyuan (1535–1604), Xu Guangqi (1562–1633), and Li Guangdi (1642–1718) in the Ming and Qing, many of those who wrote on the topic were court officials who had to face the challenges caused by maritime trade ...

read more

Chapter 3. The Northeast Asian Trade Network, the Manchu Procommerce Tradition, and the 1684 Open-Door Trade Policy

pdf iconDownload PDF (579.8 KB)
pp. 57-78

In May 1685, the Kangxi emperor invited his court officials to debate the merits of allowing bannermen to trade overseas. A number of these officials were themselves bannermen, and with Mingju as their leader and spokesman they responded with the suggestion that Manchus be allowed to engage in maritime trade.1 ...

read more

Chapter 4. Enriching the State by Cherishing Private Trade: The Kangxi Emperor and the 1684 Open Trade Policy

pdf iconDownload PDF (566.9 KB)
pp. 79-98

As historians have shifted from a traditional focus on “great men” to the minor figures of the past, global historians have accorded merchants a place of honor. Yet we still find it practical to present the lives and deeds of merchants (and others whose experiences have tended to be overlooked) in relation to the policies and decisions made by the great. ...

read more

Chapter 5. Separating Trade from Tribute: Kangxi Ends the Tribute Trade System

pdf iconDownload PDF (558.1 KB)
pp. 99-115

When the Kangxi emperor decided to open the gates of the Qing empire to the foreign world, he supplemented the three-hundred-year-old tribute trade system with an early modern customs office. All those who wished to trade with China, whether by conveying tribute to the capital or by any other means, were issued government permits. ...

read more

Chapter 6. The Establishment of the Qing Maritime Customs System and the Growth of Private Trade

pdf iconDownload PDF (920.4 KB)
pp. 116-136

At the same time that Kangxi initiated the historic reforms to the tribute trade system, he directed the drafting of new regulations ensuring that private maritime trade would expand under the careful supervision of the central government. Over the course of the century beginning in 1684, Chinese maritime customs gave more space to private trade. ...

read more

Chapter 7. Economic Interests, Security Concerns, and the Tribute System: Kangxi’s Response to Tokugawa Japan’s Licensing System

pdf iconDownload PDF (557.2 KB)
pp. 137-152

On June 4, 1701, a Manchu who could have been mistaken for a merchant sailed from Shanghai, one of many Chinese ports that had been open for trade with the outside world since 1684.1 Several days later, he suddenly appeared in Nagasaki, where not a soul could have guessed his identity or his mission. ...

read more

Chapter 8. The Kangxi Emperor Bans Trade with Southeast Asia

pdf iconDownload PDF (523.8 KB)
pp. 153-168

In October 1716, the Kangxi emperor decided to bring an immediate halt to all Chinese navigation to Southeast Asia, targeting mainly Chinese private traders operating there. He ordered imperial fleets to seize all ships found carrying forbidden cargo; merchants guilty of violating the ban could be exiled to remote Manchuria. ...

read more

Chapter 9. Western Merchants, Local Interests, and Christian Penetration: A New Interpretation of the Canton System

pdf iconDownload PDF (563.4 KB)
pp. 169-186

In 1755 a British ship docked at Dinghai, a port city near Ningbo in Zhejiang province, and its captain formally requested permission to trade with local merchants. Later, when the Qianlong emperor reviewed the reports from his officials posted in the area, he noticed nothing out of the ordinary. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (477.3 KB)
pp. 187-194

In concluding, I would like to present some answers to the questions posed in the introduction, namely, the significance of the 1684 trade policy in Chinese maritime history, the characteristics of the Chinese maritime enterprise, and the evolution of the East Asian trade network. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (977.0 KB)
pp. 195-232


pdf iconDownload PDF (636.0 KB)
pp. 233-234


pdf iconDownload PDF (955.7 KB)
pp. 235-262


pdf iconDownload PDF (400.2 KB)
pp. 263-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780824837921
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824836436

Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • China -- Commerce -- History -- 17th century.
  • China -- Commerce -- History -- 18th century.
  • China -- History -- Qing dynasty, 1644-1912.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access