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

Narratives of Free Trade and the Commercial Cultures of Early American Chinese Relations

Edited by Kendall Johnson

Publication Year: 2011

The twelve essays in this collection focus on the first commercial encounters between an ancient China on the verge of systemic social transformations, and a fledgling United States, struggling to assert itself globally as a distinct nation after the Revolutionary War with Great Britain. In early accounts of these encounters, commercial activity enabled cross-cultural curiosity, communication and even mutual respect but also occasioned confrontation as ambitious traders in early American companies pursued lucrative opportunities, often embracing a British mode of imperialism in the name of “free trade.” The book begins in the 1780s with the arrival in Canton of the very first American ship The Empress of China and moves through the nineteenth century, with Caleb Cushing negotiating the Treaty of Wangxia (1844) in Macau after the First Opium War and, at the century’s close, Secretary of State John Hay forging the Open Door Policy (1899). Because it is not possible to consider Sino-American relations in a vacuum, the essays remain attuned to the contemporaneous involvement of competing European trading partners, especially the British, in Canton, Macao, and the general region of Pearl River Delta. All of the essays address the history of American-Chinese commerce to recover a prescient dialogue or scene of exchange that resonates in the current tensions and promises of world financial reform. The interdisciplinary essays anchor big ideas in the careful analysis of specific literary, diplomatic, and epistolary writings, and the collection as a whole develops a rich visual dimension to the historical record. The result is an engaging and qualitatively collaborative book that brings to life a fascinating story of antagonism and collaboration between two countries that followed very different paths on route to becoming economic superpowers of the early twenty first century.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU


pdf iconDownload PDF (60.0 KB)
pp. v-vi

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (45.4 KB)
pp. vii-viii

In June 2009, the American Studies Programme in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Hong Kong worked with the Department of History at Sun Yat-sen University, the Instituto Cultural do Governo da R.A.E. de Macau, and the Hong Kong-America Center to invite ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (71.6 KB)
pp. ix-xi

read more

Introduction - Revising First Impressions: American Stereotypes of China and the National Romance of Free Trade

pdf iconDownload PDF (120.1 KB)
pp. 1-15

In justifying Britain’s tactics in the Opium War (1839–42), it might seem that the Baltimore-based lawyer and historian Brantz Mayer (1809–79) had a tough case to make. His article “China and the Chinese” (1847) acknowledges that England had disregarded China’s rule of law by saturating its economy ...

read more

1 - Bookkeeping as a Window into Efficiencies of Early Modern Trade: Europeans, Americans and Others in China Compared, 1700–1842

pdf iconDownload PDF (130.5 KB)
pp. 17-31

From the Italian Renaissance in the fifteenth century, international businesses have spread across Europe and the world, and with their expansion came a need for more sophisticated methods of organizing data. Businesses with multifaceted operations that were spread over several nations and continents ...

read more

2 - A Question of Character: The Romance of Early Sino-American Commerce in The Journals of Major Samuel Shaw, the First American Consul at Canton (1847)

pdf iconDownload PDF (166.3 KB)
pp. 33-56

In the decades after the Revolutionary War, American ventures into the China Trade presented an opportunity for American authors to tell a story of their new nation, winning international respect in the networks of global trade after having thrown off the colonial shackles of Britain’s mercantilist ...

Plates 1.1-1.9

pdf iconDownload PDF (157.7 KB)

read more

3 - China of the American Imagination: Th e Infl uence of Trade on US Portrayals of China, 1820 to 1850

pdf iconDownload PDF (150.3 KB)
pp. 57-82

In the 1830s, a young girl named Caroline Howard King made numerous visits to the East India Marine Society in Salem, Massachusetts. Since Salem was a thriving center of maritime commerce, ships departed daily for destinations all over the world. When sea captains returned home bearing artifacts ...

read more

4 - Russell and Company and the Imperialism of Anglo-American Free Trade

pdf iconDownload PDF (127.8 KB)
pp. 83-98

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Asian-European maritime trade relations and the world political economy underwent fundamental transformations. Th e emerging strategy of free trade imperialism brought the age of partnership to an end, forging a new era of international trade ...

read more

5 - Chopsticks or Cutlery?

pdf iconDownload PDF (129.6 KB)
pp. 99-115

Like what is happening in the conduct of Sino-foreign trade today, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries much business and social exchange between Hong merchants at Canton and their foreign counterparts happened at dining tables. Yet unlike the contemporary entrepreneurs who ...

Plates 2.1-9.1

pdf iconDownload PDF (601.3 KB)

read more

6 - Representing Macao in 1837: The Unpublished Peripatetic Diary of Caroline Hyde Butler (Laing)

pdf iconDownload PDF (105.5 KB)
pp. 117-130

Since its Portuguese establishment around 1557, the enclave of Macao was the only western gateway into China until the foundation of Hong Kong in 1841. In the nineteenth century before the Opium War, the female relatives and children of China traders from North America and Britain resided ...

read more

7 - The Face of Diplomacy in Nineteenth-Century China: Qiying’s Portrait Gifts

pdf iconDownload PDF (126.7 KB)
pp. 131-148

So reported Qiying (耆英 1787–1858), the imperial commissioner who was responsible for negotiating the Treaty of Nanjing (1842) with England’s Henry Pottinger in Hong Kong, the Treaty of Wangxia (1844) with Caleb Cushing of the United States, and for the other trade treaties between China ...

read more

8 - To Make a Way: Telling a Story of US–China Union through the Letters of Henry Adams and John Hay

pdf iconDownload PDF (104.8 KB)
pp. 149-162

One consequence of what American intellectuals and journalists call the culture wars is a deepened interest in the racial dimension of US relations with people from China.1 Literary and cultural scholars have produced most of the important work in this field, sometimes aligning themselves with, ...

read more

9 - The Flow of the Traders’ Goddess: Tianhou in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century America

pdf iconDownload PDF (128.7 KB)
pp. 163-176

As Chinese laborers and traders migrated during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they moved with various cultural icons that helped them to cope emotionally with the challenges ahead and to maintain a sense of connection to the places and people whom they had left. Among these ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (195.5 KB)
pp. 177-210


pdf iconDownload PDF (148.9 KB)
pp. 211-229


pdf iconDownload PDF (65.5 KB)
pp. 231-234

E-ISBN-13: 9789888053902
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888083534

Page Count: 212
Illustrations: 40 b/w and colour images
Publication Year: 2011