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The Qing Opening to the Ocean

The Qing Opening to the Ocean: Chinese Maritime Policies, 1684-1757

Gang Zhao
Copyright Date: 2013
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    The Qing Opening to the Ocean
    Book Description:

    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 Oceanis essential reading.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3792-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (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 Then it was confirmed: the Kangxi emperor had promulgated a new policy opening the gates of his empire in November 1684.²

    That year, 1684, a series of decisions were made that proved momentous in the history of Chinese foreign trade. First, the maritime trade...

  5. One Chinese Private Maritime Trade and Global Integration
    (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, China’s leaders decided that the state would simply step out of the way of ambitious entrepreneurs. Both trends took place simultaneously and in the same region—maritime Asia. Western expansion never influenced Chinese policy on private trade. Indeed, as the number of Portuguese, Dutch, and Spanish traders in Asian ports increased from 1500 to near...

  6. Two Reconsidering Overseas Trade: The Chinese Intellectual Response to the Emerging Global Economy
    (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 and experts whose opinions were sought by the emperor and his trusted aides—even during a period when that trade was off-limits to private merchants. When international trade began to affect China’s internal trade, it became impossible to...

  7. Three The Northeast Asian Trade Network, the Manchu Procommerce Tradition, and the 1684 Open-Door Trade Policy
    (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 This demonstrates that the banner elite shared Kangxi’s open policy toward maritime trade. Furthermore, when we consider the history of the relationship between the banner elite and overseas trade, we find that before and after 1684 more than a few leading bannermen had engaged in overseas trade. In 1658, for...

  8. Four Enriching the State by Cherishing Private Trade: The Kangxi Emperor and the 1684 Open Trade Policy
    (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. Consider the rise, decline, and demise of armed mercantile convoys active in China’s waters from about 1520 to the 1680s. Once their profession became legitimate and they no longer needed to worry about government harassment, the private merchants abandoned...

  9. Five Separating Trade from Tribute: Kangxi Ends the Tribute Trade System
    (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. In this chapter I place Kangxi’s separation of trade from tribute into the context of the vicissitudes that the tribute trade system faced from the late fourteenth century to the late seventeenth century.

    In the present study, and especially in the chapter that follows, I use...

  10. Six The Establishment of the Qing Maritime Customs System and the Growth of Private Trade
    (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. This drove an accelerated integration of the commercially vibrant southeastern coast into the emerging global economy, enabling Chinese private trade to maintain its central role in East Asia.

    An unfortunate Eurocentric paradigm has dominated scholarship on the regulative institution of the Qing’s Manchu rulers toward...

  11. Seven Economic Interests, Security Concerns, and the Tribute System: Kangxi’s Response to Tokugawa Japan’s Licensing System
    (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. In 1978, nearly three hundred years later, his secret finally came to light: he was a low-ranking Manchu official named Morsen who had been dispatched by the Kangxi emperor to unearth the latest commercial news, in particular the nature of the trade then under way between...

  12. Eight The Kangxi Emperor Bans Trade with Southeast Asia
    (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. In announcing his decision, the emperor explained,

    During one of my tours, I visited Suzhou, and the shipbuilders there told me that every year thousands of ships were built in the coastal area for the specific purpose of trading with peoples across the seas, but only half of those ships...

  13. Nine Western Merchants, Local Interests, and Christian Penetration: A New Interpretation of the Canton System
    (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. Told that the foreign merchants had chosen Dinghai because they disliked Guangzhou (which they called Canton), he called for reopening a customs office to serve Zhejiang. The emperor said, “The British merchants may choose between the two cities—Ningbo and Guangzhou, that is—themselves.”¹ But this decision was met with opposition...

  14. Conclusion
    (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. In addition, I offer a rough outline of other important questions related to this research, such as the effect of the 1684 open-door policy on the development of the Chinese diaspora in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and the impact of the Opium War on the continuation of the 1684 open-door policy.

    Many Western...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 195-232)
  16. Glossary
    (pp. 233-234)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-262)
  18. Index
    (pp. 263-270)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-273)