How did England get China to trade with them?

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

England’s first attempt at trading with China failed miserably when Captain Weddell met resistance from the locals. England sought to engage China through the East India Company, but due to Chinese restrictions the initial contact did not materialize. After failing to directly enter the market in China, England made a successful move to Taiwan in 1672. From Taiwan the English East India Company was able to trade directly with the Chinese.

The English traders were allowed to reach Canton, Chusan and Amoy however trade was restricted to dealing with the Hongs, a special class of Chinese merchants charged with the responsibility of trading with the English. Dealing with the Hongs was problematic because of the tax burden shifted wholesomely to the foreign merchants. This made trading in China very expensive for the English who sought alternative channels through negotiations with the Chinese Imperial Court.

The English sent a number of envoys to secure better trading terms and lift some of the restrictions. However, these overtures failed at convincing the Emperor and his advisers. The English first sent Lord George Macartney in 1793 followed by Lord Amherst in 1816. Throughout this period the East India Company held the monopoly with regards to English-Chinese trade. In 1833, China abolished the monopoly by the East India Company and opened up trade for private English traders, who mostly traded in opium. The Chinese administration recognized the detrimental effects of opium and this forced them to confiscate the drug. This offended the English administration leading up to the first opium war. This resulted in a treaty that opened up five Chinese ports to unconditional foreign trade in 1842.