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Opening an Empire: U. S. Relations with China

next   America was a new nation when Captain John Green sailed from New York in his merchant ship the Empress of China. Her hull was stuffed with lead, lumber, and ginseng, and her investors were eager to fill markets and coffers left empty by a post-war depression. The Empress weighed anchor in February 1784 to the cheers of those crowding the harbor. She would be the first ship to show the young country’s flag in Canton, then one of China’s few international ports. When she returned in triumph fifteen months later, laden with exotic teas, silks, and porcelain, her success caught the nation’s attention and stoked the imaginations of those who pondered this new but ancient and mysterious trading partner.
Shang (1523-1027 BC)  
Chou (1027-221 BC)  
Ch'in (221-206 BC)  
Han (206 BC-AD 220)  
Three Kingdoms (220-581)  
Sui (581-618)  
T'ang (618-907)
Sung (907-1279)
Yüan (1279-1368) Compared to the world’s newest nation, China was indeed an old country. It was, in fact, the oldest of countries. From one ruling dynasty to the next, China could trace back a social structure whose endurance and scope eclipsed all others. Before there was Greece, there was China. The great civilizations of Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Judea, Athens, Rome, Venice, and Spain came and went, and still there was China.
Ming (1368-1644)
Ch'ing (1644-1912)  
Opening the Door (1844-1911)
The Period of Revolution (1912-1949)
Mao's Dynasty (1949-1976)
Raising the Bamboo Curtain (1972-1979) Surprisingly little was known about so old a land. And this was what the Chinese intended. To them the Emperor’s realm was “Under the Heavens” (Tienhua), and his land was known as “The Middle Kingdom” (Zhongguo). Each term sustained the belief that rather than seeking out the rest of the world, the rest of the world would come to China.
Into the Next Millennium (1979-)
Americans were so impressed with the kingdom that they did come, just as European traders had been coming to China’s ports for over a century and as Asian traders had been traveling China’s Silk Road for almost two thousand years. American sailors returned to the states with glowing reports about economic opportunities. Still, events would conspire over the next two hundred years, both within China and the United States, causing this relationship to be less than the “increasing and profitable branch of our commerce” that Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and others hoped it would become in the closing years of the 18th century.

Opening An Empire explores China’s role in the world, its cultural depths, dynastic traditions, and its reemergence onto the world stage. China had proclaimed itself to be the center of the world, yet for so long it chose to remain mysterious, even hidden, to so much of that world. At times China would be conquered by the military might of foreign powers, yet such was its cultural strength that in time the conquerors would become like the conquered. When in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it appeared China was collapsing in the face of Western might and Japanese aggression, it instead turned insular and drew upon its great reserves to rebuild itself. Afterward, when the moment was right, this ancient empire seized upon the invitation of the United States to rejoin the community of nations, emerging as a global force.