Fact: America Has Spent 200 Years Pushing for Free Trade with China

Salvatore Babones
Reuters

Salvatore Babones

economy, Americas

Donald Trump's China trade policy has deep historical roots.

Fact: America Has Spent 200 Years Pushing for Free Trade with China

The United States has been big in China right from the beginning. Not the beginning of China, which is traditionally dated to 2070 BC. But at least from the beginning of America.

At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1783, Americans already made up the second largest group of traders (after the British themselves) at the famous thirteen factories of old Canton, today’s Guangzhou.

The first American-flagged ship arrived in China in 1784, carrying a cargo of ginseng. Thirty tons of the stuff. They couldn’t think of anything else that China might want. The Empress of China made a handsome profit when it returned to the United States in 1785 carrying tea—and the cups to drink it in.

Then, as now, China ran a huge merchandise trade surplus with just about everyone, including the United States. The United Kingdom, then China’s biggest trading partner, famously turned to drug trafficking to make up its deficit. When China seized an illegal shipment of British opium from India, the United Kingdom declared war.

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