They could only reside in the city in a limited space, including their warehouses; they could not bring their families; and they could not stay there more a few months of the year.Qing officials closely supervised trading relations, allowing only licensed merchants from Western countries to trade through a monopoly guild of Chinese merchants called the Cohong.Tea exports from China grew from 92,000 pounds in 1700 to 2.7 million pounds in 1751.
As opium flooded into China, its price dropped, local consumption increased rapidly, and the drug penetrated all levels of society.
In the new treaty ports, foreign traders collaborated with a greater variety of Chinese merchants than under the Canton system, and they ventured deeply into the Chinese interior.
The restrictions imposed under the Canton system were abolished.
Opium, despite imperial prohibitions, now became a regular item of trade.
Concerned that the China trade was draining silver out of England, the British searched for a counterpart commodity to trade for tea and porcelain.
They found it in opium, which they planted in large quantities after they had taken Bengal, in India, in 1757.Qing merchants and officials also traded extensively with Central Eurasian merchants from Bukhara and the Kazakh nomads for vital supplies of wool, horses, and meat.The court knew well the value of the southern coastal trade as well, since revenues from the Canton trade went directly into the Imperial Household department.Western traders, for their part, mainly conducted trade through licensed monopoly companies, like Britain’s East India Company and the Dutch VOC.Despite these restrictions, both sides learned how to make profits by cooperating with each other.Conventional textbooks even date the beginning of modern Chinese history from the end of the first Opium War in 1842.Although the wars, opium trade, and treaties did reflect superior Western military force, focusing only on Western impositions on China gives us too narrow a picture of this period.Western merchants could not contact Qing officials directly, and there were no formal diplomatic relations between China and Western countries.The Qing emperor regarded trade as a form of tribute, or gifts given to him personally by envoys who expressed gratitude for his benevolent rule.The very nature of China’s hitherto aloof relationship with the world was profoundly challenged, and long decades of internal upheaval lay ahead.Tensions Under the Canton Trade System Under the system established by the Qing dynasty to regulate trade in the 18th century, Western traders were restricted to conducting trade through the southern port of Canton (Guangzhou).