Date: 20 April 2018
By Prof Rana MitterUniversity of Oxford
To understand today’s headlines about China’s approach to issues such as trade, foreign policy or internet censorship, turn to its past.
The country is perhaps more aware of its own history than any other major society on earth. That
remembering is certainly partial – events like Mao’s Cultural Revolution are still very difficult to discuss within China itself. But it is striking how many echoes of the past can be found in its present.
China remembers a time when it was forced to trade against its will. Today it regards Western efforts to open its markets as a reminder of that unhappy period.
The US and China are currently in a dispute over whether China is selling into the US while closing its own markets to American goods. Yet the balance of trade hasn’t always been in China’s favour.
- Are we on the brink of a US-China trade war?
- President Xi Jinping warns against a “Cold War mentality”
- Donald Trump’s double threat to global free trade
Britain attacked China in a series of Opium Wars, starting in 1839. In the decades that followed, Britain founded an institution called the Imperial Maritime Customs Service to fix tariffs on goods imported into China.
It was part of the Chinese government, but it was a very British institution, run not by a mandarin from Beijing, but a man from Portadown. [FULL STORY]