Craig Canning: Historian says ties between US and China have long been built of trade





For the best part of two centuries, United States relations with China have been built on trade.

But as to the future, "there are no guarantees here at all," said Craig Canning, a historian at the College of William and Mary.

U.S.-China trade began in 1784, when the ship Empress of China set sail from New York, bound for Canton -- now Guangzhou -- with a cargo of fur and ginseng, prized in Asia for its healing properties.

"It turned a handsome profit," Canning said. "And right away, other Americans went out to seek their fortune."

China scholar Canning spoke last night to about 35 people with the World Affairs Council of Greater Richmond at the SunTrust Building in the downtown financial district.

With interruptions -- notably the Maoist era, when commerce between the two countries was practically nonexistent -- "trade and economic interests were what primarily drove U.S.-China relations," Canning said.

Since 1979, when the U.S. formally recognized China, the Asian giant's economy has grown astonishingly as has its trade with the U.S.

"They go hand in hand," Canning said in an interview before his talk.

The United States' commerce with China amounted to $386.7 billion last year, he said, and the U.S. is China's largest single-nation customer....


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