When America First Met China
An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money
in the Age of Sail
(Liveright (div. of W. W. Norton), 384 pp., 99 illus., 2012, ISBN: 978-0-87140-433-6, $27.95)
Brilliantly illuminating one of the least understood areas of American history, bestselling author Eric Jay Dolin now traces our fraught relationship with China back to its roots: the unforgiving nineteenth-century seas that separated a brash, rising naval power from a battered ancient empire. It is a prescient fable for our time, one that surprisingly continues to shed light on our modern relationship with China. Indeed, the furious trade in furs, opium, and bêche-de-mer-a rare sea cucumber delicacy-might have catalyzed America's emerging economy, but it also sparked an ecological and human rights catastrophe of such epic proportions, the reverberations can still be felt today. Peopled with fascinating characters-from the "Financier of the Revolution" Robert Morris to the Chinese emperor Qianlong, who considered foreigners inferior beings--When America First Met China is a page-turning saga that explores a time many years ago when the desire for trade and profit first brought America to China's door.