The diplomats, business men and publicists who were actively engaged in the penetration and exploitation of China during the latter part of the nineteenth century most frequently offered economic explanations for their actions. References to the commercial opportunities to be found in China appear with almost wearisome repetition in diplomatic correspondence, in treaties and conventions and in the press. Armed with a more complete knowledge of the situation, recent commentators upon European imperialism in China have been prone to discount this interest, and it is true that the China trade did receive notice that was out of proportion to its importance. However, the wisdom of hindsight may sometimes be misleading and unless we know the general opinion of the China market as it was expressed in the eighteen-eighties and eighteen-nineties the strong interest displayed both by governments and individuals in tapping that market is largely incomprehensible to us.

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