By the mid-1700s, trade between the West and China had been occurring for centuries. For most of that time period, China had been the more powerful partner in this trading relationship. But as European powers began to grow in strength, this relationship changed. By the end of the 1700s, the Western powers were becoming more aggressive in their dealings with China, as demand for valuable Chinese silks and other goods grew. Britain sent ambassadors to the country to negotiate trade deals more favorable to British merchants. The Chinese, still believing they were strong enough to resist, largely ignored these attempts. In response, the British flooded the Chinese market with opium from south Asia, which greatly disrupted life in China where many became addicted. Things came to a head late in the 1800s as China suffered internal civil war and eventually a violent anti-foreign rebellion known as the Boxer Rebellion. As European powers moved in to put down the rebellion, the power of the Chinese ruling dynasty declined. By 1912, the dynasty had collapsed and the Republic of China was formed.
The editorial cartoons in this gallery demonstrate how Europeans understood their relationship with China during this time. Review