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"When America First Met China"


On this edition of ST, we speak by phone with Eric Jay Dolin, the bestselling author and award-winning popular historian whose previous books include "Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America" and "Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America." Dolin's new book, which he discusses with us today, is "When America First Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail." On this Election Day, after so much stump-speech rhetoric concerning (among several other topics) "getting tough on China," we are taking the long view, so to speak, on this particular subject --- the historical view, that is. Contrary to the understanding of many in America today, our trading relationship with China does not date back to the Nixon administration. Indeed, as this book explores in great detail, it goes back much further than that. As John Steele Gordon, reviewing "When America First Met China" for The Wall Street Journal, has noted: "[This is an] entertaining, informative, and highly readable book.... This remarkably complex story involving trade, ecology, ship design, international politics, and cultural conflict, not to mention captains, merchants, naval architects, Chinese mandarins, and generals is remarkably well told by Mr. Dolin, who is in complete command of the material. If a major purpose of history is to help us understand the present, the history of the early China trade is essential to understanding today's China as it resumes its place among the foremost nations of the world. You couldn't find a better place to start than 'When America First Met China.'"

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