On 23rd of February, Charterhouse History students were lucky enough to listen to a lecture about the history of the unstable relations between China and Britain from a professional economic historian and a university professor Dr Yangwen Zheng. The students were not the only lucky people, but the professor’s whole trip that day extravagantly relied on luck as she nearly missed the last morning train from Manchester! Manchester! Four-hour train journey behind. A tough 360 km expedition, although not at all comparable to the 12.500 km of the walking campaign of the Long March in 1934!
Dr Yangwen Zheng explained the importance of economic structure due to her profound practical knowledge that she gradually accumulated due to her wide-ranged experience in that sphere of economics. Of course, she was amusing and entertained the students with her frequent jokes and comical expressions.
“Look at this,”-exclaims Zheng, pointing at a painting of the Chinese navy in the 19th Century- “Chinese navy is a joke, it is a complete joke”. Laughingly, she describes the construction of the Chinese fleet which, in fact, was mainly made out of wood and paper. “Chinese navy didn’t exist! They are mad!!”, continued the historian.
Who knew that the British became interested in the addition of allies on the Eastern side of the world purely because they wanted to get some quality tea? The tea drinking tradition was new to Britain in the 18th century and it was a phenomenon that swept through Europe, so more and more people demanded it. But the only point of supply of tea was based in China, so they had to negotiate with their eastern neighbours to satisfy their thirst.
But, the British quickly became disinterested in their co-operation with the Chinese straight after Britain became self-sufficient in tea in 1860s.