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Eric Jay Dolin traces America's fraught relationship with China back to 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 continues to shed light on America's modern relationship with China. Indeed, the trade in furs, opium and beche-de-mer - a rare sea cucumber delicacy - might have catalysed America's emerging economy but it also sparked an ecological and human rights catastrophe of such proportions that the reverberations can still be felt today. Peopled with fascinating characters - from the "Financier of the Revolution" Robert Morris to the Qianlong Emperor - this is a page-turning saga of pirates and politicians, coolies and concubines.