A Comparison between Russia-Qing Trade and Anglo-Chinese Trade in 1802–1860

Keywords: economic contact zone, Russia, China, UK, nineteenth century, Kyakhta trade, Guangzhou trade, tea, opium, barter, currency


During the first half of the nineteenth century, tea became an essential commodity in the Kyakhta trade, accounting for over 90 % of total imports. Russia increased tea imports to address its growing demand for tea. The country handled the increasing tea imports by simultaneously increasing the exports of fur, wool, and cotton. British trade with China in Guangzhou was for smuggled opium in exchange for tea. When the Qing dynasty attempted to eradicate opium trade, the UK waged two wars and legalised the opium trade. The UK’s illegal opium trade and military provocations had a significant impact on China’s politics, economy, and society, as well as a decisive impact on the decline of the Kyakhta trade. Opium, which was banned, became a monopoly product for the British, and Russia’s export products — except for silver — could not compete with opium. The UK’s illegal sale of opium increased China’s opium consumption. Consequently, this reduced the purchasing power of the Chinese, worsening the sales conditions of Russian export products. In the end, the opium trade led to a shortage of silver and an increase in the value of silver coins in China. Chinese merchants preferred silver or silver coins to other products when trading with Russia. As a result, the Russian government approved the exchange of silver, effectively ending barter trade throughout Kyakhta.

Author Biography

Ji-bae Park

PhD, Professor, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

107, Imun-ro, 02450, Seoul, Republic of Korea.

ORCID 0000-0003-3339-3851



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How to Cite
Park, J.- bae. (2022). A Comparison between Russia-Qing Trade and Anglo-Chinese Trade in 1802–1860. Quaestio Rossica, 10(4), 1288–1303. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2022.4.729
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