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The 1784 voyage of the Empress of China, the first American trade ship to China, marked a critical moment in the economic, cultural and diplomatic development of the United States. In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, the American economy was still reeling, and the government struggled to stake its claim within the balance of global power. It was crucially important that the U.S. develop trade as a newly independent nation-no longer a satellite of the British Empire, but a full-fledged participant in international commerce. With this in mind, a group of financiers in Philadelphia, New York and Boston launched the first shipping venture to China. Sailing East tells the story of the financiers that initiated the enterprise, the sailors that actually made the dramatic voyage, and the impact the China trade had on early America. As Hunter shows, capital from the China trade financed important early manufacturing and transportation ventures, such as cotton factories, life insurance companies and what would became the Pennsylvania Railroad. The trade had an important cultural influence as well, as Chinoiserie and Asian objects became coveted among the upper classes, and Americans developed an appetite for Chinese teas, silk, porcelain and other exotic luxury goods. Most importantly, though, trade across the Pacific marked the young nation's entry onto the global stage. As this book proves, the voyage of the Empress of China was a pivotal first step towards both the global commerce of the world today, as well as America's eventual role as an economic superpower.