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In the early nineteenth century China remained almost untouched by British and European powers-- but as new technology started to change this balance, foreigners gathered like wolves around the weakening Qing Empire. Would the Chinese suffer the fate of much of the rest of the world, carved into pieces by Europeans? Or could they adapt rapidly enough to maintain their independence? This important and compelling book explains the roots of China's complex relationship with the West by illuminating a dramatic, colorful, and sometimes shocking period of the country's history.