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China

Silk handkerchief made for the East India Company.
View full size imageSilk handkerchief made for the East India Company. © NMM
The most populous and one of the largest countries in the world, China was mainly agricultural until the second half of the 20th century.
 
China's first major export to Britain was tea, carried to London by ships of the East India Company from the 17th century onwards. From the 1780s, tea imports were partly paid for by exports of opium to China.
 
Silk and porcelain were other important commodities brought to London from China.