why was china able to isolate itself from western influence
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No not really if you look at a purely trade relationship, it maintained trading endevours with the west via the Canton system. This system stipulated that foreign traders had access to only one harbor (Canton/Guangzhou), were only allowed in factories along the harbor (the dormitories they stayed in while conducting business) and after business was complete had to go back to Macao, and this was all done under the control of a specially authorized Chinese merchant who determined payment. The crates of tea the Sons of Liberty threw into the harbor came from china. If you look at it from a cultural sense then yes China was Isolated from the rest of the world.
You can look at that from a practical point of view in that yes the only practical way to reach China was the sea. And with the Canton system in place foreigners never got to see much of China anyways. But you can also cite that the Chinese believed their culture was superior to western culture. All other cultures to them were varying degrees of Barbarians some you dealt with (distainfully) and others you didn t. So the Chinese leadership and general Chinese populace believed there was nothing to learn from these barbarians.
China was the Middle Kingdom and the universe revolved around China. But with all kingdoms and dynasties they grow old and weak. Tired of the Canton system (porcelain and tea were very expensive and gold/silver were flowing out of European coffers) the British turned to the one thing they had to equal their trade imbalance Opium. Soon everybody was in the trade of Opium. Two wars with Britain, another with Japan, and the forced unequal treaties with other imperial powers left China in a bad spot. Evolve or continue to be at the mercy of the powers who now in essences are dominating China
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