The history of plant introductions in China is inextricably associated with globalization and trade. There have been two periods where China has opened to the world, punctuated by periods of isolation. Here, we compare historical rates of introduction from 1840–2011 and ask how the rate of introduction of non-native plants has changed and how intentional and non-intentional introductions compare. The highest rate of introductions occurred between 1900 and 1940, where mean annual introduction was 8.7 plant species. Plant introductions post 2002 occurred at the second highest rate, but this was still little over half the earlier period at 4.4 plant species per year. In both periods, intentional introductions contributed the greatest proportion, and intentional and non-intentional introductions shared similar temporal trajectories.