Given Britain’s dependence on Chinese silk, ceramics, and tea exports, opium was the only commodity that could save Britain’s balance of payments in Asia from a ruinous deficit. Opium Wars and Foreign Encroachments In the 18th century, two things happened that made it difficult for England to balance its trade with the east. First, the British became a nation of tea drinkers, and demand for Chinese tea increased. Mid-century British merchants believed in China that a just war should be fought to defend progress.
In the nineteenth century, Britain began to smuggle large quantities of opium into China, leading to a large outflow of Chinese silver and severe economic disruption in China. First, the British discovered that there was a large market for smuggled opium in southern China, and American traders turned to opium to supplement their exports to China. Second, northern Chinese traders began shipping Chinese cotton inland and south to compete with Indian cotton, which Britain used to pay for its tea consumption habits.
The settlement of these financial problems led to the first Opium Wars between Great Britain and China between 1839 and 1842. In 1839, the Qing government sent Commissioner Lin Zexu to Guangdong to enforce a ban on the opium trade. After defeating China in a series of naval wars, the British were able to make a large number of demands of China under the Anglo-Chinese Nanjing Treaty.
In mid-1842, British control of the mouth of the Yangtze River near Shanghai enjoined the Chinese to sign the first of a series of unintended treaties that in turn controlled much of the west coast. In May 1858, allied troops and British warships reached Tianjin and Tientsin, forcing the Chinese to negotiate.
In the mid-1840s, control over China’s authority to manage its trade began to wane. By 1842, the cantonal trading system had faded, and a new era of trade began with the newly opened treaty ports. In the 1850s the United States and European powers were increasingly dissatisfied with the terms of their deals with China and the Qing governments were “wonderful to abide by them”.
China enjoyed a favorable trade balance with Europe in the 18th century and sold porcelain, silk, and tea in exchange for silver. British started commercial tea plantations in India, Sri Lanka, and Ceylon in the early 19th century to break the Chinese monopoly on tea. Britain went to war in 1839-42 and 1856-60 to ease Chinese restrictions on the opium trade (prohibition).
During a parliamentary debate in 1840, William Gladstone, a future prime minister, gave an impassioned speech against the war, declaring that the British flag had become a “pirate flag” to protect the notorious traffic.
Britain’s success in pursuing its trade advantage had far-reaching consequences. The Chinese court remained in the finding excuses not to admit foreign diplomats to Beijing, and compliance with the treaty fell far behind Western countries’ “expectations”. Western imperialism and free trade had their greatest victory in China during the war, and the war was the result of that treaty. The Opium Wars (1839-42 and 1856-60) between China and Britain Qing Dynasty are a perfect example of international divisions that empires continue to spawn. In its attempt to provide a strong intellectual rationale for the wars, the British Empire showed its age.
The Opium Wars of the mid-nineteenth century were a decisive turning point in modern Chinese history. The second Opium Wars (1856-1860) in China were fought by Great Britain and France. John Wong’s 1998 study of Britain’s second opium war, China and the Deadly Dream illustrate Lord Palmerston’s dependence on opium revenues in the mid-19th century.
The first Opium War (1839-42) was fought between China and Great Britain and the Second Opium War (1856-60) was also known as the Arrow War or Anglo-French War in China fought by Great Britain and France against China. In both cases, foreign power prevailed, gaining trade privileges and legal and territorial concessions from China.
The Wangxia Treaty (Wang Hsia) was the first formal treaty between the United States and China signed in 1844. It served as the American counterpart of the Anglo-Chinese Treaty of Nanjing, which ended the first Opium war in 1842. Opium Wars symbolized an era in which Western powers sought unimpeded access to Chinese products and markets for European and US trade.
Refer to the 1967 Opium War on the 1967 conflict between marauding elements of the Chinese Nationalist Party and the Kingdom of Laos. The first Opium war was triggered by the campaign of Qing dynasties against British traders that sold opium to the Chinese government. The Second Opium War was fought from 1856 until 1860 between the Qing dynasty and Great Britain and France. In both wars, the European armed forces had modern military technology that led to easy victories for the Qing troops and as a result were forced to award favorable tariffs, trade concessions, and reparations to the Territories of European powers.
On the other hand, a humiliation in China led to the fall of the Manchu dynasty and the social unrest that triggered the Boxer Uprising in 1900. Starting with a conflict of interest between the British desire to profit from the trade in silk, porcelain, and tea and the Confucian ideal of self-sufficiency and exclusion from corruption influence, the resulting division of China by Western powers including the surrender of Hong Kong to Britain, humiliated and defeated on land and sea by superior Western powers, traditional values and entire culture destroyed by Christian missionaries and the rampant trade in Turkish and Indian opium.