The Opium War

Qing Dynasty VS British Empire

What is Opium

Opium is a reddish-brown heavy-scented addictive drug prepared from the opium poppy, used as a narcotic and in medicine as an analgesic. The British sold this to the Chinese because the Chinese would not buy anything else of the British. Although China had already used opium, but only for medical reasons. Britain sold opium to the Chinese as a drug. Soon after that, the opium business boomed. Everyone in China wanted their hands on opium, they were willing to sell everything for it.

The Opium Wars Begin

The First Opium War

The British made an attempt to tell China to let Britain officially export opium into China. But the attempt failed as China refused. The British then decided that they would continue illegal opium trade with China. China created a law that said that opium dealers born in China would be sentenced to death. Another force of action the Chinese took to stop opium trade was to appoint a new strict commissioner to control opium trade at the port of Guangzhou; his name was Lin Zexu. He made it so that the British could no longer trade with the Chinese. He also held all British merchants hostage. Due to the lack of trade, Britain was outraged. Britain started the war in 1839 and ended in 1842. At gunpoint, China was forced to sign the Treaty of Nanjing. Which stated that China had to have four open ports that Britain could travel to. China would also have to pay 21 million dollars to the British for the lost of Opium.

The Second Opium War

The Second Opium War was also called the Arrow War since it had to do with a ship known as the Arrow. The ship had docked in Canton. The ship was registered with British authorities at Hong Kong for one year. The Chinese were searching for a pirate that was said to be on the ship without first getting British permission. When Chinese officials were checking the ship they tore down the British flag that was once on the ship. At the time, the British desperately needed to legalize opium trade with China, so they used this as a reason to start another war. They along with the newly allied French attacked China. The French were helping because one of their missionaries had been killed in China. The United States and Russia did not give any military support, but they sent envoys to China to negotiate. There was also a small incident where Chinese bakes tried to poison food being sent to Europe. For these many reasons, the second Opium War then began. It lasted from 1856 to 1860. By 1858, the British had already taken over Tianjin. The Europeans together were too strong for the Chinese to handle. So the Chinese had no choice but to sign the Treaty of Tianjin which let the British, French, Russians, and the Americans have permanent diplomatic bases in China, and opened up ten more ports for foreign trade. The Chinese would have to pay for all the British property lost in war. Another treaty that was made affected the Russians; it was called the treaty of Aigun. The treaty granted Russia coastal land in northern China. The following year, the British and French came to China to ratify the treaties. The but instead of doing so, the Chinese attacked and killed many British men. The Europeans reacted to this by coming back the next year with an army and attacking the Chinese capital. They also burned the emperor's Summer Palace to the ground. Once too much had been destroyed in China, the governor of China proposed negotiations. Afterwards, the Chinese signed the treaties and ratified them, and Britain, Russia, America, and France got their bases in China. Many of the bans on foreign travel in China were lifted and missionaries got the right to own land and work in China.