Analysis Of The First And Second Opium Wars.

3312 words - 13 pages

As the western world is quickly stepping into the industrial age during the 17th and 18th century, the Far East civilizations have still remained in a mostly feudal society. This unbalance of progress created an unbalance of world perspective, unbalance of trade and unbalance of military power. The result of this unbalance made India a colony of Britain, also completely changed the face of Southeast Asia and awakened Japan to become a world power. This unbalance, however, is most evident in the two Opium Wars that took place in China during the middle of 19th century and early 20th century. The Opium Wars were interestingly enough, not really about opium. The cause of the war maybe partly due to opium trade, but in the end the war became something much larger. The British-Chinese armed conflict would have occurred even if there was no opium trade at all. The Opium Wars are really about Britain's huge economical problems, British trader's financial interests and Britain wanting exclusive rights in China. Also it is a clash of two civilizations that are in two different eras. The Qing government and Chinese people in general were not aware of any internationally accepted standards and behaviors. Their negligence of the international scene and the total lack of communication with foreign governments led to the inevitable misunderstanding and clash with western powers. The ramifications and influences of the Opium Wars on the Chinese civilizations are still evident even today, in the form of the Chinese people's general distrust of the West, extreme nationalism and the obsession of preserving absolute unity of the country.The first Opium War occurred in the year 1840.(Beeching, 37) The Qing government was made aware of the dangers of opium smoking among the Chinese people and banned opium in 1821.(Beeching, 38) But the Qing government did not give a reasonable grace period and also did not put up a reasonable effort to try to enforce the law. The result is that opium traders was first caught off guard and then discovered they did not really have to obey the law since it was not enforced vigorously. The ineffective enforcement of the law gave the British traders a false hope of possible legalization of opium in China. So the British traders went on to continue selling opium in China. In the year 1929, the ban on opium was more vigorously enforced but still not very effective.(Beeching, 44) Opium became more wide spread as the enforcement of law proved to be ineffective. It was not until fifteen years later, in 1936, the Qing court sent imperial commissioner Lin Zexu to strictly enforce the Opium law and so he did.(Chesneaux, 112) Lin Zexu quickly ordered the surrender of all Opium from the British traders. Also Lin Zexu held the British community as hostage for six weeks to ensure the prompt burning and destruction of opium.(Chesneaux, 117) These actions were deemed necessary by Lin Zexu to deter any further opium trading activities.The British...

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