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Opium Delirium Essay

2068 words - 9 pages

The Opium Wars between Great Britain and China in 1839 to 1842 and 1856 to 1860 with the French joining forces with Great Britain led to social, economic and political changes in China, specifically the Qing Dynasty. The Opium Wars documented by Lieutenant John Ouchterlony, an Indian Army Officer of Madras Engineers, in “The Chinese Wars: an account of all the operations of the British Forces” gives a first-hand look into many of the events he witnessed before, during and after the wars. The action in the book ranges from Hong Kong, Canton, Shanghai, and later in Nanking where the Chinese are compelled to sign a treaty to end the First Opium War. From an unbiased perspective, which ...view middle of the document...

Opium was very cheap to produce and to ship from nearby India. An addictive drug that was initially used by the Chinese for many years as medicine to relieve pain, Opium became a perfect way to trade with the Chinese for Britain as the Chinese soon became addicted to it. Although it was illegal to trade or use, it was still very easily accessible, which the Chinese government were well aware of. Not only were hundreds of thousands of people addicted to opium at this time, the economy was also in danger as the flow of silver from foreign merchants into China disappeared. To stop the addiction of opium, Lin Tse-hsu was appointed Commissioner of Canton to eradicate the opium trade. One of Lin’s boldest move was confiscating 20,000 chests of opium from the British traders, which didn’t sit well with the British government, sparking the First Opium War.
There is a lot to be said about the First Opium War as Ouchterlony explains through his book. From corrupt officials accepting bribes, the Chinese being addicted to opium, and the arrogance of the Chinese government eventually led to the First Opium War. As Ouchterlony explains, “the commanders of the Chinese war-junks, who occasionally made mock demonstrations against the vessels at the anchorages, managed to establish with the shipmasters a regular system of bribery, under which several dollars per chest were reserved for and paid over to them” (Ouchterlony 6). This goes on to show that although Lin did what he could to prevent the drug from reaching China, he did not have the full cooperation of other Chinese officials to help him or respect his command. The Chinese were also very arrogant. They believed they were the best civilization in the world, but once it came down to battle, the Chinese were no match against the British. Their old-style weapons and artillery didn’t stand a chance against the British gunships, which had a long range and on land, the British had the upper hand with their advanced technology. After three years of constant defeat, China was forced to sign the Treaty of Nanking, which halted the war.
There are many aspects to the war that could have been avoided. If China had not tried to control trade with the west within their own country by sequestering trade on the southern parts of Canton. One of the biggest aspects of the Treaty of Nanking was changing the monopolist control China had in Canton. After the signing of the treaty, China was forced to open “the ports of Canton, Amony, Foo-chow-foo, Ningpo and Shang-hae to British merchants. Consular officers to be appointed to reside at them, and regular and just tariffs if imports (as well as transit) duties to be established and published” (Ouchterlony, 451). Britain was allowed to trade with anyone they wanted to and all trades were subject to a fixed tariff that was agreed upon when signing the treaty. This deal was unfavorable for the Chinese causing economic ramification, which would last for decades. Although it can be...

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