Opium War Essay

2122 words - 8 pages

Opium War From 1839 to 1842, China was engaged in a hopeless war with England. Western powers were focusing on setting up protectorates and spheres of influences during the phase of new imperialism. The Western Powers were occupying Africa and Asia, and China was no exception. India had been under the control of England's East India Company for a period of time and the East India Company was looking to trade with China. This war began because of the trade between Britain and China of Opium, a harmful narcotic that is very addictive. China wanted to put a stop to it. This war is very significant in that China was forced to open its doors to the western world that ended a very long period of isolation. The opium trade itself is the main reason that the war began and was a major hot spot of tension between the two countries. The different important sections of the war were the Opium trade, Initial Conflict, British methods, the Chinese methods and the Treaty of Nanking, which ended the war.The opium trade was started in China long ago by the Arabs and Indians. Opium was first introduced by the Arabs in the 8th century. The Poppy flower, from which Opium is made, grows naturally in India and so was also introduced to China by the Indians. The Chinese originally used medicinally as a painkiller and not recreationally as narcotic opium. When the British began to trade it, opium addiction became a widespread problem in China. Opium was a common substance, but it was the British who made it an ample substance.The British had nothing that the Chinese wanted to trade for. The Chinese were very self-sufficient economically. China is a very large country and so they were able to grow and produce almost anything that British had to offer- so they didn't need to trade with Britain. Emperor Qian-Long once stated that "we possess all things..... [we] have no use for your country's manufactures"). The British wished to trade with the Chinese, but they couldn't offer anything but silver in exchange for the porcelain, tea, and silk that they were getting from them. Eventually, the British discovered that opium could be traded and since it was so addictive, they had a guaranteed market. Now, Britain had found a product that China wanted and would trade for.The Chinese government placed trade restrictions on all foreign merchants. Emperor Chien-Lung worried that foreign influence on his subjects would excite the people and could possibly cause a revolution. When the Chinese government saw the damage that opium was causing to the people, the government began to place more and more restrictions on the trade. Eventually, the emperor forbade the import of opium into China. To help reinforce the restrictions on opium that were put on place, the government assigned officials to oversee the trade, but they were easily bribed by the traders of the illegal substance. The restrictions didn't hinder the inflow of the harmful substance into China and just encouraged more illegal...

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