The First Opium War Essay

2278 words - 10 pages

The First Opium War or the Anglo-Chinese War fought in 1839 to 1842 between Britain and China was the product of a century long imbalance between the two country’s trades and had long lasting impacts on China. Britain was a nation addicted to tea, a delicacy that could only be grown in China and the silver they spent on it began to drain the treasury. The counterattack for Britain was opium. The ill effects of the drug soon became apparent, as addiction problems worsened; officials in both China and Britain began to debate the morality of the opium trade. As one historian wrote, ‘Opium entered China on the back of a camel and it ended up breaking the back of an entire nation.’ The Emperor of China attempted to ban the use of the drug causing the First Opium War. The War took a devastating toll on China; economically, socially and politically, due to the signing of the Treaty of Nanking. While some impacts were beneficial for the war allowed China to take its first steps in its long journey to membership in the international society, others were more damaging as the war was also the trigger to many rebellions that followed, most notably the Taiping Rebellion.

The immediate economic impact on China was the Treaty of Nanking, signed by both the Chinese and British officials and consisted of thirteen articles. Article VII stated that China was to pay for all the reparations, twenty-one million silver dollars in total (six million for the opium that was confiscated by Lin Zexu (imperial commissioner of Guangdong) in 1839, three million for the debts owed to the British merchants by the merchants in Canton and a further twelve million in war reparations). The twenty-one million were to be paid in three instalments and an interest of five percent per annum (six million immediately, six million in 1843, five million in 1844, and four million in 1845). This debt led to an increase in taxes causing many famers to leave their land and becoming involved in the production of tea and silk as these industries profited with the establishment of new ports. As a result of this, food prices increased due to the decreasing numbers of agricultural production leading to higher unemployment levels since many businesses had to cease operation due to loss of consumption and further impoverishments as many families could not feed themselves.
In addition, the Treaty of Nanking also led to an increase in unemployment. Article II of the Treaty of Nanking stated that new ports would be opened for trading between Britain and China and these included: Canton, Amoy, Foo-chow, Ningbo and Shanghai. Consequently these opening new ports around China also led to an increase of unemployment rates, as the boatmen that were transporting goods from Canton to other areas of China were dismissed as their labour was not required. Textile workers also lost their job because the handmade textiles produced in China were unable to compete with the prices of machine made textiles imported...

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