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The Opium Wars

Dispute between Great Britain

and China
Growth of Opium Trade
Europeans bought silk, tea, porcelain, and
spices from China
Chinese would only trade goods for silver
Drain on European finances
Opium Trade
Opium manufactured in China since 15th
century for medical purposes
Opium then mixed with tobacco so it could
be smoked
Dutch were first to begin trade of opium
English soon followed
Chinese government banned smoking and
trade of opium in 1729 due to health and
social issues
English East India Company
Held monopoly on production and export
of opium in India
Peasant cultivators often coerced and paid
in advance for cultivation of poppies
Sold in Calcutta for a profit of 400%
East India Company
Buy tea on credit in Canton
Sell opium at auctions in Calcutta, India
Then it was smuggled into China through
India and Bengal
1797 began direct trade of opium into
Chinese government had hard time
controlling trade in South
Napier Affair
Lord Napier tried to circumvent the Canton
Trade laws to reinstitute East India’s
Governor of Macao closed trade with
Britain September 2, 1834
British resumed trade under old
First Opium War 1834 - 1843
1838 Chinese instituted death penalty for
native traffickers of opium
March 1839 – new commissioner to
control opium trade – Lin Zexu
Lin imposed embargo on Britain unless
they permanently ended the trade trade
First Opium War
March 27, 1839 – British Superintendent
of Trade – Charles Elliot demanded all
British subjects turn over opium to him
Opium amounting to a year’s worth of
trade was given to Commissioner Lin
Trade resumed with Britain and no drugs
were smuggled
First Opium War
Lin demanded British merchants to sign a
bond promising not to deal opium under
penalty of death
Lin disposed of the opium – dissolving it in
the ocean
Did not realize the impact of this action!
First Opium War
British merchants and government
regarded this as destruction of private
Responded by sending warships, soldiers,
and the British India Army into China June
Had superior military force – attacked
coastal cities, defeated Qing forces easily
End of the War
British took Canton and sailed up the
Yangtze River
Took Tax Barges, cut revenue of imperial
court of Beijing
1842 Qing sued for peace
Ended with Treaty of Nanjing
Treaty of Nanjing
Referred to as the Unequal Treaties –
accepted 1843
– Ceded Hong Kong to the British
– Opened ports to British – Canton, Amoy,
Fuzhou, Ningbo, Shanghai
Treaty of Nanjing
Great Britain received
– 21 million ounces of silver
– Fixed tariffs
– Extraterritoriality for British citizens on
Chinese soil
– Most favored nation status
– Allowed missionaries into interior of China
– Allowed British merchants sphere of influence
in and around British ports
Treaty of Nanjing
Unresolved Issues
– Status of opium trade with China
– Equivalent American treaty forbade opium
trade with China
– However, both Americans and British were
subject only to the legal trade of their consuls
Second Opium War 1856 - 1860
Also known as Arrow War
Followed incident when Chinese bordered
British registered, Chinese owned ship –
the Arrow
Crew was accused of piracy and
– Were arrested
Second Opium War
British claimed ship was flying British flag
and was protected under the Treaty of
War delayed by Taiping Rebellion and
Indian Mutiny
British attacked Guangzhou one year later
Aided by allies of United States, Russia,
and France
Second Opium War
Treaty of Tientsin was created in July
1858 – was not ratified by China until 2
years later
Hostilities broke out in 1859 when China
refused the establishment of British
Embassy in Beijing
Fighting erupted in Hong Kong and Beijing
– British burned the Summer and Old Summer
Palace and looted the city
Treaty of Tientsin
1860 ratified the treaty at the Convention of
– Britain, France, Russia and the United
States would have the right to station
legations in Beijing (a closed city at the
– Ten more Chinese ports would be opened
for foreign trade, including Niuzhuang,
Danshui, Hankou and Nanjing
– The right of foreign vessels including
warships to navigate freely on the Yangtze
Treaty of Tientsin
– The right of foreigners to travel in the
internal regions of China for the purpose of
travel, trade or missionary activities
– China was to pay an indemnity to Britain
and France in 2 million taels of silver
respectively, and compensation to British
merchants in 2 million taels of silver.
– The Chinese are to be banned from
referring to Westerners by the character "yi"
– Legalized the import of Opium