Opium Wars


Opium Wars

Two trading wars of the mid-19th century in China. The first (1839–42 was between China and Britain, and the second (1856–60; also called the Arrow War or Anglo-French War) was between China and a British-French alliance. Trade developed between China and Western countries from the late 16th century. The Chinese, accustomed to tributary relationships with others, required that Westerners pay for Chinese goods with silver currency. To offset a growing negative flow of silver at home, the British created a market for opium in China and began importing it there illegally. As demand for opium grew, China tried to stop the practice, and hostilities broke out. Britain quickly triumphed, and the resultant Treaty of Nanjing (Nanking;1842; the first of a series of unequal treaties between China and Western countries and, eventually, Japan) was a blow to China. The outbreak of the second war resulted in the Treaty of Tianjin (Tientsin; 1858), which required further Chinese concessions. When China refused to sign subsequent treaties, Beijing (Peking) was captured and the emperor's summer palace burned. The overall result of these conflicts was to weaken the Chinese imperial system, greatly expand Western influence in China, and pave the way for such uprisings as the Taiping and Boxer rebellions. See also Canton system; British East India Company; Lin Zexu.

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