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The Opium Wars

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dead Chinese soldiers at a fort bombarded by the British in the second Opium War

 

 

 

Chinese weapons were no match for those coming from the industrial power of Britain, and the Opium wars with Britain resulted in defeat. The Chinese paid a heavy price for their attempt to rid their country of the opium. The Treaty of Nanjing required the Chinese to open 5 more ports open to trade, surrender Hong Kong to Britain, and pay an indemnity. China lost its right as an independent nation to decide with whom and under what conditions they would trade.

In 1856 the British launched a second opium war, to further open up China to trade. Again the Chinese were

The Opium War - a 1997 Chinese Film made to coincide with the return of Hong Kong to China - The Chinese Perspective

defeated, and they were forced to accept foreigners in new ports. Further, they lost the ability to hold the foreigners accountable to Chinese law. This was the principle of extra-territoriality, a further humiliation. 

The opium trade continued to damage Chinese society.  British sources from 1908 indicate that the opium was grown in India under British government supervision. For the year 1907,  51,770 chests were prepared for the Chinese market. There were about 140 pounds in a chest. The British had 654,928 acres under poppy cultivation and the revenue to the British treasury, after expenses, was nearly $22,000,000. (For more on this see The Opium Monopoly, by Ellen N. La Motte)


Part of The Decline of Imperial China exhibit

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