During the seventeenth and eighteenth century, The Great Britain was trying to invade most lands in East Asia so that they could do trade commodities on their own terms and conditions, and without any barriers imposed by the local authorities. There were a significant amount of commodities found in East Asia that were demanded in Europe. First the British government established their company called ‘ East India Company’ with the desire to do trade; however, later on they attempted to invade most parts of the East Asia. Opium Wars were the proof of invasion of China by the Great Britain. The latter nation had been purchasing tea from China in large quantities because it was highly demanded by the Europeans who became addicted to tea, but could not sell commodities to the Chinese government in exchange because their goods were not demanded in China. As a result, the British government faced trade deficit, because most of their silver was draining out of the country and going in the hands of China.
The Britishers were in dire need of a solution through which they could equalize their trade, and so when they invaded India, they decided to sell opium and cotton, which were harvested on Indian lands, to the Chinese. This resulted in the trade deficit of China, which was losing silver at a rapid pace. Moreover, opium was no longer used just for medicines by the Chinese, but was used with tobacco for smoking, which increased the addiction of this poisonous substance. The Chinese government debated for a long time whether to legalize opium or not. Because it caused physical and mental instability amongst the Chinese, their government banned the import of opium. However, it did not stop the British merchants from importing opium, who resorted to smuggling afterwards. The Chinese government found about the illegal practices done by the Britishers, and so in 1838 it sent one of their most notable officials, Lin Zexu to Canton (Guangzhou) to dispose opium that was being imported, in the sea and burn all the warehouses. Lin Zexu presented two proposals to the traders of opium; the first one was to punish the addicts and dealers of opium severely. The second one was to force the foreign merchants to sign pledges of good conduct, agreeing not to export opium and be punished if they violated this Chinese law.
This aggravated the British government, who sent their forces in Canton to start Opium War with China. The Chinese lost this war and were forced to sign Treaty of Nanking. In this treaty, British government was given several rights along with the permission to import opium. Several other western countries like France, Russia and United States also took advantage of this treaty.
Although China was a self-sufficient country even in those times, the European powers cultivated more difficulties in this country, which resulted in several other wars with England and France. The Western countries played a very diplomatic role in China to acquire larger benefits; they helped Chinese government in establishing a rule that would enhance their presence on the Chinese grounds, while on the other hand, they forced Chinese to sign treaties that allow foreign nationals to enter the interiors of China, allow foreign ships to enter maximum number of Chinese ports and allowing foreigner to live more freely in the country just like the Chinese .
Because so many privileges were granted to the Westerners, European countries like Spain, Denmark, Italy, Germany, Austria, Belgium and Netherlands also took advantage of the treaties. Up till the twentieth century, almost 90 ports were opened by China to the foreigners. United States and the Great Britain took great advantage of it, because most of laws or taxes were not implied to them as per the treaties signed with China .
Opium trade was finally made legal, local goods were easily exchanged with the western goods, foreign army boats or ships freely patrolled on Chinese rivers, modernization and development was encouraged, Western technology and science was introduced and steps were taken to build stronger army and naval forces. However, all of these practices did not remove the resentment in the hearts of Chinese, who wanted sovereignty, and their social and political structures remained the same. They were aware that these technological advancements and modernization will only benefit the foreigners, strengthening their invasions.
The Western invasions increased so rapidly that they started to fight with each over several issues like Germany demanded its share of China, Russia claimed for its part, United States put forward their claims on the Pacific and Japan fighting for its own independence. As a result, another policy was introduced in China by the United States to the foreign countries called Open Door Policy. In this policy, every foreign country along with the native government was given equal rights for finance, commerce and investment .
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He, T. (n. d.). British Imperialism in China: A legacy of Commerce, Addiction, and Gunboat diplomacy. Retrieved from Guided History: http://blogs. bu. edu/guidedhistory/moderneurope/tao-he/
Opium Wars. (2003). Retrieved from Encarta: encarta. msn. com/find/concise. asp? ti= 761553669
The Opium War and Foreign Encroachment. (n. d.). Retrieved from Asia for Educators: http://afe. easia. columbia. edu/special/china_1750_opium. htm