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Opium War: Was Britain completely in the wrong? Essay

The British were wrong by taking the option of trading opium because by trading opium, they would be jeopardising the wellbeing of an entire country. But they only did it because the Chinese were refusing to trade, so therefore it is only partially Britains fault.

The “Opium War” also known as the Anglo-Chinese war began in 1839. It started as a conflict over trading between Britain and China. China was refusing to trade because they didn’t need anything. Eventually the British were able to trade opium on the black market. China did nearly everything to stop the opium being traded but nothing could stop it. This eventually caused the war. Was Britain Completely in the wrong? No. Although they were the ones that started the opium trade, China is still partially to blame. The following points will be argued for the fact that both sides contributed and neither were completely wrong:

· The introduction of trading opium by Britain

· The stupidity of the Chinese stimulating the British and judging them to be bad at war.

· And The greedy treaty made by the British

But firstly, the refusal for trade and the cruel regulations that China put upon the British traders. There was a demand for Chinese tea, silk and porcelain in the west, though there was practically nothing that the west could offer to trade with China, because of the simple reason that they didn’t want anything and were refusing to trade for things they didn’t need. The Chinese didn’t realise how hard they were making the situation. A British man, Lord William John Nappier was sent to China to try and extend British trading interests.

He was told that he could only address himself to the Hong Merchants and that he could only live in Guangzhou during trading season. When he refused to leave, Lu Kun, Governor of Guangzhou prohibited all the buying and selling to the English and then ordered all the withdrawal of all Chinese labour from them. What were the British to do? The regulations were too harsh and the British couldn’t trade no matter what they tried. In this situation, The Chinese were obviously in the wrong because they didn’t consider the needs of the British and they were to stubborn to trade because they thought they were more superior.

Secondly, Britain introduced the opium to China because they ran out of choices. Since China ignored Britain’s proposal to trade, Britain had to find some other way they could get the bits and pieces that they required. They started to illegally export opium on the black market, aware of the consequences. The result was a widespread addiction throughout China causing serious social and economic disruption in China. Britain was most definitely in the wrong with this choice because nothing can make the trading of opium justifiable. The cost is too painful. But it was China’s fault in the fist place that they didn’t want to establish trading with Britain.

Thirdly, the stupidity of the Chinese stimulating the British and judging them to be hopeless at fighting caused them the loss of the war. The Chinese were ignorant, and they thought that the British were bad compared to them. Lin Zexu says, “Besides guns, the barbarian soldiers do not know how to use fist or swords… Therefore, what is called their power can be controlled without difficulty.” Unfortunately Lin Zexu was wrong about this. The underestimation of the British made the Chinese disadvantaged because they weren’t prepared enough and much unorganised.

Their weapons were completely useless against those of the British. Chinese cities were then captured and Chinese citizen’s soldiers were forced to surrender. Therefore China’s stupidity and bad organisation skills in this case were to blame for the opium war and their loss. So China was, in this case was in the wrong.

The last factor is the greedy treaty made by the British. Once the Chinese had lost the war, they had no choice but to sign a treaty written by the British. Many unreasonable discissions were made in favour of the British including many unjust payments. China was completely demoralised and Britain was in the wrong for making them sign such an unfair treaty. They took advantage of China when they shouldn’t have.

To conclude this argument, neither China nor Britain was completely wrong or right with all their decisions. They both contributed to the war and therefore it was both their fault. China’s refusal for trade was wrong because they were being selfish and stubborn and they weren’t considering the welfare of others. Britain was wrong in introducing opium because nothing can justify the trading of opium and it shouldn’t have even been an option to trade it. Britain was also in the wrong by creating a treaty in their favour because China was in a weak position.

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