The first opium war occurred between the years 1839-1842. In the year 1830, China was participating in a deeply disturbing trade; the exchange of Opium between Chinese natives and other foreigners who were mostly Britons. It was done illegally and most of the traders were exempted from taxes. This meant that the Chinese economy was suffering adversely since most of its currency was lost to an underground business. It also caused a lot of corruption among custom workers as there was no law regulating this trade. In addition to this many natives in China became addicted to this drug.
This led to very stern action by the Chinese emperor in the year 1838; he executed all the natives involved in this illegal trade. The Chinese emperor decided to take the issue head on although there were some advisors who wanted him to legalize the trade. However, he said it was evil and could not even consider that option. In the year 1839, he sent a Commissioner to the Chinese harbor – Canton. He instructed the commissioner to confisticate all the opium present in foreign ships and failure to do so would lead to a death penalty.
The British Naval Officer tried to discourage his citizens from engaging in this trade as it was tainting Britain’s image. His warnings landed on deaf years and this was one of the main reasons that caused the first opium war in China. The actual war The war was propelled by the fact that Britain was trying to force the Chinese to trade with them in opium. In the year 1839, Britain began its attack in the small town of Hong Kong. This was then followed by Guangzhou. The naval officer from Britain Sir Elliot ordered a blockage of the river sailing to the latter mentioned town.
But this order was not followed by one particular ship hence causing problems for the naval officer. This brought about the sinking of plenty of Chinese ships. To counter this, the Chinese emperor prevented any assistance between the Chinese and the British. The British then decided to attack the Chinese harbor- Canton. They sent about four thousand fighters. They met at the mouth of the river and the Chinese were defeated at Ningbo in 1841. In the next year, the British occupied Shanghai after their victory and the war came to an end.
The victors were rewarded with a one sided treaty which shall be examined below. (Mitsuko, 1971): Treaty of Nanjing The treaty was signed between the two countries that had participated in the First Opium War in the year 1842. The parties involved were as follows; the emperor of China, her majesty the Queen of Britain and Ireland, a general from the British company of East India, representatives from Canton, Chapoo, Ministers and governors. It was signed in order to forge a way forward so that the trade between these two countries could be controlled.
The Treaty declared that the two countries will protect each others property and lives even when one member is residing in the other member’s country. It also spelled out some conditions for Britain’s residence in China’s towns. It reinforced the appointment of officers in five towns within China. Their purpose would be to ensure that British merchants were residing comfortably, without any unfair treatment and they were also to ensure inform the British Government about failure of the Chinese government to comply.
The treaty also required that the Chinese government should surrender one town i. e. Hong Kong in which the British Law applied. In this town, merchants could be able to restock their ships. (Mitsuko, 1971): The Emperor of China was told to pay a compensation of six million dollars for threatening to take the lives of British citizens and imprisoning them too. This was the amount equal to the money paid in exchange for British subjects captured in the year 1839. The emperor of Britain demanded compensation for imposition of special Chinese merchants on the British subjects.
These merchants did not pay them their dues This amount reached the tune of three million dollars. They were also told to let the British merchants to trade with whoever they wanted. The queen also demanded compensation for the finances wasted on the search for justice through commissioners and officers. This amount was about twelve million dollars. However, the Chinese government could deduct from this amount any compensation paid to British subjects after they won the war. Specifications were also laid out on how the4 compensation would be paid i.
e. within three years time. The emperor of the State of China agreed to release any captives who may have been held as a form of punishment for engaging in the opium trade. In addition to this, the emperor was authorized tom release any members of his own country who may have been held for participating in the Opium trade. He was to sign a binding agreement in regards to this. The treaty also directed the emperor to include the ports where British merchants will reside in their tax plans.
This tax must be announced to all people in the empire and it should not fluctuate. Lastly, the Chinese government would be free from British forces after completion of due payments and they were expected to make the designated towns free for trade. This treaty was then signed by all the due parties. Treaty of Bogue This treaty was signed in the year 1843 between the British and China. It was a modification of the first treaty signed i. e. The Treaty of Nan king. It was signed between commissioners of the two countries represented.
It declared that export duties in the chosen five towns where British merchants were authorized was to be put in place. It also included the rules that would govern how trade will be conducted in those towns. This was signed by all the parties present. The treaty gave authority to traders to deal only in those designated five towns. It stated that any other towns were not to participate and if any native or foreigner was found doing so, they would be duly punished. It allowed the Chinese Government to confisticate their ships in those other towns if they were found guilty.
The treaty gave a limit to the radius which British traders were supposed to reach with their merchandise. If they went beyond this limit, then they were liable to punishment by the full hands of the law. The treaty has also looked at the housing arrangement for residents in those five towns. It stipulated that the number of houses built should not be restricted by the Chinese Government but information should be conveyed to envoys about intentions to build. Rent charges in those five towns were also supposed to be the same charges that work over the entire country.
The treaty controlled the privileges which the Chinese government would accord to other visitors to the countries that did not belong to the British government. They were expected to give the same treatment to British subjects. It also prevents British law breakers from escaping their mother countries into these ports. If these fugitives are found then they are subject to punishment from the government of China. They cannot seek political refuge in those towns and should be handed over to the British authority in those towns.
There was also a ship that was to be given special authority to control and check on trade in those five ports. (Mitsuko, 1971) Treaty of Wanghia This treaty was signed between the United States and China in the year 1844. It was signed after the former mentioned treaty. Its purpose was to increase American involvement in Chinese trade. It was similar to the first two. The United States government made it unlawful to trade in Opium. (Kuo, 1933) It also allowed ended the law that restricted foreigners from teaching themselves the Chinese language. Thirdly, it disallowed fluctuation of tariffs within ports.
Also, the Chinese government was forbidden from punishing or judging US citizens residing in their country. It was only supposed to hand offenders to the United States representatives. It also authorized the US citizens to buy land within those five ports mention in the first two treaties. (Swisher, 1953): Treaty of Whampoa This treaty was signed between China and France in the year 1844. It was aimed at involving France in trade within China. It had similar contents to those present in the other treaties it had signed after the First Opium War. Legacy of the Opium war on China
The war caused a defeat by the Chinese government; consequently, it paved a way for high influx of many foreigners i. e. the British, followed by the Americans and eventually the France. The immediate implication was a high increase in opium within China. This led to increased tension at first because the Chinese culture was quite different from any of these foreigners; it also offended many natives because they felt like the drug was against their religious teachings. (Chang, 1964) On the positive side, China gained from this high influx by growing economically.
It also became more developed as many ideas and goods were introduced into the country. It was a big milestone in China’s road to modernization. Reference Chang, H. (1964): Commissioner Lin and the Opium War. ; Harvard University Press Kuo, C. (1933): Caleb Cushing and the Treaty of Wanghia, 1844; the Journal of Modern History Swisher (1953): China’s Management of the American Barbarians; a Study of Sino-American Relations, 1841–1861; Far Eastern Publications, Yale University. Mitsuko, I. (1971): Modern Asia and Africa, Readings in World History Vol. 9; New York: Oxford University Press,
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