From the late-Ming to the Opium Wars 中国 THE MIDDLE KINGDOM Combat at Guangzhou during the Second Opium War
Ruled from 1735 to 1796
Maintained a very strict policy on foreign trade, though he was well aware of the benefits it brought his empire.
Between the time he turned 19 and 44, the tax on that trade alone brought roughly 7.5 million taels worth of revenues.
Tael: ~1 ounce of silver
Later in his reign he could count on receiving over 850,000 taels of silver annually.
Volume of trade between China and Europe was increasing by 4% annually.
Foreign trade was no less important to the country at large.
Millions of people were involved in industries directly connected to export markets in tea, porcelain, cotton, and silk.
By the time Qianlong was an old man, 1/7 of all tea in China was being exported to England! A number of countries were involved in this brisk commerce, including France, Sweden, Holland and the US, but their shares were all overshadowed by those of Great Britain.
In England, the demand for tea had skyrocketed since the beverage was first introduced to London in the 1650s.
Within 50 years, yea had become the fashionable drink in English society, gradually replacing coffee. By the end of the 18 th century, over 23 million pounds of tea were being imported annually.
The lion’s share of this trade was in the hands of quasi-state monopolies like the East India Company (EIC).
Tea Trade and the EIC
About 90% of EIC business was tied up in the tea trade, and it had significant political implications at home, as 10% of total British crown revenues derived solely from the tax upon tea sold in the 18 th century!
Unfortunately for Britain, China controlled the world’s supply of tea. It also dominated the market for silk and porcelain – hot commodities in Europe!
The Europeans had little or nothing to offer the Chinese in exchange, which meant that a great deal of the profits form sale of Chinese imports in Britain had to be reinvested (in silver) into purchasing next year’s shipment.
British Resentment and Solution
Since at least as far back as 1760, the British had come to resent the strict terms under which they were required to trade with the Chinese and were also frustrated by what they saw as deep-seated corruption among Chinese officials trying to profit from foreign trade.
At the very least, they needed to minimize the amount of silver they were having to pour into China in order to acquire tea and other Chinese commodities.
British realized that opium could be grown easily in certain areas of India (which the British controlled). There was also an abundant supply of labor to collect the poppy plant’s sap and process it into a thick paste for smoking.
Established in 1773, the EIC monopoly of opium cultivation in Bengal would come to completely reverse the trade imbalance!
Extracted from the poppy plant.
It is generally smoked in a long pipe and to use it, the smoker would lie on his or her side.
An opium high is similar to a heroine high.
The user experiences a rush of pleasure, followed by an extended period of relaxation, freedom from anxiety, and the relief of physical pain.
Effects can last up to 12 hours.
Opium – History Channel Video
For opium to sell as it did, several factors were necessary:
Narcotic had to be available in large quantities
Had to have a developed means of consuming it
Enough people had to want to smoke it
Government attempts at prohibition had to be ineffectual
Opium sales were so high that it was now the Chinese who had to use silver to pay for their addiction.
By the 1820s, enough opium was coming into China to sustain around 1 million addicts!
Opium Imports *Each chest contained 130-160 lbs of opium
DEBATE in the Qing Court Should opium be legalized? VS Abolitionists Andrew D. Anita T. Anne D. Christopher H. Ciansin J. Devon M. Dylan C. Engi L. Eric B. Gordon R. Hannah C. Heather D. Heather S. Hilary T. Ian G. Jeremy B. John K. Legalizers Julia S. Kerry N. Kshethra N. Kuan-Chou L. Kyla C. Kyle R. Lauren L. Matt C. Michael A. Musonda Y. Natasha F. Philip P. Raechel W. Sean S. Troy M. Wei-Ting H. Yuchen W.
Lin immediately took action. He emphasized the health dangers of opium consumption, and ordered that all smokers hand over their opium and pipes within two months.
He organized a meeting of over 600 local students who he asked to devise a means of blocking the opium trade.
Mutual-responsibility units were set up among military personnel.
With the foreigners, Commissioner Lin used a combination of reason, more persuasion, and coercion. He scolded merchants for their immoral profiteering, and offered compensation for those that handed over their opium stocks.
In a carefully phrased letter, Lin even wrote to Queen Victoria, attempting to appeal to her moral sense of responsibility.
Despite his efforts, the foreign merchants refused to cooperate.
First, he suspended all trade in Guangzhou and confined all foreigners to their living quarters for 47 days, and then confiscated the stocks of imported opium held by the British merchants.
Proceeded to destroy the contents of 20,283 chests of opium, about a year’s supply for the Chinese market, dissolving the opium in water and lime and flushing it into a river.
DEBATE in Britain ! Is Britain justified in attacking China?
The British Respond
Petitioning their government, British merchants demanded that military force be applied in retribution for destruction of their property, as well as for their forced confinement.
The British had lost confidence in “diplomatic” solutions. From their perspective, the McCartney Mission, and others like it, had failed.
Commissioner Lin’s actions provided the required excuse.
Having grown impatient with China’s strict trade regulations and what they saw as corruption and arrogance among their Chinese counterparts, the English merchants successfully convinced the British Government to coerce the Qing to cooperate.
In spite of a Tory resolution against a war aimed “to protect an infamous contraband traffic,” the motion to wage war on China passed by five votes.
First Opium War (1840-1842)
A force dispatched from India reached China in June 1840.
With the Pearl River blockaded by Lin, the British continued northward, occupied Zhoushan Island, close to the mouth of the Yangzi, and then landed on the northern coast, poised to advance towards Beijing.
British forces, with superior military technology and tactics, quickly overwhelmed Qing defenses at Xiamen and Ningbo.
At the cost of a few dozen casualties among the invading force, thousands of the defenders were killed and numerous Manchu commanders committed suicide in the face of defeat.
The Qing government finally capitulated when the British threatened to attack China’s secondary capital at Nanjing.
Terms of peace were settled, and the Treaty of Nanjing was signed in August 1842.
Treaty of Nanjing (1842)
First of the “ Unequal Treaties ”
Set new terms for the conduct of trade and diplomacy between Britain and China – what the attackers were really after!
It provided for the opening to British trade of four ports in addition to Guangzhou.
Required China to pay an indemnity payment in compensation for the confiscated opium and other costs (6 million Mexican dollars).
Ceded Hong Kong to Britain.
Fixed limits on tariffs.
“ Most Favored Nation Clause ” meant that concessions later given to another foreign power would also apply to the British.
Seeing the ease with which the British had done this, the United States (1843) and France (1844) quickly negotiated similar settlements with China.
The Second Opium War (Arrow War)
Opium was not mentioned in the Treaty of Nanjing, nor was China’s anti-opium prohibition rescinded!
This led to the Second Opium War (1856-1858).
The British seized upon a flimsy excuse and began bombarding government offices in Guangzhou. The city’s governor did not yield to British demands, and suspended foreign trade in the city.
A British naval force arrived a year later, and still Qing authorities refused to reopen trade.
In response to the murder of a French missionary in Guangxi, France sent a task force of their own to support the British campaign.
The allied forces occupied strategic points on the northern coast, forcing Qing authorities to sign the Treaty of Tianjin in 1858.
Treaty of Tianjin (1858)
Provided for the opening of another 10 ports to trade, the legalization of opium, and another indemnity payment.
The agreement was not ratified, and Qing forces attempted to sabotage the deal by attacking the Anglo-French delegation.
A year later, a larger European force arrived, escorting a delegation of 39 officials. In a skirmish near the capital, the entire delegation was capture by Qing troops. They were imprisoned in Beijing as fighting continued, and later 26 of the delegates were killed when a European army entered the city.
The Anglo-French force imposed a destructive punishment, burning the emperor’s summer palaces.
The Emperor’s brother Prince Gong sued for peace and ratified the earlier agreements in 1860 (Convention of Peking).
DEBATE Did the Opium Wars cause the Qing collapse?
Significance of Opium Wars
Did not result in the collapse of the Qing Empire or its colonization (like in many other places around the world).
The Qing system was well-organized and sophisticated enough for the foreign powers to work through it without taking it over. In addition, Britain was not inclined to increase its imperial burden after taking over India in 1858.
Treaties signed laid the foundation for a century of foreign domination (known in China as the “century of humiliation”).
Seriously undermined the credibility of Qing rule, and gravely weakened its global prestige.
Indemnity payments made it difficult for the Qing government to effectively cope with new natural disasters and growing domestic insurrection.
First Opium War : To Britain (1842): 21M Mex. silver dollars
Second Opium War : To “Powers” (1860) : 18M taels
Sino-Japanese War : To Japan (1895): 230M taels
Boxer Rebellion : To “Powers” (1901): 450M taels
Approximately equal to US$6.653 billion today.
Estimated that the entire Qing government income was only about 250 million taels at the time. Without interest, this was almost two years of government revenue!
Factoring for interest over the agreed-upon 39 year repayment period, the amount was nearly 1 billion taels.