Saturday, April 23, 2011
First Opium War
First Opium War (1839–42), also known as the First Anglo-Chinese War,[nb 2] was the first of two Opium Wars fought between the Great Britain and the Qing Dynasty of China over their conflicting viewpoints on diplomatic relations, trade, and the administration of justice. Chinese officials wished to stop what they thought was an outflow of silver and to control the spread of opium, and confiscated supplies of the drug from British traders. They did not understand that the British government, though it did not deny China's right to control imports, would object to this seizure and had a newly developed military power to enforce violent redress. In 1842, the Treaty of Nanking—the first of what the Chinese later called the Unequal Treaties— though it did not mention either opium or diplomatic relations, granted an indemnity to Britain, the opening of five treaty ports, and the cession of Hong Kong Island, thereby ending the trade monopoly of the Canton System. The war is now considered in China as the beginning of modern Chinese history.
The ease with which the British forces had defeated the numerically superior Chinese armies seriously affected the Qing Dynasty's prestige. This almost certainly contributed to the Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864). The success of the First Opium War allowed the British to resume the drug trafficking within China. It also paved the way for the opening of the lucrative Chinese market and Chinese society to missionary endeavours.
Among the most notable figures in the events leading up to military action in the Opium War was the man that Daoguang Emperor assigned to suppress the opium trade; Lin Zexu, known for his superlative service under the Qing Dynasty as "Lin the Clear Sky". Although he had some initial success, with the arrest of 1,700 opium dealers and the destruction of 2.6 million pounds of opium, he was made a scapegoat for the actions leading to British retaliation, and was blamed for ultimately failing to stem the tide of opium import and use in China. Nevertheless, Lin Zexu is popularly viewed as a hero of 19th century China, and his likeness has been immortalised at various locations around the world.