Foreign Influence on 19th Century China

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  • Topic: First Opium War, Opium Wars, Western world
  • Pages : 7 (2702 words )
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  • Published : December 8, 2011
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China’s Interaction with Western Nations in the 19th century And the effects on its economy

The 19th century had sparked a time period of bloody revolution, social and political reform, and both economic and financial problems for China. Though the cause of many of these problems could be rooted to internal conflict, foreign influence on Chinese ways proved to be disastrous. During the early 19th century the population was growing, the economy seemed stable and generally people seemed content with China’s economic progress. However these feelings of success would soon end as overpopulation would cause widespread poverty and famine. At that point in time China’s rulers had been Manchu; the Qing dynasty had been in rule but even its finest rulers had trouble maintaining social order and funding public projects. The Duogang emperor for example endured financial problems when trying to fix the Grand Canal and support the military force, known as the banners.[1] However these were the least of China’s problems compared with what was to come. Foreign powers, meaning the rise of the western world would add to a century of unrest, as European imperialism would be felt throughout the nation. China’s economic development in the 19th century was slowed by interacting with western powers as with them came disputes and problems that led to war. When dealing with western powers a negative result always occurred for China as they had inferior technology and military. This allowed the Europeans to create unfair treaties and take advantage of the Chinese; ultimately exploiting them and causing their economy and advancement as a nation to falter.

The largest and perhaps most significant set of events concerning economic conditions in China in the 1800’s were the Opium Wars. However to fully understand their economic significance the events leading up to these wars is important. By examining previous events to this war, Great Britain’s aggressiveness and ill motives can be observed in their earliest forms. Before the entrance of foreign opium in China, it had been produced domestically for over four centuries.[2] Opium had originally been used to treat different illnesses; however it had been found that one could smoke it in a pipe for recreational purposes. Before the entrance of opium Europeans had been buying silk, tea and rhubarb from China but could not sell goods back so they resorted to trading with silver.[3] However this put a large strain on European finances as they were already funding wars overseas. However these nations then found something of use that they could sell to the Chinese, this was opium. The drug had first entered China in 1729, and although it was banned for smoking purposes by Yung Cheng, it had been entering in such small amounts that no one questioned it and assumed it was for medical purposes.[4] Up until 1800 opium had been considered the same as any other commodity; it was sold freely in the trading markets; in fact it had been encouraged by means of reducing the drain on the western world’s supply of silver.[5] However more of it was being purchased and Chinese officials became worried that it was being used for recreational purposes and that its spread would have been detrimental. In 1800 Chia Ch’ing prohibited the importation of opium from foreign nations. However for twenty years following this no one tried to stop the purchasing of opium, guards and officials turned a blind eye and until 1836 no serious effort to stop opium trade was eradicated.[6] By 1838 only a few individuals sincerely desired to abolish opium trade, but one of them was Emporer Tao Kuang who directly ran the legislative and executive branches of the imperial government. When he discovered that members of the imperial clan and other high officials were involved or addicted to the drug he appointed Lin Tse-su or Lin Zexu to halt the inflow of opium into China. Lin was given a huge amount of power, and firstly ordered...
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