Ib Internal Assessment - the Causes of the Opium War

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A: Plan of Investigation

What are the causes of the Opium War which occurred in 1839-1842?

When the Chinese decided to ban the opium trade, wars broke out due to conflicts between China and Britain. The aim of this investigation is to analyze the causes of the first Opium War, as it will cover the circumstances of China through that period, and the condition of China with Britain during the war. The analysis will specify what triggered the Opium War and briefly on the impact behind this important historical event. The research will cover basic and essential points of the War, using various resources and documentations that are creditable, as well as historical documentations written by Chinese officials during the war. Primary background information is also found through books that I’ve chosen, including previously unpublished documents - The collection of official documents from Lin Zexu, edited in 1963; and The Foribidden Game, written by Brian Inglis.

B: Summary of Evidence:

The Qing Dynasty

The early Qing period was perhaps the most prosperous time in Chinese history . The Qing Empire reached its highpoint during the reign of Emperor Quianlong (1736-1795). However, as he grew older, Heshen, a corrupt palace guard, began to influence his decisions. Despite the excess of material wealth received during the Qing period, corruption became a growing factor in the government, as China became a fertile ground for social unrest. In the 1800s, as the powerful Manchu (Qing) dynasty corroded, the government faced many internal rebellions, and European imperialism began to reach Asian empire. The White Lotus Rebellion from 1796 to 1805 is an example of a religious movement led by the White Lotus Society, who wanted to overthrow the corrupt Qing government and restore the native Ming Empire. This rebellion turned into a guerrilla war that led to massive turmoil throughout central China. The weakened Qing Empire strained more with the increasing presence of the Europeans. The Closed Door Policy, originally meant to forbid foreign merchants to land on China soil besides from Canton, caused Chinese to fall behind with the advancement in technology around the world. The situation worsened with the increasing number of people who becomes addicted to opium, the large outflow of silver pushed the government to the edge of collapsing.

The British forces
As early as the early 17th century, Britain had always wanted to control the Chinese market. By the 1900’s, trading in goods from China was extremely lucrative for Europeans. But trade to China suffered from the fact that China professed no interest in foreign products; therefore it was difficult for the merchants to purchase goods from China without having anything that Chinese interested. The only way to expand their trade was to increase the opium traffic. In 1834 the British government despatched Load Napier to China, in order to convince the Chinese to open up other ports to foreign trade. Napier knew nothing of China and Chinese, and he succeeded only in irritating the Canton authorities. However, since the British forces was well equipped, they were more than a match for Chinese militia which were sent to intercept them , as the battles later on was a great hit to the Chinese Empire.

The Opium Trade

Starting as early as 1729 , opium trade was banned in China although it was not strictly guarded. With the growing numbers of opium smokers, the opium imports increased tenfold between 1800 and 1840 and provided the British with the means to pay for the tea and other goods imported from China . By the 1820s, the trade balance shifted in Britain’s favor, and opium became a major commercial and diplomatic issue between China and Britain. With the growing drug addiction until the mid 1830s, the opium trade had created serious economic, financial, social, and political problems in China that many officials and scholars became concerned about. Chinese historians...
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