During the Qing dynasty in China, the Qing government was not very fond of trade or any kind of contact with the outside world. If they found something they didn't approve of, they destroyed it. The isolationism may also have been for religious purposes. The Qing dynasty may not have wanted their people to be exposed to different religions. The only port they allowed for trade was the port at Guangzhou. At this time, Britain as facing a problem; they had a high need for items in China, such as tea, silk, and porcelain. But at the same time China didn't have as much need for British items. Britain was paying for all the Chinese items with silver. The problem was that more silver was leaving Britain than coming in since they had to pay for all of the Chinese imports that were coming in. But, Britain didn't get any money from China, since China didn't buy any of their goods. So Britains solution to this problem was to sell opium to the Chinese. Opium had already been used in China before the British decided to sell it in China, but only as a medicinal drug. In the 18th century, opium was used in China as a recreational drug. The British persuaded the Chinese to take opium when they didn't need it. Through this, the Chinese became more and more addicted to the drug and they bought more and more. The company that was in charge of all of this opium trade monopoly was the EEIC or the English East India Company. The opium was bought very rapidly in China, and Britain started to get more and more silver. In fact, China paid Britain 34 million silver dollars for opium in the 1830s alone! In1819, the opium prices dropped dramatically due to domestic competition in British India. But since the prices shot down the amount of opium bought by China shot up. When the English East India Company's monopoly broke apart in 1833, new merchants seized the opportunity and started to sell opium to China. All of this opium trade was being done illegally since the Yongzheng emperor said in 1729 that there should be no more opium imported to or used in China. But, because of the money that British were making off the opium, the opium ban was ignored. In 1797, Chinese farmers got opium from the British and began to illegally sell it. In 1730, about 15 tons of opium was smuggled into China, but by 1773 the number reached booming 75 tons of opium exported from Britain into China. In an effort to again try to ban the opium, the Qing empire issued a decree stating that there shall be no more smuggling of opium or any usage of opium because of the large number of addicts and the loss of silver in China. But soon afterwards, the opium had become too big of a problem to be stopped. The Qing government was based in Beijing in the north. So, thegovernment couldn't do anything to stop illegal opium imports and illegal selling of opium in the south. And by then China was already illegally importing about 900 tons of opium every year.
The British made an attempt to tell China to let Britain officially export opium into China. But the attempt failed as China refused. The British then decided that they would continue illegal opium trade with China. China created a law that said that opium dealers born in China would be sentenced to death. Another force of action the Chinese took to stop opium trade was to appoint a new strict commissioner to control opium trade at the port of Guangzhou; his name was Lin Zexu. He made it so that the British could no longer trade with the Chinese. He also held all British merchants hostage. The British Superintendent of Trade then took immediate action; he told all of the British subjects to hand over all of their opium at once. The total amount of opium handed in was more than a years supply. The opium was given to Lin Zexu to be destroyed. The British saw this destruction of opium that once belonged to Britain as destruction of their property. Trade between China and Britain resumed, but the British were not allowed to bring any drugs into China. Lin Zexu then sent a Memorial to Queen Victoria saying that the reasoning of the royal government regarding opium trade was very wrong. And, during this time, the Chinese were doing everything in their power to stop opium trade once and for all. The memorial angered the British and they wanted to legalize opium trade. The British were also angered that the Chinese had destroyed their property without paying for it. So the first Opium War began in 1839 and ended in 1842. Captain Elliot, the superintendent of the British fleet asked the governor of Britain, at the time, for as many ships as possible to fight off the Chinese. The British had two main goals during war. They had to protect their ships with opium on board and they had to destroy places in China so that the Chinese would legalize opium trade. The British won for they had muskets and cannons and a better knowledge in war. When the British attempted to negotiate, they said that they wanted the Chinese to pay for all of the opium that they had destroyed during the battle. The Chinese refused, so the British wreaked havoc on more cities in China. Finally in 1843, the Chinese, at gunpoint, meaning that they were forced to sign it, signed the Treaty of Nanjing. The treaty said that China must surrender Hong Kong and open four extra trading ports to Britain. The Chinese would also pay 21 million dollars to the British to pay for lost opium.
The Second Opium War was also called the Arrow War since it had to do with a ship known as the Arrow. The ship had docked in Canton. The ship was registered with British authorities at Hong Kong for one year. The Chinese were searching for a pirate that was said to be on the ship without first getting British permission. When Chinese officials were checking the ship they tore down the British flag that was once on the ship. At the time, the British desperately needed to legalize opium trade with China, so they used this as a reason to start another war. They along with the newly allied French attacked China. The French were helping because one of their missionaries had been killed in China. The United States and Russia did not give any military support, but they sent envoys to China to negotiate. There was also a small incident where Chinese bakes tried to poison food being sent to Europe. For these many reasons, the second Opium War then began. It lasted from 1856 to 1860. By 1858, the British had already taken over Tianjin. The Europeans together were too strong for the Chinese to handle. So the Chinese had no choice but to sign the Treaty of Tianjin which let the British, French, Russians, and the Americans have permanent diplomatic bases in China, and opened up ten more ports for foreign trade. The Chinese would have to pay for all the British property lost in war. Another treaty that was made affected the Russians; it was called the treaty of Aigun. The treaty granted Russia coastal land in northern China. The following year, the British and French came to China to ratify the treaties. The but instead of doing so, the Chinese attacked and killed many British men. The Europeans reacted to this by coming back the next year with an army and attacking the Chinese capital. They also burned the emperor's Summer Palace to the ground. Once too much had been destroyed in China, the governor of China proposed negotiations. Afterwards, the Chinese signed the treaties and ratified them, and Britain, Russia, America, and France got their bases in China. Many of the bans on foreign travel in China were lifted and missionaries got the right to own land and work in China.