Opium Wars (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: At issue: Continued and increased trade between the Western powers and China, colonial domination of China. Result: The defeat and subjugation of China; forced acceptance of the opium trade; payment of indemnities; loss of territory.
The principal reason for the Opium Wars was the British desire for economic and imperialistic expansion. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, a mass market had developed in Britain for Chinese tea. Paying for the tea presented problems because the Chinese did not want British goods in trade and preferred silver, of which the British had only limited amounts. The British solved their problem by promoting a covert trade in opium grown in India and fostering an addiction to the drug among the Chinese. Drug addiction became so widespread and the outflow of silver to pay for the drug so acute that by 1838, the alarmed Chinese authorities took action. Lin Zexu was appointed commissioner to suppress the trade and to destroy the opium stock. In retaliation, the British took military action, resulting in the First Opium War.
Despite its huge size and population, China was unprepared for war. The equipment of its army and navy was antiquated, and its military personnel for the most part were incompetent and untrained for modern warfare. China also lacked a diplomatic system. Its traditional contacts with the outside world were based on foreign powers...
(The entire section is 896 words.)
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