The Opium Wars opened China to foreign trade, which was not something that the Chinese were always comfortable with. The treaties that resulted as a consequence of the war sought to change this tradition. Because of their defeat to the British, the ports of the eastern coast of China were opened and foreign trade was established. The treaties also stripped the Chinese of being able to set the tariff rates, which the European powers took advantage of. In general, the treaties stripped China of its ability to control its own economic destiny. The lower tariffs had the effect of crippling the Chinese economy and destroying industries that had flourished in the past.
The increase in trade also hurt the Chinese financial system. It caused a shortage of copper in China and coins could not be minted. The financial system nearly collapsed when the Chinese introduced paper money in 1853. The introduction of foreigners had a cultural impact as well. The country started to westernize its economy and there was talk of democratizing the government, at least at the local level.