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How did the Treaty of Nanjing affect China?

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The Treaty of Nanjing was extremely important in Chinese history. First of all, it ended the First Opium War (1839–1842) between China and Britain. In addition, it marked the beginning of a series of humiliating "unequal treaties" that were forced upon China during subsequent decades. In fact, China's "unequal" treatment at the hands of the West and Japan did not really come to an end until the Communists seized control of the country in 1949.

Opium had caused the war between Britain and China. Although the opium trade was illegal in Britain, London insisted on its right to sell the drug in China. This caused a widespread addiction in China, so the Chinese government attempted to halt the trade. Supplies of the drug were destroyed by the Chinese at Canton, and Britain retaliated by launching a full-scale war. After China's defeat, Britain continued and even expanded its sale of the drug in China. Britain's forced sale of opium to China was morally reprehensible.

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The Treaty of Nanjing signed in 1842, after China’s defeat in the Opium War, fundamentally altered the structure of Qing relations with the Western powers. Hong Kong was ceded to the British and the Canton trading system was abolished, with five Chinese cities, Canton, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Ningpo and Shanghai, opened to British merchants. Consulates were also allowed to be opened in these cities, which were known as treaty ports. In addition, the Qing government had to pay 6 million taels of silver as compensation for the opium destroyed in 1839 by Lin Ze Xu and a further 12 million taels for the military expenses incurred by the British. The crucial clause of the “most favoured nation” was also included in the 1843 supplement - any new concessions offered by the Qing to other foreign countries must also be given to the British. This prevented the Qing government from playing off one foreign power against another. The signing of the treaty saw the beginning of a series of unequal treaties which were imposed by the Western powers on China, further weakening the Qing regime.