CAUSES and EFFECTS of the Second Opium War

CAUSES and EFFECTS of the Second Opium War

CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF THE sECOND oPIUM wAR

Lexus Walton


Lexus Walton

HIST 110 –04

April 3, 2015

Second Opium War

The second Opium War exposed the true vulnerability of China to the rest of the world. The defiance of China and the Qing’s government in obeying the treaty led to a second Opium War and only resulted in disappointment for China. The most consequential effect of the war for China was how badly the government and military had weakened.

In conclusion of the first Opium War, China surrendered to the British in 1841 and then reluctantly signed the Treaty of Nanking the following year which officially ended the first Opium War.[1]The treaty assured the Westerners that trade would be granted and there would be no problem in access. Although the treaty was signed, nothing changed for China. The opium trade increased and the government could do very little about it considering the outcome of the first Opium War.

The treaty China signed entailed that they were to open the “treaty ports” for trade with Western countries such as the France and Britain. The ports: Canton, Shanghai, Ningbo, Amoy, and Fuzhou were where foreign merchants and consuls had permission to reside and work freely there. The British colonies that were a result of the first Opium War such as Hong Kong and Singapore, granted opium smugglers to gain British passports easily. [2]China did not follow through with what they promised in the treaty and therefore led to the Second Opium War.

The event that also led to the beginning of a Second Opium War was the Arrow incident. “On October 8, 1856, Chinese officials boarded the Arrow, a ship owned by a Chinese merchant but registered in Hong Kong as a British vessel.”[3] The crew repeatedly expressed that the vessel had been registered in Hong Kong. The Chinese then arrested the crew of the vessel and charged them all with piracy. As it turns out, the registration had expired a week earlier so it technically wasn’t a British ship.[4] This event directly sparked the war.

Once the war was fought and the end was drawing near, two more treaties were signed. They were endorsed in Tientsin and Peking from the years 1858 to 1860. In signing the treaties, this depicted as a much worse loss for China than the First Opium war. With this treaty in place, quite a few more ports were unlocked, in fact, eleven ports was the final number. Many conditions were included in these treaties.

“Western vessels were allowed access to certain inland waterways, and western missionaries and merchants were granted the right to travel about the country and to buy land.”[5] Along with those conditions, foreign goods such as tea and silk were spared from the transit tax and were permitted to be distributed throughout the entire country. Another big thing that was a result of the treaty was that opium trade was finally made legal. With all of these changes, China’s foreign policy was permanently affected by their association with the Western nations.

There were many lasting effects of the two Opium Wars, some that can still be seen today. With the change in the foreign trade and opening the ports, the Spanish silver dollar became scarce as a result of the speedy increase in trade. The currency enhanced so much and so quickly that Canton decided to prohibit the Spanish silver dollar as a form of money and therefore initiated the Mexican dollar. Along with the shortage of one form of currency in Canton, the Chinese copper quickly decreased its worth as a result of a weak government and a deficit in copper. China’s monetary organization was completely ruined and resulted in the government introducing paper money.

The world view of China being one of the most superior nations in the world quickly disappeared. Mostly because of the reason that the British basically forced them to sign the treaty with warfare. China could not handle any more of the warfare because the military and government had been proven to be so weak.

As for the goods industries such as silk and tea, they prospered. While others didn’t make as much money. Agriculture farmers switch from growing food to eat to tea and silk. As a result of this, the price of food soared. Jobs were lost for men who worked on the boats to transport goods back and forth from the city of Canton and also for workers who made textiles. This was because of the machinery that was producing the textiles. Hand-making the textiles in China was much more expensive than the machine made textiles in the western part of the world. The few fabric industries that did decide to stay in business were forced to lower the price of their goods to stay in competition. In turn, the life for the textile workers became very hard. With the prices of food going through the roof and many workers losing their jobs, poverty quickly advanced throughout China.

Another lasting effect of the wars was the cost. All of the costs for the war and the amends that were paid to the foreign countries fell on the farmers.[6]Farmers were in no place to be able to take on the high costs as a result of the war, especially with the unemployment level so high in China.

Once the wars were over, China came to the realization that they could no longer be on their own. Scholars tried their hardest to understand the culture in the west, mostly because they wanted to learn how to bring them to their knees. A few Chinese by the names of Lin Zexu, Xu Ji-yu, and Wei Yuan interpreted and transcribed materials from the western part of the world and decided to share the information they had learned with the rest of the country. These few Chinese men quickly published books on the western countries and the way of life. They learned everything they needed to know: governmental concepts, hierarchies, and the economy.[7]

Although there weren’t nearly as many causes of the war as there were consequences of it, it definitely gave China a run for their money. They seemed to think that they were the best and most superior country. The West used every opportunity they could to prove their strength whether it was in warfare or in the foreign good industries. China’s policies were permanently changed and resulted in many negative effects for the entire country.

Notes

  1. History.com Staff, “December 19, 1984: Britain agrees to return Hong Kong to China,” History.com, A & E Networks,
  2. Jean Chesneaux, Arianne Bastid, and Marie-Claire Bergere, China from the Opium Wars to the 1911 Revolution (New York: Pantheon Books, 1976)
  3. “Second Opium War,” Research Starters (Longwood University); available from Internet; accessed March 7, 2015.
  4. Chesneaux, Bastid, and Bergere, China from the Opium Wars to the 1911 Revolution
  5. Ibid.
  6. Li Chien-Nung, Ssu-yuTeng, and Jeremy Ingalls, The Political History of China 1840-1928 (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1956) 39.
  7. “Lasting Effects of the Opium Wars”, China During the Opium Wars (Mount Holyoke College); available from Internet; accessed April 6, 2015.

Bibliography

Chesneaux, Jean, Bastid Marianne, and Marie-Claire Begere.China from the Opium Wars to the 191 Revolution. New York: Pantheon Books, 1976.

History.com Staff, “December 19, 1984: Britain agrees to return Hong Kong to China,” History.com, A & E Networks, china/print.

“Lasting Effects of the Opium Wars”, China During the Opium Wars (Mount Holyoke College); available from Internet; accessed April 6, 2015.

Li Chien-Nung, Ssu-yuTeng, and Jeremy Ingalls, The Political History of China 1840-1928 (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1956) 39.

“Second Opium War,” Research Starters (Longwood University); available from Internet; accessed March 7, 2015.

[1] History.com Staff, “December 19, 1984: Britain agrees to return Hong Kong to China,” History.com, A & E Networks,

[2] Jean Chesneaux, Arianne Bastid, and Marie-Claire Bergere, China from the Opium Wars to the 1911 Revolution (New York: Pantheon Books, 1976)

[3] “Second Opium War,” Research Starters (Longwood University); available from Internet; accessed March 7, 2015.

[4]Chesneaux, Bastid, andBergere, China from the Opium Wars to the 1911 Revolution

[5]Ibid.

[6] Li Chien-Nung, Ssu-yuTeng, and Jeremy Ingalls, The Political History of China 1840-1928(Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1956) 39.

[7] “Lasting Effects of the Opium Wars”, China During the Opium Wars (Mount Holyoke College); available from Internet; accessed April 6, 2015.