|Anglo-Chinese Opium Wars|
The Anglo-Chinese Opium Wars were two conflicts in which the British and French (in the second war) fought against the Chinese in support of the sale of opium in China. The first of the wars, between Britain and China alone, lasted from 1839 to 1842, and the second from 1856 to 1860, also known as the Arrow War, or sometimes the Anglo-French War in China. Because the cause of both were disputes over opium, the two wars are known colloquially as the Opium Wars.
The sale of opium, produced in British India, to the Chinese had generated massive wealth for the British East India Company and many other British companies and individuals. It reversed the flood of British gold and silver to China to purchase Chinese products and replaced it with a trade balance in Britain’s favor.
The massive increase in opium addiction in China beginning in the late 18th century had resulted in major social and economic problems. As a result, the Chinese government appointed an imperial commissioner, Lin Zeku, in Guangzhou (Canton), who seized all the opium held in warehouses operated by British merchants, producing a crisis.
As tensions escalated, some drunken British sailors were involved in a fight with some Chinese, killing a Chinese villager. The British refused to hand the men over, exacerbating the crisis.
When fighting broke out, the British enjoyed overwhelming superiority, taking Shanghai and then moving upriver capturing Jingjiang (Chingkiang) and threatening Nanjing (Nanking). The Treaty of Nanking, dictated by Britain, was signed on August 29, 1842. It forced the Chinese to cede Hong Kong and to pay an indemnity in compensation for Britain’s military effort and the destroyed opium.
The ports of Guangzhu, Shanghai, Fuzhou, and Xiawen were opened as well. Additionally, British citizens were no longer subject to trial by Chinese courts. These concessions led to other foreign powers demanding similar treatment; these treaties were known as the Unequal Treaties.
|chinese beach defense|
In 1856, using the pretense of Chinese officials lowering the British flag on the ship Arrow, Britain went to war against China. The French joined the battle on the side of Britain, using the murder of a French missionary as a rationale.
The two powers moved swiftly against the Chinese, forcing the Treaty of Tientsin on June 26–29, 1858, which opened more ports to Western trade and residence; acknowledged the right of foreigners, including missionaries, to travel to any part of China they wanted; and provided for the British and French to establish permanent legations in Beijing. However, since the treaty also legalized the opium trade, China refused to sign, and the war started anew.
On October 18, 1860, the Chinese were forced to sign the Peking Convention, another of the Unequal Treaties. It imposed terms on the Chinese forcing them to accept the Treaty of Tientsin. It was after this that Charles Gordon had the Summer Palace burned down in a reprisal for the torturing of the British delegation under Sir Harry Smith Parkes.
The British and the French sent missions to Beijing, where they purchased palaces in the Manchu City to turn into their legations. Gordon was to move to Shanghai, where he was to raise a force to fight against the Taiping rebels in the war that followed.