To leave the Opium Wars out of a discussion on foreign influences in China would be a disservice to the discussion. After years of tolerating the trade of opium from the British Empire, Qing emperor Daoguang became concerned enough to task an official named Lin Zexu to stop the trade from continuing. Perhaps performing his task overzealously, the destruction of a shipment of opium began the First Opium War. Twelve years after the unfavorable (for China) conclusion of this first war, the Second Opium War began. Whereas before China was required to open more ports to trade, and pay reparations, this loss for China opened even more trade up to other countries, and provided exemptions to duties and taxes on foreign trade. This is an important event when discussing foreign impacts on China during this time, as this figuratively and literally opened China to the world. Arguably none of the subsequent events would have happened if not for the opening created by Britain by defeating China during these wars.
After the conclusion of the Opium Wars, many powers came into China to take a piece for themselves. The efficient and disrespec...
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...ely in place today, as is a form of Kai-shek’s republic in Taiwan. That a Western styled government determined more than one hundred years of history is an incredible impact to make, and perhaps without these imported ideologies, China would still be divided amongst the land owning elite.
Today, China has a strong identity that many in other countries see immediately. Known for its rapid progress and rich history, China is a leading world power, and one that many can identify immediately. What is not readily apparent, however, is how much China was shaped in the last two centuries by Western Influence. Without the Second Opium War opening its ports, the Boxer Rebellion encouraging an influx of more Western involvement, and Nationalism, Communism, and the Republic shaping China’s current political landscape, the China that is known today could never have existed.
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