The Opium Wars were a series of three wars between the Chinese and the British; primarily fought in regard to the illegal trade of opium in China during the 19th century. They manifested the conflicting natures of both nations and demonstrated China’s misconceptions of its own superiority. The Opium Wars resulted in the humiliating defeat of the Chinese to a country they considered to be “barbarians”.
There were many problems with the system of trade in China; even before opium trading began. China, believing herself to be the most civilized and advanced country, did not feel the need to satisfy Britain, a “barbarian” country’s request for freer trade and were concerned the British wanted land. Britain however, had no desire for land and only wished to trade, believing it was their right to do so. These misunderstandings and differing opinions were only the start of more to come. They set the foundations to the British and Chinese hostilities.
China’s monopolistic system of trade caused great frustration for the British. The incompatible British and Chinese views on trade resulted in the First Opium War.
All trade in China was channeled through the city of Canton and was regulated by a group of Chinese merchants known as the “cohong” who imposed irregular taxes. No direct contact between the foreigners and Chinese were allowed. Such limitations and conditions caused dissatisfaction among the foreign merchants, in particular the British, who ...
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