At the same time British imperial finances came under further pressure from the expense of administering the burgeoning colonies of Hong Kong and Singapore in addition to India. Only the latter's opium could balance the deficit. The Arrow was a merchant lorcha with an expired British registration that the Qing authorities seized for alleged salt smuggling. British authorities complained to the Governor-general of Liangguang , Ye Mingchen , that the seizure breached Article IX of the Treaty of the Bogue with regard to extraterritoriality.
The Mechanics of Opium Wars
A number of clashes followed until the war ended with the signature of the Treaty of Tientsin in The treaties with the British soon led to similar arrangements with the United States and France. These later became known as the Unequal Treaties , while the Opium Wars, according to Chinese historians, represented the start of China's " Century of humiliation ". We English, by the policy we have pursued, are morally responsible for every acre of land in China which is withdrawn from the cultivation of grain and devoted to that of the poppy; so that the fact of the growth of the drug in China ought only to increase our sense of responsibility.
Once the turmoil caused by the mid-century Taiping Rebellion died down, the economy came to depend on opium to play several roles. Merchants found the substance useful as a substitute for cash, as it was readily accepted in the interior provinces such as Sichuan and Yunnan while the drug weighed less than the equivalent amount of copper. Since poppies could be grown in almost any soil or weather, cultivation quickly spread.
Local officials could then meet their tax quotas by relying on poppy growers even in areas where other crops had not recovered.
History of opium in China - Wikipedia
Although the government continued to require suppression, local officials often merely went through the motions both because of bribery and because they wanted to avoid antagonizing local farmers who depended on this lucrative crop. One official complained that when people heard a government inspector was coming, they would merely pull up a few poppy stalks to spread by the side of the road to give the appearance of complying. A provincial governor observed that opium, once regarded as a poison, was now treated in the same way as tea or rice. By the s, even governors who had initially suppressed opium smoking and poppy production now depended on opium taxes.
The historian Jonathan Spence notes that the harm opium caused has long been clear, but that in a stagnating economy, opium supplied fluid capital and created new sources of taxes. Smugglers, poor farmers, coolies, retail merchants and officials all depended on opium for their livelihood. In the last decade of the dynasty, however, a focused moral outrage overcame these vested interests. When the Qing government launched new opium suppression campaigns after , the opposition no longer came from the British, whose sales had suffered greatly from domestic competition in any case, but from Chinese farmers who would be wiped out by the loss of their most profitable crop-derivative.
Further opposition to the government moves came from wholesalers and retailers as well as from the millions of opium users, many of whom came from influential families. Nevertheless, despite the imposition of new blanket import duties under the Mackay Treaty , Indian opium remained exempt and taxable at taels per chest with the treaty stating "there was no intention of interfering with China's right to tax native opium".
The International Opium Commission observed that opium smoking was a fashionable, even refined pastime, especially among the young, yet many in society condemned the habit. In Great Britain signed a treaty agreeing to gradually eliminate opium exports to China over the next decade while China agreed to eliminate domestic production over that period. Estimates of domestic production fell from 35, metric tons 34, long tons in to 4, metric tons 3, long tons in By the same year, the combination of foreign and domestic efforts proved largely successful, but the fall of the Qing government in effectively meant the end of the campaign.
Local and provincial governments quickly turned back to opium as a source of revenue, and foreign governments no longer felt obliged to continue their efforts to eliminate the trade.
It was hoped that Ma Fuxiang would have improved the situation, since Chinese Muslims were well known for opposition to smoking opium. General Ma had been using the bank, a branch of the Government of China's exchequer, to arrange for silver currency to be transported to Baotou to use it to sponsor the trade. Since , to solve financial crisis, CCP government in Shaan-Gan-Ning had begun opium plantation and dealing, selling them to Japanese-occupied and Kuomintang provinces.
The KMT government tried to send in an opium-prohibition inspection team but was turned down by the communists. During Kuomintang rule over the Republic of China opium trafficking was used for funds by Chiang Kai-shek. The Mao Zedong government is generally credited with eradicating both consumption and production of opium during the s using unrestrained repression and social reform. Remaining opium production shifted south of the Chinese border into the Golden Triangle region.
In , China was estimated to have four million regular drug users and one million registered drug addicts. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Main article: First Opium War. See also: Destruction of opium at Humen and Treaty of Nanking. Main article: Taiping Rebellion. Main article: Second Opium War. Modern China and Opium: A Reader. University of Michigan Press. Retrieved 22 March Although many of the specific techniques they used were similar to those of the Nationalists, the Communist anti-opium campaigns were carried out in the context of the successful effort to use mass campaigns to bring all aspects of local life under control, and thus the Communists were considerably more successful than were the Nationalists.
Opium and drug use would not be a problem again in China until the post-Mao era. There would be tragic consequences for China in the First Opium War. The full episode is no longer available for online streaming. Please continue to enjoy extra s from this episode. The full episode is still available for purchase through the "Buy Now" links.
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1. The East India Company were smuggling opium into China before the First Opium War
In the early 19th century British initiated commercial plantations of tea in India and Sri Lanka then Ceylon , in an attempt to break the Chinese monopoly on tea. But the growing of opium in India proved even more advantageous. Trade in Indian opium to China was brisk and extremely profitable, but illegal. The bulk of opium was traded via smugglers, pirates and corrupt officials.
In order to relax Chinese restrictions on trading and opium prohibition Britain went to war in and British success in the pursuit of its trading advantage had far reaching consequences. The wars subdued China to foreign imperial exploitation and undermined its ability to govern itself effectively and to defend its independence.