The Third Opium War

To understand China’s current confrontation with the West over trade, historical context is key.

Jacob L. Shapiro |January 10, 2019

Summary

It’s been 226 years since the British Empire dispatched its first diplomatic representative to China. Arriving in Peking in 1793, Lord George Macartney asked the Qing ruler of the time, the Qianlong Emperor, to allow a permanent British diplomatic residence in the capital, and more important, to open new ports for international trade and negotiate an equitable tariff regime. Lord Macartney’s requests fell on deaf ears. He was dismissed with little more than a note from the Qianlong Emperor addressed to King George III that said the British requests were “not in harmony with the regulations of the Celestial Empire.” The British avenged this slight 49 years later when they forced the Daoguang Emperor to sign the Treaty of Nanking practically at gunpoint. The easy British victory in what would become known as the First Opium War was a turning point in Chinese history, paving the way for the Qing dynasty’s collapse, a bloody civil war, the rise of Mao and the Communist

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The Third Opium War