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China and the Opium War

8 Pages 1922 Words June 2020

The Opium War that was fought between China and Great Britain undoubtedly will be one of the most remembered battles between the East and the West for the rest of history. At first glance, this war seems like a war on drugs that would be seen in the modern-day. However, the Opium War was more than just a war on drugs; it was a war between Western and Eastern thought. Just as well, it was a battle between Confucianism and Christianity, a battle between free trade and the tribute system, a battle between dynasty and empire, and lastly, a battle between white and yellow. The Opium War led to the very prejudice thoughts that Westerners feel anytime they hear news about the East and vice versa. Ironically, it was the aftermath of the Opium War that led to China rising into a modern, nationalistic, and communist driven state, because they believed that nothing good could come from the West, and they needed to protect themselves by modernizing.
The Opium War was fought in two waves, occurring from 1839 through 1841. Before the Opium Wars were officially fought, there was already tension between the two groups. The Qing Dynasty operated their foreign affairs under the tribute system. The Tribute System was designed to reinforce the idea of the emperor being the son of heaven, 天子(tian xia) (lecture, the tribute system). The Chinese believe that their emperor was chosen by the heavens, and therefore had the authority of heaven to lead the world. The Tribute System honored this idea by allowing foreign powers to exchange with China under the condition that they offered good tribute, demonstrating their reverence for China (lecture, the tribute system). Unfortunately for the British, when they first tried establishing trade with China in 1793 through the Tribute System, the emperor told the British that they offered nothing China wanted (Schirokauer, 113). This interaction created British animosity toward the Chinese. In order to f...

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