The Opium Wars and Taiping Rebellion
Although 19th century advances by Europeans in science and industry made them dangerous rivals to the empire, the Chinese continued to treat Europeans as just another type of barbarian. Confrontation occurred over the importation of opium from India into China. The British lacked commodities, apart from silver, to exchange for Chinese goods. Indian-grown opium reversed the trade balance in their favor, but the Chinese saw the trade as a threat to their social order. Silver left the country, and opium addiction became rampant.
Government efforts to check the problem failed until the 1830s when an important official, Lin Zexu, came to end the trade at Canton and nearby. When he blockaded European trading areas and destroyed opium, the merchants demanded and received military intervention. The first Opium War began when the British invaded in 1839; the Chinese were defeated on sea and land and sued for peace. Another conflict ended similarly in the 1850s. The settlement after the first war awarded Hong Kong to the British and opened other ports to European trade and residence. By the 1890s, 90 ports were open and foreigners had gained long-term leases over ports and surrounding territory. Opium continued to pour into China. By mid-century, British officials managed China’s foreign trade and customs system, and the court had to accept European ambassadors.
Perhaps because they were distracted by the Opium Wars, Chinese officials were no match for the fervor of rebels who brought on the massive upheavals of the Taiping Rebellion. Led by the charismatic figure Hong Xiuquan, this unlikely movement gained control of a third of China. The Rebellion’s ideology was utopian but the discontent with their Manchu leaders was real. The weakness of the government and its inability to alleviate the appalling poverty of the countryside left the population ripe for revolt. By 1864, when the rebellion was finally quelled, an estimated 20 million lives had been lost.
Read the information in the background material, look for more information, and then write a 3- to 5-page paper answering the following questions:
In the Module 2 Case Assignment, you are expected to:
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