Essay Preview: Essay
Report this essay
Imperialist aggression from the West did change China’s involvement with the world. It was not something they engaged in willingly, however. China believed they were “the only, true civilization”1 which became their downfall. China only recognized other countries if the “barbarians” kowtowed to them and gave them tribute. At first, Britain allowed this system and was only allowed to trade with China at the south-coast port of Guangzhoa. They were not allowed to contact the central government in Beijing but rather were only allowed contact with provincial officials in Guangzhoa. There were many other restrictions which did not sit well with Britain who was used to having her way. China sold tea, silk and porcelain to Britain who did not have much to trade back to the Chinese.2 Britain became frustrated at only being able to use one port because the tea, for instance was harvested in Fujian province which was four hundred miles from Guangzhoa. Not only was it far, porters had to carry tea chests over mountains and rivers. Because of this, it took a year for tea to get from China to England.3

So, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Britain began selling Opium to the Chinese people. This not only caused gold and silver to leave China in large quantities, many people were hooked on the drug from the highest officials to peasants. China forbade the use of Opium hoping to curb the problem it was having on its citizens and economy. Britain decided to smuggle the drug in instead of stopping the practice. The smuggling was so profitable that Britain could not stop.4 Britain believed the playing field was now more even.

Soon the Opium wars started between China and Britain after an official, Lin Zexu, confiscated 21,000 chests of Opium which he had destroyed.5 The Chinese were no match against the British Navy which was much stronger in manpower and weapons. China had become weak because of the Opium and internal strife so, Britain pretty much did what she wanted. In 1842, China was forced to surrender and had to give Britain Hong Kong in the Treaty of Nanjing. Britain was able to use many different ports after this and was allowed to bring missionaries in due to the treaty system that was set up after the defeat of the Chinese.6 Because of these treaties, China had to give so much to Britain and did not get much in return leaving their sovereignty deteriorated.7

One cornerstone of the treaties was the most-favored-nation principle which was part of another treaty that Britain and China signed in 1843. It stated that each country would receive the same rights and privileges that every other country received even if a particular treaty did not specify that. Britain got around this by using the most-favored-nation clause to renegotiate their treaty in 1852. The Chinese government wanted to make sure war did not break out again with Britain so, a group of Manchus got together at court to stay reconciled with Britain.8 These treaties were truly unequal for the Chinese did not get as much as the British. For instance, Britain carved out areas in Chinese cities where they became the ruler and collected taxes. Also, Britain law and authority ruled there which caused China to lose sovereignty in these cities.9

Another unequal right established by the treaties was extraterritoriality with consular jurisdiction. This meant that if a westerner was tried for a crime, it would not be done in a Chinese court but in a court run by his country. This was put into place because westerners believed that Chinese law was barbaric. The Chinese also lost its right to “set, control, and collect its own tariffs.”

Get Your Essay

Cite this page

Chinese People And Central Government. (April 2, 2021). Retrieved from