What were the major factors that caused the Opium War?
The causes underlying the Anglo-Chinese opium war consisted of China’s isolationist
stance in its trade policy with the western world versus Br itish aggression and
expansionism. Similar to a clash between the immovable object and an unstoppable force,
the result was cataclysmic. Prior to the 1830’s t he Chinese were only interested in one
western commodity; silver coins, while they expor ted large amounts of orient al goods that
the Europeans craved. However, in the quest to keep expanding their monopoly over
trading, the Bri tish soon discovered that the Chinese were developing a taste for the dr ug
Opium (which was outlawed since the 1790’s in China). Soon, opium-usage turned into a
pandemic in China, resulting in much of its population being addicted to the highly
detrimental drug, which resulted in a net outflow of the silver from the Chinese economy.
With the economy deteriorating and the standard of living in China dropping severely,
Lin Ze-xu decided to put a stop to the British economic “invasion” by conf iscating
smuggled foreign opium in China and arresting foreign merchants. This lead to retaliation
by t he Br itish navy forces and explicitly started the first opium war.
Emperor Kangxi – a patron of Chinese culture and learning–e.g., The Kangxi Dictionar y.
Personally, he studied Latin, mathematics, and western science with Jesuit missionaries.
All in all he was a capable administrator with many military conquests. He expanded
China to Taiwan, Mongolia, and northeastern borders with Russia, eastern Xinjiang. His
rule also like the Ming Dynasty, made the Chinese society, conservatives rather than
innovators, and was the beginning of the resistance to change that was to follow.
Emperor Qianlong Qianlong: patron of learning and art. He has about 10,000 poems by
him; compiled Four Treasurers of Libraries, 36,000 volumes. Alongside being a poet at
heart, Qianlong’s military campaigns: include Mongolia, Xinjiang, and Tibet. His
conservative views were the reason to the declining state of the Qing dynasty. Overall the
Qianlong Emperor's military expansion captured millions of square miles and brought
into the empire non-Han-Chinese peoples, and at the end of the frontier wars, the army
had started to weaken significantly. Since most of the war r ing had taken place, warlords
no longer saw any reason to train their armies, resulting in a rapid military decline by the
end of Qianlong's reign.