At the end of the Opium War, China was left defeated. While the loss severely undermined the Qing Dynasty's power, little did they know that their loss would have serious repercussions. The emperor signed a treaty with the British that would later be known as one of the “Unequal Treaties” made in China during this period. The treaty in question was named the treaty of Nanjing (also known as the treaty of Nanking). This treaty would have lasting effects even into recent history.
In the 17th century, China implemented the Canton system. At first, foreigners were allowed to trade both in Canton (otherwise known as Guangzhou) and other ports. This was under the condition that the would have a security merchant to vouch for their behavior
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While the Chinese wanted very little from the British, the British had a population back in England craving for tea. As W. Travis Hanes and Frank Sanello point out in The Opium Wars, “By 1785, Britain was importing fifteen million pounds per year from China...the British government became economically dependent on tea, because the Exchequer levied a whopping 100% import tax on it.” Therefore it can be said that the British found the import of tea a necessity. However, the trade of tea cost them due to the trade imbalance. It is said that in the period of 1710 to 1759, the British paid 26 million pounds of silver to China, but sold them only 9 million pounds in British goods (Hanes and Sanello 2002). This was a problem because China only took Spanish silver dollars, the international currency at the time. The British had a dwindling supply of this currency due to Spain making alliances with the American colonies who rebelled against them (Hanes and Sanello 2002). Therefore, the British had to find a way to reverse their trade deficit. As stated before, the Chinese had little to no use for British inventions or goods. This changed with the establishment of the opium trade.
When it comes to opium, the sale of drug was outlawed in 1729 (Zhou 1999). However, this did not necessarily ban the use of the drug. Use of opium was common mainly amongst the rich, but found itself trickling down the social latter.(Hsu 1995)