In the nineteenth century, Chinese green tea became very popular among the British people.Chinese silk and spices were also in great demand.The Chinese, on the other hand, needed almost nothing the west had to offer and the only things they would take in trade, other than Spanish silver dollars, was woolen and cotton cloth.This created an imbalance of trade, especially bad for the European nations.England and other Western nations changed the balance of their trade by using opium as a means of payment, welcomed in China by many merchants in lieu of currency, in spite of the Imperial Chinese prohibition on opium.During the early 1800’s opium addiction reached an all time high in China, and by 1838 thirty-five thousand, one hundred and fifty pound chests of opium entered China.
In 1839 Lin Zexu, China;s commissioner for foreign trade, was given the assignment to stop the import of opium to China.He studied what he considered the ;barbarian; culture of Europe looking for clues to their behavior.To try to stop the trade, he wrote to the Queen of England, Queen Victoria, and tried to reason with her for help with the opium import problem.Alas, he had no luck and the Qing government, after a decade of unsuccessful anti-opium campaigns, enacted drastic laws against the opium trade.Lin Zexu, seized and destroyed some twenty thousand chests of opium.The British retaliated violently, soundly defeating the unprepared Chinese, and in 1842 forcing them to sign the Treaty of Nanking which required the Chinese to pay twenty-one million dollars in reparations, the opening of five ports to British trade, and surrendering Hong Kong to Queen Victoria.Lion Zexu was disgraced instead of praised for his peaceful efforts and was forced to supervise irrigation projects and repairs of dikes for the last few years of his life.The city of Hong Kong was held as a British territory from that time unti