Talk:First Opium War

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Revised Lede[edit]

I took the liberty of revising the lede in light of the information in Steven Tsang's book, A Modern History of Hong Kong, cited in the note, which draws on a series of monographs. Here are more extensive notes and quotes from the book:

  • “First Anglo-Chinese War,” which was “in fact, much more than a war over the opium trade, though the economic benefit of the trade for the British and the costs to the Chinese were certainly important considerations for policymakers on both sides.” Basic forces were pushing the two sides together: first the Industrial Revolution, and second the coming together face to face of the premier power in Europe with the Chinese Empire. [p. 3]
  • Key policymakers, such as Viceroy Lin Zexu, believed that there was a shortage of silver due to the opium trade, and were furthermore worried that opium smoking would debilitate the country. [6]
  • the ending of the East India Company monopoly of trade in 1834 brought to a head longstanding questions of formal relations with China. Since the Qing Empire did not view foreign powers as equals, London instructed the new Chiefs of Trade to explore ways of extending trade beyond Canton and establishing diplomatic relations. The two empires held incompatible views toward the conduct of international relations and the role of law and justice. The Chinese system was in fact highly sophisticated, but the British, which operated under quite different principles, viewed Chinese law as primitive and arbitrary. [8]
  • “Britain decided on war, not to impose British manufactures on China, nor to bring the Chinese to salvation by spreading the gospel..., not even to force opium on the Chinese, despite the fact that British opium traders seized on the war to further their trade and profits.” The British government "did not question China’s right to prohibit the imports, it merely objected to the way this was handled.” “What the war was meant to do was to ‘efface an unjust and humiliating act, to recover the value of certain properties plus expenses... and almost by and by, to put England’s relations with the Middle Kingdom on a new and proper footing.’” The Chinese had expected the British to settled matters locally, were caught by surprise at this military response. [11]
  • “The real priorities for the British were ... maximizing trade and seeking compensation for costs incurred; “the right for Britain to export Indian opium to China was not itself a matter of major concern to the British in this period, but the opportunity for the British traders to continue to profit from it was.” Neither in the draft treaty nor in the Treaty of Nanking did the British demand the legalization of the opium trade. “The main British concern was to secure the right to trade in China.” [12] “The difference was between waging an imperialist war for economic benefits and doing so to impose a contraband drug that the imperial power itself deemed immoral.” [13]
  • The Treaty did not even deal with the opium issue, nor was anything done to settle the issue of diplomatic representation. [15]
  • Britain went to war with China to “secure economic benefits from trade and to redress what it saw as an unsatisfactory mode for the conduct of relations. [29]

ch (talk) 02:54, 21 April 2011 (UTC)

[the following edits do not refer to the above -- they belong someplace below]

ch (talk) 04:00, 26 May 2014 (UTC)

Yes, you should not have done that. Inter alia, see WP:COMMONNAME, WP:LEADSENTENCE, and WP:NPOV. This is not anything like a close-run thing in general or scholarly use; the page as a general rule should start with the article's namespace; you should start a move proposal here if you really feel it's in error; and deliberately choosing an uncommon, off-topic title for the article that minimizes the drug-smuggling source of the conflict is quite obviously a biased move on our part until the rest of our culture's commentary on this war shifts dramatically. — LlywelynII 12:19, 25 January 2014 (UTC)
[In fairness, Ngram can get very hinky with hyphens. Their poor choice to use simple hyphens as a subtraction code can produce this nonsensical result, which is the Ngram for counting every mention of "Anglo" and subtracting every mention of "Chinese War" from that total.] — LlywelynII 12:46, 25 January 2014 (UTC)

The background needs a better lead in.[edit]

"By the 16th century China was one of the leading nations of the world. It was prosperous, economically self-sufficient and isolated. European countries came to China to buy its tea, silks and spices and offered European industrial goods in exchange. But, the Chinese emperor would have none of the European goods, which he outright banned. Hence, gold and silver were the only acceptable medium of exchange."[1], says an awful,lot in not a lot of words."

I'm not sure what you're proposing. At the moment the background section steps through the history/background leading up to the war. Are you suggesting the replacement of the entire section with this short paragraph (which would have to be rewritten to avoid copyright violation)?. I'm not sure that would be a good idea.  Philg88 talk 08:56, 30 June 2014 (UTC)

Awkward phrasing[edit]

This sentence appears in the introduction:

The British government objected to the Chinese Empire's insistence on negotiating with all foreign representatives, including Britain's diplomats, on the basis that they were foreign barbarians accepting a position of submission, an assertion which the British never formally accepted but had to work around and overlook.

I'm having a hard time understanding what's going on here. Who does "they" refer to? Is the British government objecting to something on the basis that Chinese are barbarians, or are Chinese refusing to negotiate with the British because the British are barbarians? This sentence should be rewritten

Zdorovo (talk) 16:35, 11 September 2014 (UTC)

"They" refers to Britain's diplomats. This is standard English grammar.  Philg88 talk 18:32, 11 September 2014 (UTC)

Great Britain/ United Kingdom or what?[edit]

I wonder if the opening sentence shouldn't just use the common name, "Great Britain" or perhaps "United Kingdom." It now looks at first glance if the war was "fought between Great Britain and Ireland." The text of the treaty seems to be slightly different in different places in any case:

  • "Victoria, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith" (in beautiful handwriting, no less) [2]
  • In the official Gazette it is called "TREATY between HER MAJESTY and the EMPEROR of CHINA." and then the first sentence of the treaty, "HER Majesty the Queen of the Unite d Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and His Majesty the Emperor of China"[3]

Cheers, ch (talk) 17:34, 23 September 2014 (UTC)

"Great Britain" is not a correct alternative name for United Kingdom, although it seems to be used for that in the US. It refers only to the island of Great Britain or the United Kingdom's predecessor state, Kingdom of Great Britain which became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801 following the Act of Union, 1800. The Opium War tok place 4 decades afer Great Britain became the United Kingdom. The other correct short form, other than "United Kingdom" is "Britain", without the "Great". See United Kingdom#Etymology and terminology. One name that's never been used is Great Britain and Ireland. DeCausa (talk) 18:17, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
I took the "Great Britain and Ireland" from the text of the Treaty of Nanking as that is a relevant contemporary document. Many of the sources of the time shorten in to Great Britain although that is technically incorrect. I don't think it should be "United Kingdom" as the term was not in common usage in the 19th century and isn't used in documents of the time. Bear in mind that the current "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" is not the same thing, because of the 1922 creation of the Irish Free State.  Philg88 talk 18:34, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
ch above says the opening of the treaty refers to "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland". But in any event how the state was called in a particular treaty (even one relevant to this article) can't be the determinant of how it is called in this article. The United Kingdom of the 1840s is the same state (legally) as the current UK (just with the removal of some of Ireland and adding "Northern" to the name). There's legal and political continuity. It's what we call it now that should be the determinant. Btw, I doubt that "Great Britain " was any more common than "United Kingdom". In fact, "England" even in official documents would be the most common. That would be just confusing here though. I suggest if you don't like United Kingdom, simply "Britain" would be the best compromise as it is widely accepted as the corrected short name for the country. DeCausa (talk) 18:51, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
"Britain" is fine by me; it also removes any potential confusion when referring to "British forces" etc., if we call it "United Kingdom" in the lede.  Philg88 talk 19:25, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
"Britain" seems to the consensus as the most convenient and clear, which is also fine with me. The term "China" is a short-hand for "Great Qing Empire," so we're just being even-handed SFriendly.svgch (talk) 19:55, 23 September 2014 (UTC)

Sometimes being or attempting to be too correct or literal can be a dangerous thing. There id always in situations when previously existing political entities no longer exist there is the "then" so and so. The government of the British Empire has been for some time Her/His Majesty's Government. Just what constitutes the political entities effected by that government is up to discussion since even as late as a couple days ago, Mary Qeeen of Scots would have had her revenge on another Elizabeth if the vote had gone otherwise. Thank goodness the latest Liz's heir apparent is not named James. So what now-a-days is the good ole Soviet Union ranking as a WP recognized appellation when it comes to treaty parties?66.74.176.59 (talk) 14:42, 24 September 2014 (UTC)