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The Opium War began in 1839 and continued until 1842. Majorly, this war was dominated by the Qing Dynasty and the United Kingdom. Until the onset of the war, the Han Chinese had been used to dealing with the foreign invaders and not such a powerful army as the British one. Primarily, the opium trade attracted the interests of many countries, among them being Great Britain. Originally, the trade started and continued smoothly until a turnover point, when the respective parties began fighting for supremacy, which resulted into differences and led to the Opium War. During this war, the two forces battled over conflicting views on trade, diplomatic relations, and the administration of justice for the foreign nations that were in China during the 19th century. None of the sides was favored by the circumstances. However, tactics and strategies gave both sides some competitive advantage. Thus, the Qing court was well informed of advanced firearms technology. At the same time, China demonstrated a misconception of its superiority. Despite having home support and a huge population, the war resulted in the humiliation defeat of the Chinese. This made Britain the first nation to come from far and defeat China on its own territory. Evidently, four factors were the reason why China had lost the Opium War, including lack of money, weak labor force, the use of behindhand weapons, and the arrogance of the Qing Dynasty.
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Reasons for Chinas Loss in the Opium War
China lost the Opium War because of lack of enough capital to finance its military. This weakness was manifested by a number of issues. First, the country had many problems during the 19th century. For example, quite significant and serious corruption activities were manifested in China right from the onset of the Opium trade. In a properly organized nation, the business of the state should be aimed at developing its society and stabilizing it. This would mean utilizing the output of the opium trade to ensure maximum security to the nation through the purchase of modernized weapons and training its army. However, the Qing Dynasty was presented in the opium trade by very corrupt individuals. They personalized the business to the extent of using all income for their personal gains. This situation had long-term effects that manifested themselves during the war. Not only did the Qing Dynasty have a division due to corruption, but it also denied the rightful nation resources for strengthening the military through recruitments and improved training as well as purchases of weapons to stabilize the security of the country. Thus, this weakness was ultimately utilized by the British during the war to the extent that China simply lost the war.
The second reason for China losing the Opium War was the fact that its army was equipped with behindhand weapons. Considerably, China had a weaker economy; thus, it could not equip its army with superior weapons like the ones the British troops had. As noted earlier, the economy of China had been weakened because of immense corruption among officials. This meant much as the Chinese troops lacked any form of update reinforcement both in terms of weapons, medication for the injured solders, and food. On the other hand, Great Britain had one of the stabilized economies of that time, courtesy of its home-based and overseas industries. For example, the British East India Company, the first multinational trading enterprise in history, had made great revenues for the benefit of the British economy. This was further boosted by the smaller home-based markets. Not only did Great Britain ensure the wellbeing of its navy and army in during the war, but it also made timely reinforcements. The stable economy also helped the British in acquiring some of the most superior weapons that well-trained army used to win the Opium War. To elaborate further, during the 19th century, the British had technologies that were far much ahead of the Chinese. Despite a small number of these technologies, this move as well as the Industrial Revolution allowed the British to embark on mass production of weapons and be ready for the war. At the end of the war, China was overtaken by circumstances.
Weak labor force was the third reason why China had lost the Opium War. Unlike the British army, that of China was quite weak, while there was virtually no navy to speak about. The Qing courts were not aware of the modern training services, fighting tactics, and discipline that were critical in the battle. On the other hand, the British had a powerful military and a very strong navy. Historically, the British army had set a victory record. Based on the records of wars that the British army had previously fought, it had set a winning history in most of them. Therefore, despite having the same muzzle-loading rifles, the British army still outfitted the Chinese due to their fighting skills. For example, at Nanking and Amoy, the British soldiers put out volley, making the Qings forces break formation and run due to lack of discipline and the inability to follow the commands of the Qing commanders. However, the British were less bulletproof as compared to the Chinese. Nevertheless, the British army was well-trained, which made it capable of taking fire volleys as opposed to the Chinese soldiers who were not so prepared.
Besides a strong army, the British also had a powerful navy. In fact, the biggest differences that existed between the British and the Chinese military were the outward look of expansionist superiority with ideology and a well-trained military. Historically, the British Royal Navy dominated the seas in the 19th century, being feared by virtually all armies of the world. Therefore, fighting with the inadequately equipped and partially determined Chinese fleet was very easy and effortless for the British navy. To the latters advantage, the Opium Wars were majorly fought at the shores, where the British gunboats quickly engaged the Chinese shore batteries. Even though the Chinese navy was inferior to the Royal Navy, as stated earlier, the latters records were so impressive that the British fleet imposed fear on the Chinese, forcing them to surrender quickly. After realizing the Chineses weakness, the British utilized the advantage they had by keeping mostly to the coastal cities and major rivers where they could destroy valuable properties and disarm Chinas weak military with ease. They strategically avoided any war on the mainland that could lead them to a corner, including an open field. This made the situation tough for the Chinese since it was difficult for them to coordinate their soldiers. Thus, China found this situation quite difficult and it could not use its fleet to overcome the stronger British navy.
Finally, China lost the Opium War due to arrogance of the Qing Dynasty. The Empire had major challenges in crushing the White Lotus Rebellion. This situation forced the Qing Dynasty to align some strategies in place, most of which were overruled by the British at the early stages of the war. At the very beginning of the war, only Commissioner Lin Ze Xu had some ideas regarding the British army. Unfortunately, his ideas were also obvious to the enemy; thus, he could not offer many benefits to China. Due to its arrogance, the Qing Dynasty was certain that China was safer with its hungry population; hence, not much was needed by the country to win any war. Consequently, the Qing made a poor decision that cost China dearly during the Opium War. The Empire also went further to undermine the British forces based on its huge population. Thus, they did not prepare adequately for the war, which contributed to the evident defeat in 1842. Another issue that could have to led to Chinas loss of the war by the Qing was the Taiping Rebellion that had begun by then. This was a quite favorable situation as the British navy had also lost some of its vessels. However, China was much weaker due to the arrogance of the Qing Dynasty.
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Considering the above-presented facts, one could see the nature and factors that had made China lose the Opium War. China engaged in the war, popularly termed as the Opium War with the British due to the different perceptions of trade. Despite fighting on its territory and having a huge population, China lost the war due to four main reasons. One, it lacked enough money to reinforce and maintain the army during the war. This dilemma arose because its officials during were quite corrupt; thus, they squandered the trade resources while weakening the economy of the country. Secondly, China had untrained solders as compared to the British. While Britain had a well-trained army and a superior Royal Navy, China had no navy to speak of, while its soldiers were not efficiently trained in accordance with the tactics of warfare of that time. In addition to these challenges, Chinas army had behindhand weapons and, most importantly, the ruling Qing Dynasty was arrogant. Thus, all these factors and the poor state of Chinas economy could not allow it to fight Great Britain properly. As a result, China lost the Opium War.