Charles E. Reasons
The Opium Wars were conflicts between China and the United Kingdom from 1839 to 1842 and 1856 to 1860. Britain defeated China in both wars and coerced the Chinese government into signing treaties opening up foreign trade, including British importation of opium, a narcotic, to China from British-controlled India. Britain's import of opium contributed to a great increase in the number of opium addicts in China. Issues arising around the use of opium for smoking played a role in Western fears of the “yellow peril” and became part of a larger effort to stigmatize the Chinese as dangerous and insidious, to be condemned and isolated. The criminalization of certain types of opium used by Chinese in the early 20th century in Canada and the United States was in part a response to these racist fears. This entry first describes the origins of British importation of opium into China and then ...