Qing Dynasty in the 1700s AD
The Qing Dynasty continued to rule strongly until near the end of the 1700s AD. In 1735, the Yongsheng Emperor died and his son, the 24-year-old Qianlong Emperor, took power. Like his father and grandfather, the Qianlong Emperor kept power in his own hands.
Qianlong Emperor conquers the Uighurs
The Qianlong Emperor took advantage of the weakness of Central Asian kingdoms and the collapse of the Safavids in West Asia to send his army further west and conquer a lot of Central Asia, including the Uighurs in 1759 AD. Under the Qianlong emperor, China also started exporting porcelain to Europe again.
British people loved these things. They were willing to pay a lot of money for them. But Britain needed something to trade to people in China in exchange, and they weren’t having any luck with that. What could Britain sell to China? China didn’t really want anything Britain was selling. Wool cloth? Nope. Gin and whiskey? No, thanks. Enslaved African people? No. Glass beads? I don’t think so.
British traders got an idea. They started to sell opium from India to people in China. Opium is an addictive drug, so once you got people addicted they would buy more and more opium.
That worked great for Britain, but the government of China didn’t like everyone being on drugs!
Britain tries to colonize China
To make up for that, British generals were looking for a way to get control of China now. They could not convince China to allow British traders to come and go the way they had in India. The Qianlong Emperor saw what had happened to India. He didn’t want British generals to rule China!
So the British generals kept on smuggling more and more illegal opium into China and getting more and more people addicted to opium. There were people just lying in the streets, strung out on junk, all over the place, especially in Southern China.
The Jiaqing Emperor
Bibliography and further reading about the history of China: