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Historians have christened the wars fought between China and Britain from 1839 to 1842 and from 1856 to 1860 as The Opium Wars however the Opium Wars really were not about opium Even President John Quincy Adams asserted The seizure of a few thousand chests of opium smuggled into China by the British government was no more the cause of the Opium War than the throwing overboard of the tea in the Boston harbor was the cause of the North American Revolution Chung 1 In fact one may argue that Chinas tributary mentality the Canton System of Trade and imperialistic aggression caused the so-called Opium Wars The Chinese name for China Chung Kuo meant Heavenly Middle Kingdom or more accurately Center of the World The Chinese had developed a tributary mentality a belief that China as the Middle Kingdom was the center of the civilized world and that all countries that desired relations with it must behave deferentially Consequently there was little room in Chinas world-view for the idea of independent equal nations Moreover Chinas foreign policy prior to and during the Ching Dynasty was dominated by a sense of innate superiority In fact when King George III dispatched Lord Macartney Baron of Lissanoure to China in 1793 to establish formal diplomatic relations between China and Britain the Chien Lung Emperor refused to acknowledge England as an equal sovereign state Lucien Pye argues it became apparent that Chinese and Englishmen saw the world completely differently Pye 105 Chinas tributary mentality was also manifest in its attitude toward foreign trade Immanuel Hsu states that the Chinese believed that the bountiful Middle Kingdom had no need for things foreignthe benevolent emperor allowed trade as a mark of favor to foreignerstrade was not a right to be insisted upon but a privilege that could be withdrawn by China for any misbehavior Hsu 142 Thus the Chinese were willing to conduct trade with
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