What Were Some of the Effects of Imperialism on China?

By the close of the 1800’s and in the aftermath of the Opium Wars, some of the effects of imperialism on China were: a significant portion of its population becoming addicted to opium, foreign merchants conducting unregulated trade and controlling local economies, the establishment of foreign enclaves that functioned as virtual colonies and the lifting of former restrictions regarding foreign missionaries spreading Christianity. The failure of the Qing Dynasty to prevent any of these circumstances from occurring resulted in the Chinese people losing faith in the ability of the old ruling powers to protect the country from foreign influence and domination. The end result was the eventual overthrow of the 350-year Qing Dynasty and the formation of the Republic of China in 1912.

The Qing dynasty lacked the popular support, military strength and political will to resist foreign influence and found its administration riddled with corrupt officials whose allegiances favored the European interests operating within the country. After suffering defeat at the hands of British and Indian forces in the Opium Wars, China was forced to legalize opium, which provided British merchants with a profitable market for the drug, along with a flood of other products and goods. By this time, China had submitted to what was a long-term European military presence within its borders, and was coerced to agree to what were referred to as “unequal treaties.” These treaties strongly favored the objectives of European interests over those of the Chinese.