In the 18th century the Portuguese discovered that huge profits could be made by selling opium from India to China, a relatively rich country. In 1750 the British colonised India through the East India Company (EIC). In 1773 the EIC obtained the exclusive trading agency in China and in 1797 the monopoly to purify opium from India.
The trade grew exponentially. In a period of 20 years (by 1800) the same silver bullion that had been shipped to China to purchase tea had been shipped back to Britain. Subsequently trade significantly drained the Chinese treasury. By 1839 opium became the largest export from India.
The Chinese demanded to end the drug trafficking was protested by the British, in the pretext of “A Violation of Free Trade”. To protect this lucrative “Free Trade” British declared war and sent gunboats to Canton in 1840. In 1842, this gun boat diplomacy ended with the treaty of Nanking, which forced open the enormous Chinese market, created new ports for trade, allowed Britain to demand a cash indemnity of $21 million, as well as the ceding of Hong Kong to Britain.
The return of Hong Kong to China in 1997 marked the end of major European colonisation in Asia. When Macao was also returned to China, every square inch of Asian soil is now ruled by Asians.
Hong Kong: Reverted to China in 1997
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