3 March 1857

Second Opium War: France and the United Kingdom declare war on China.

The Second Opium War, also known as the Arrow War or the Anglo-French Expedition to China, was a conflict that took place between 1856 and 1860. It was a significant event in Chinese history and marked a further deterioration in China’s relations with Western powers.

The war was sparked by several incidents, including the boarding of a Chinese-registered ship, the Arrow, by British authorities in search of pirates and illegal goods. The Chinese protested, claiming that the ship was flying the British flag and demanded an apology. When the British refused to apologize, tensions escalated, leading to military confrontations.

The conflict involved not only Britain and China but also France, which joined the war in support of Britain’s objectives. The main goals of the Western powers were to expand their trade privileges in China, open more ports to foreign trade, and secure better treatment for their citizens living in China.

The Western powers, equipped with modern weaponry and superior naval forces, quickly gained the upper hand. They captured key Chinese cities and forced the Chinese government to sign a series of unequal treaties, including the Treaty of Tientsin in 1858 and the Treaty of Beijing in 1860. These treaties granted the Western powers significant concessions, including the legalization of the opium trade, the opening of additional treaty ports for foreign trade, and extraterritorial rights for Western citizens in China.

The Second Opium War further weakened the Qing Dynasty’s authority and exposed the vulnerabilities of China’s traditional military forces against modern Western military technology. It also contributed to growing resentment and anti-imperialist sentiments among the Chinese population, fueling later movements such as the Boxer Rebellion.