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First Opium War between China and the United Kingdom

In the early 19th century, opium smug­gling in China was a real political and eco­nomic problem. In 1838, Emperor Dao­guang ordered the destruction of stocks of opium held by traf­fickers (mainly British) in Canton, the heart of the trade and only Chinese city open to for­eigners. The British retaliated by sending out a war fleet. The first Opium War ended, in 1842, with China's defeat and the signing of the Treaty of Nanking, which forced the Chinese to cede the island of Hong Kong, and accept greater eco­nomic openness.

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