The First Opium War
What a difference about 170 years makes.
Before the outbreak of the First Opium War in 1839, between Europe and China the British ran chronic trade deficits with China. Chinese tea for export to Britain had to be paid for with silver. To stem the outflow of silver from London to Beijing, the Brits hit upon selling opium from India to the Chinese.
The opium trade corrected the trade imbalance. But the Chinese naturally objected to the social consequences of Britain exporting narcotics to China. When the Chinese tried to halt the opium trade, the British smashed them in a series of engagements, forced the Chinese to sign a humiliating treaty (Nanking), and took Hong Kong for good measure.
The Second Opium War
When the Chinese further objected to the opium trade in 1858, the combined European powers (England, France, Russia, and the United States) sailed against various Chinese cities, bombing and besieging as they went. The Second Opium War resulted in the burning of both Summer Palaces and 11 new Chinese port cities being forced open to Western trade. Opium was legalised as was Christian evangelism.
This is a grossly simplified version of a series of complex events in which the Chinese did not exactly behave like angels. But now, instead of barging up the Yangtze in gunships to forcibly open China to trade and drugs, the Europeans are forced to offer favourable investment terms and concede they may have become a junior partner in the world’s balance of economic power. Such is the need for a European bailout by china.