Second Opium War

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The Second Opium War, the Second Anglo-Chinese War, the Second China War, the Arrow War, or the Anglo-French expedition to China,[1] was a war pitting the British Empire and the Second French Empire against the Qing Dynasty of China, lasting from 1856–1860.



"Second War" and "Arrow War" are both used in the literature. "Second Opium War" refers to one of the British's strategic objectives: legalizing the opium trade, expanding coolie trade, opening all of China to British merchants, and exempting foreign imports from internal transit duties. The "Arrow War" refers to the name of a vessel which became the starting point of the conflict. The importance of the opium factor in the war is in debate among historians.


The 1850s saw the rapid growth of imperialism. Some of the shared goals of the western powers were the expansion of their overseas markets and the establishment of new ports of call. The French Treaty of Huangpu and the American Wangxia Treaty both contained clauses allowing renegotiation of the treaties after twelve years. In an effort to expand their privileges in China, Britain demanded the Qing authorities renegotiate the Treaty of Nanking (signed in 1842), citing their most favoured nation status. The British demands included opening all of China to British merchants, legalising the opium trade, exempting foreign imports from internal transit duties, suppression of piracy, regulation of the coolie trade, permission for a British ambassador to reside in Beijing and for the English-language version of all treaties to take precedence over the Chinese.

The Qing Dynasty court rejected the demands from Britain, France, and the US.

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