‘Show of force’
in Creating the Opium War
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This chapter examines public reactions to the Napier incident and the discussion about Britain’s China policy within the British community in China in the mid-1830s. This period has received much less attention than the Napier incident itself and the immediate causes of the Opium War. Based on popular publications available in Canton in this period, the chapter investigates the debate over the cause of Lord Napier’s failure, including the ‘show of force’ theory as well as other ‘minor’ voices. It reveals that, although ‘show of force’ was the most prominent attitude at the time, the mid-1830s should be considered as a period of confused thinking with regard to Britain’s China policy, rather than a clear stage in the preparations for an open war.

Creating the Opium War

British imperial attitudes towards China, 1792–1840

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