During the eighteenth century, the Qing Dynasty ruled China and that century was the high point of traditional Chinese civilization. In the nineteenth century, China's status in the world collapsed and at the end of the nineteenth century it was seen as a pitiful country. This form of government, which was based on Confucianism, was not seen as adequate. After the British defeat in the opium war (1840-42), many western nations challenged and threatened China's government, policies, and civilization. Many western merchants competed well against Chinese products and industries. Foreign missionaries also posed a threat to China's religious views. Also the powerful military forces of the Western nations proved that China had to change somehow in order to survive a modernizing world.
China was considered to have one of the highest standards of living until the 1700s. By the 1800s, China was being threatened by the material and technological recourses the western nations possessed. During the eighteenth century, England was the main country that traded with China. Since China focused on conserving it's traditional values and ways of living, foreigners were only allowed to trade in Canton, which was a port city in southeast China. China's main exports were silk and tea and Britain had a high demand for tea. In exchange for tea and other Chinese goods, China was demanding silver.