During the late years of Qianlong's reign, the Qing government saw a return of rampant corruption. Heshen was arguably one of the most corrupt officials in the entire history of the Qing Dynasty Heshen was eventually forced into committing suicide by Qianlong's son, the Jiaqing Emperor (r. 1796–1820).
In 1796 open rebellion by the White Lotus Society against the Qing government broke out. The White Lotus Rebellion continued for eight years, until 1804, and marked a turning point in the history of the Qing Dynasty.
Rebellion, unrest and external pressure
Xi Wangmu ("Queen Mother of the West"), aTaoist deity, decor on a Qing dynasty porcelainplate, famille-rose style, Yongzheng Emperorperiod, 1725 AD
Flag of Qing Dynasty, 1862–1890
The Qing struggled with the concept of international and state to state relations. Prior to the 19th-century, the Chinese empire was generally the hegemonic power in East Asia. However, the 18th century saw the European empires gradually expand across the world, as European states developed stronger economies built on maritime trade. European colonies had been established in nearby India and on the islands that are now part of Indonesia, whilst the Russian Empire advanced into the areas north of China. The Qing response was successful for a time in establishing the Canton System, which restricted and controlled maritime trade and the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689), which stabilized relations with Czarist Russia.
In 1793, the British East India Company, with the support of the British government sent a delegation to China under Lord George Macartney in order to change the nature of trade between the two countries in a direction which they believed was more befitting for a country of Britain's status. Up to this point, all Western powers were forced to trade only at one port (at Canton) and traded very much on the Chinese system. This was formed around a fundamental disdain for both Western merchants and their goods. The government viewed trade as unimportant. For the British, however, maritime trade was the key to sustaining their economy.
Xi Wangmu ("Queen Mother of the West"), a Taoist deity, decor on a Qing dynasty porcelain plate, famille-rose style, Yongzheng Emperor period, 1725 AD.
The Qianlong Emperor reported to the British ambassador Lord Macartney that China had no use for European manufactured products. Consequently, leading Chinese merchants only accepted bar silver as payment for their goods. The demand in Europe for Chinese goods such as silk, tea, and ceramics could only be met if European companies funneled their limited supplies of silver into China. By the late 1830s, the governments of Great Britain and France were deeply concerned about their stockpiles of precious metals and sought alternate trading schemes with China — the foremost of which was meeting the growing Chinese demand for opium. When the Qing regime tried to ban the opium trade in 1838, Great Britain declared war on China in the following year