In the waning days of the Qing Dynasty, China, beset by political dysfunction and domestic tumult, struggled to defend against the imperialist intentions of Western powers. Following years of tensions, war between China and Great Britain eventually broke out, the result of which would propel China into the chaos of the so-called “Century of Humiliation.”

In a new book, Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age, author Stephen R. Platt traces the complex origins of the conflict, and reveals how a once profitable and peaceful relationship descended into war. Dr. Platt explores the state of Sino-Western relations through the accounts of the various traders, missionaries, and others who sought to mediate between China and the West.

Dr. Platt discussed his book, and the lessons the Opium War can offer as tensions over trade once again rise to the forefront of Sino-Western relations, with the National Committee on July 12, 2018.