History is better told by Britain than China, claims a mainland scholar of the Opium War. Mao Haijian, a member of the Institute of Modern History Research in Beijing, says mainland accounts of the war tend towards exaggeration and outright lies. The British version of the military exchange that cost China Hong Kong is much more reliable, according to his book, The Collapse of the Celestial Court. He also says Britain's actions were ultimately beneficial as they helped bring about the end of a backward and closed China. After examining imperial archives, Mr Mao says Qing dynasty officials persistently and deliberately sent false reports of encounters with the British, often claiming defeats as victories. For instance, after the British had destroyed several of his forts, the commander of the Guangzhou garrison reported that his forces had killed 446 of the invading troops and were poised for complete victory. And Mr Mao says the suicidal bravery of several Chinese commanders, often portrayed as acts of great patriotic self-sacrifice, were merely the result of ignorance of modern military tactics. He especially criticises imperial commissioner Lin Zexu, whom the Communist Party has built up as a national hero. Lin made fundamental errors of judgment, he says, including underestimating the strength of the British and assuming that they were bluffing. 'It was the biggest mistake in his whole career. A mythology has grown up around him but he is not a god,' Mr Mao argues. The book goes on to undermine another popular myth, the peasant uprising in Sanyuanli, on the outskirts of old Guangzhou. Chinese schoolchildren are brought up to believe that the militia attacked and killed hundreds of British troops. But Mr Mao argues that only five or six soldiers died and the Chinese victory was solely due to heavy rain that stopped the British using their superior weapons. However, the book defends the reputation of Qi Ying, who signed the Nanking Treaty ceding Hong Kong to Britain. He is reviled as a traitor, but Mr Mao claims he achieved a favourable end to a hopeless war. 'This was a dark era which should make us ashamed. But although it was a harsh treaty, those who signed it should not be made responsible,' he says.