I. Traditional Chinese society• China had a very long-standing system of autocratic governance.• The gentry elite in China served the emperor through the Confucian-oriented bureaucratic system.• The rich (gentry) were very rich, and the poor (peasantry) were very poor; but because of gentry monopolization of all forms of control, political and economic, there was little incentive for economic or political change from within.
II. China faces the West• The British East India Company desired “free trade” with China and found a product Chinese consumers would buy: opium.• The triangular trade (diagrammed on the right) resulted.• Through the triangular trade, Britain solved their balance of payments problem with China. During the decade of the 1830’s, 34 million silver dollars flowed from China to England to pay for opium.
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Effects of the opium trade on China • Addiction• Growing balance of payments problem and resulting inflation—there was a 50 to 60% increase in prices in China over the first three decades of the 19th century as a result of silver outflow to pay for opium.