P a g e | 1The Opium WarsGregory AylingHIS 104: World Civilization from 1500Tammy Pertillar06-11-15
P a g e | 2The Opium Wars were the direct cause of China's policy of isolationalisim and exclusionary trade policy with the West. China's attempts to exclude pernicious foreign ideas resulted in highly restricted trade. Prior to the 1830s, there was but one port open to Western merchants, Guangzhou (Canton) and but one commodity that the Chinese would accept in trade, silver! British and American merchants, anxious to address what they perceived as a trade imbalance, determined to import the one product that the Chinese did not themselves have but which an ever-increasing number of them wanted: opium. Although the Chinese government hadlong prohibited the drug except for medicinal use the British would bring in cheaply produced opium in the Bengal and Malawi (princely) districts under the disguise of the British East India Company. “By 1800 the East India Company was buying 23 million pounds of tea per year at a cost of 3.6 million pounds of silver.” MIT Visualizing Cultures. (2011). The British were looking were something that they could trade for tea and other items. “They would find it in Opium, which they planted in large qualities after they had taken Bengal, in India, in 1757. As the habit of smoking opium spread from the rich to ninety per cent of all Chinese males under the age of forty in the country's coastal regions, business activity was much reduced, the civil service ground to a halt, and the standard of living fell. The Emperor Dao guang's special anti-opium commissioner Lin Ze-xu (1785-1850), modestly estimated the number of his countrymen addicted to the drug to be 4 million, but a British physician practicing in Canton set the figure at 12 million. The official sent in 1838 by the Emperor Dao guang (1821-1850) of the Qing Dynasty to confiscate and destroy all imports of opium, Lin Ze-xu, calculated that in fiscal 1839 Chinese opium smokers consumed 100 million taels' worth of the drug while the entire spending by the imperial government that year spent 40 million taels. From MIT Visualizing Cultures, “
P a g e | 31773 1,000 Chests1828 18,000 Chests1865 76,000 ChestsFinally in 1884 81,000 Chests.Meantime, corrupt officials in the customs office and ruthless merchants in the port cities were accumulating wealth beyond "all the tea in China" by defying imperial interdictions that had existed in principle since 1796. The standard rate for an official's turning a blind eye to the importation of a single crate of opium was 80 taels. This led to a hotbed of vice, bribery, and disloyalty to the Emperor's authority, the opium port of Canton would be the beginning for the clash between the governments of China and Great Britain.