A Justification for Britain's Opium Wars.

Essay by Keir December 2005

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The Opium Wars were little more than about tea, and whether countries should be forced to trade. The British wanted tea and did not yet know how to grow it in India. They also wanted silk and other such things, but tea was the one true 'need' that they simply could not get elsewhere.

Chinese officials of course did not want to open the country up to trade. They were willing to sell tea, but only in exchange for gold or silver. They did not want to buy anything at all from the British, no doubt because so many of the things the Chinese population might well have wanted such as clocks, matches, cooking pots, etc were obviously foreign and would have informed the locals that the barbarians were superior at most things.

Therefore, the British were buying tea with gold and silver, which was hard to sustain. Hence, they wanted to smuggle goods in to sell unofficially.

As there was already a lengthy history of opium use in China, it was easier to smuggle than the already aforementioned things which were obviously foreign.

In addition, the British found opium that was considerably more potent than the Chinese stuff, which made it easier and more lucrative to import and which may have led to more problems with addiction. Such a sudden flood of more potent opium would easily have caused trouble.

Did Britain have the right to force China to trade? I don't feel that it did, and that Britain was wrong to attack. Nevertheless, the British did not wake up each morning longing to see far-away Chinese people hooked on opium. All they wanted was a cup of tea to start the day with. The Chinese government could simply have stopped the opium trade easily, by trading in...