British Responsibility For The Opium War

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British Responsibility for the Opium War The outcome of the Opium War marked a new age of western imperialism, effectively forcing China’s doors open to the West. How did such a war come about in the first place? At the heart of the conflict lay incompatible market ideologies: China’s interests were in maintaining their traditional tributary system and suppressing the opium trade, while the British desired free trade and diplomatic equality. In a complex storyline filled with misunderstandings and failed negotiations, the events leading up to the war show how in the end, by failing to adequately compensate for the destructive effects of the opium trade, Great Britain was responsible for the start of the Opium War. To begin with, the opium trade took a direct hit to China’s prosperity, which set the stage for future tensions. Before the illegal industry was well-established in the early 19th century, China benefited from trade with Great Britain, selling a steadily increasing amount of tea in exchange for precious silver. However, in the late eighteenth century, the British managed to reverse this trade balance by exporting opium instead of silver. By the mid-1820s, China’s silver was rapidly flowing out of China to keep up with the insatiable demand for opium. The outflow of silver caused the price to rise eighty percent between 1800-1830, placing a heavy burden on farmers, whose taxes were assessed in the precious metal. Not only was China losing the basis of its monetary
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