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Opium wars in China Essay

Before the arrival of western powers, China was a very stable and self-reliant country. They had many factories that produced silk, cotton, and porcelain. They had no interest in trade or interaction with foreigners. From the early eighteenth century, European and American Imperialism spread throughout China with a goal to extend their nation’s power. Contact with the British and the Opium Wars significantly changed Chinese society.

The opium wars led to poverty, drug addiction and economic problems in China. The British demand for tea and silk led to more farmers producing these desirable items and fewer farmers producing food. This caused increased food prices and unemployment. After the war, China was forced to pay reparations which significantly affected China’s economy. China was also forced to sign humiliating treaties that allowed foreigners to trade freely in China. The increased trade led to poverty throughout China.

The increased trade of tea and silk led to rising food prices and unemployment throughout China. While the tea and silk industries flourished, other sectors became much less profitable. Chinese customs reported an increased in tea export of over 500% while silk export expanded 28 times the previous amount of bales being shipped from Chinese ports.

Farmers that had been producing food switched to tea or silk. This caused the price of food to skyrocket. Now that Canton was not the only city open for trade, the boatmen that worked transporting good to Canton from other areas lost their jobs. Textile workers also lost their jobs because the handmade textiles produced in China could not compete price-wise with the machine made textiles from the west. Lin Zexu, Commissioner of China, states in a letter to Queen Victoria (1839), “there are barbarian ships that strive to come here for trade to make a great profit.

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The wealth of China is used to profit the barbarians. That is to say, the great profit made by barbarians is all taken from the rightful share of China.” This suggests that Lin believed that trade was significantly impacting the economy of China. This is a primary source making it an accurate representation of opinions from the time. The purpose of this source is to persuade Queen Victoria to stop the trade of opium to China; however, the letter was never received by the Queen.

As it was produced by a Chinese Commissioner and shows a one-sided view of trade between China and the western nations, it is less reliable; however, Llanes (2017) corroborates as he states that the business benefitted the British and impacted on China’s economy. Together with rising food prices and rising unemployment, poverty spread rapidly throughout China.

Contact with the British and the Opium Wars significantly changed Chinese society. The opium wars led to poverty, drug addiction and economic problems in China. The British demand for tea and silk led to more farmers producing these desirable items and fewer farmers producing food. This caused increased food prices and unemployment. After the war, China was forced to pay reparations which significantly affected China’s economy.

China was also forced to sign humiliating treaties that allowed foreigners to trade freely in China. The trade with the British which led to the Opium Wars led to significant changes in China.

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