Opium War

Submitted By ctaff925
Words: 1142
Pages: 5

Throughout the eighteenth century, many wars arose due to the conflicts in trading and importing goods which involved countless nations. One of the most well-known wars which took place in the eighteenth century was the Opium War. Some people say the Opium War brought on a clash of cultures, yet it was the addictive drug that became the known factor for China’s changing relationship with Europe and the shifting imbalance of global power. In today’s society Opium, coming from poppy seeds, is known as a narcotic drug, which became the main source of a growing and very profitable market because the drug was so addictive. It was derived from the Arab Traders, but it did not become a problem until the British began to use opium, grown and processed in India, to cover their persistent trade imbalance with China. I believe that the Opium War was more so about the drug, rather than the clash of cultures because the drug brought conflict about legalization, suppression, and led to war and defeat, which led to the cultures to clash.

One of the main conflicts which evolved during the war was regarding the legalization of opium. The country’s legal prohibition was broadly ignored, provoking a huge crisis for China. Within documents, the argument for legalization explained that barbarian merchants were secretly selling opium for money, making it unnecessary to import foreign silver. This meant that there was foreign money leaving the country, yet no money was coming into it causing economic problems. The Chinese Emperor at this time was Daoguang, who seeked advice for solutions to this problem. At first, he hoped that legalizing Opium meant it could then be taxed, providing large amounts of income to the economy of the Empire and that silver could no longer be wasted. Lastly, he believed a main advantage with legalizing opium would be that foreign trade would be less of reliance. Even though he considered these resolutions, he became dissuaded after receiving the advice he was seeking from officials. In document 19.2 and 19.3, it discussed the proposal of eliminating the issue by cutting off all foreign trade. The reason this proposal didn’t follow through was because the common people depended solely on trade for their livelihood. Since the foreign trade couldn’t be eliminated all together, their main focus for a solution to the problem was based around the main source of the trade, which was opium. This provides a main reason for why the Opium War was more focused on the drug rather than a clash of cultures. These led Daoguang to change his idea of legalizing the Opium Trade and instead ban it.
His new proposal to ban opium refers back to “An Argument of Suppression”. The argument is based around the belief that “the prohibition of opium overlooks the distinction between right and wrong…. Further, it fails to appreciate what is safe and what is dangerous….” (Pg.909). Referring back to the argument for legalizing the drug, it stated, “the removal of the prohibitions refers only to the vulgar and common people, those who have no official duties to perform” (Pg. 908). On the other hand, the argument of suppression interpreted that “…the prohibition of opium-smoking would reach the officers of the Government, the scholars, and the military, but not the common people. But it is forgotten that the common people of today will be the officers, scholars, and the military of the future” (p. 909). This brought about the question of whether or not they should be allowed to smoke at first and then be prohibited from it in the future. In my opinion, this is contradicting towards the main effect of what opium does to a person. Opium became a problem due to the fact that it was one of the most addictive drugs in the market. With it being an addictive drug, the chances of being able to stop smoking the drug after smoking it on a daily basis was very slim. Regardless of the arguments presented, the main point is that each argument is based