The opium wars in early 19th century and the events leading to that event, illustrates how the threat of the business interests of one nation, which was in this case Britain could lead to military intervention in a foreign nation (China). The “opium wars” signifies how business interests remained and still remain to this day a justifiable reason for countries to embark on military interventions in an effort to protect these interests.
In the early 19th century, Jardine Matheson & Company established a very lucrative opium, tea, cotton and silk business that saw the company buy products from India and other far eastern regions for sale in China and Hong Kong following the weakening of the trade monopoly held by the East India Company. Opium, being the most profitable commodity at the time was being bought and sold by Jardine Matheson & Company. To further facilitate their trade, Jardine and Matherson sought to increase their ownership advantage by building racing ships called “clipppers” that could transport their cargo from India to China in a record 17 days. So vast were their logistical capabilities that by 1841, the company had 17 clippers to help transport their profitable cargo into China.
However, the trade imbalance created by a thriving opium trade in which the value of the imports of opium outweighed the exports of tea and cotton from China forced China’s imperial court to tighten trade controls in the importation of opium. Additionally, with the detrimental effects on opium on the local population of China becoming more evident, the imperial court further sought to enforce a trade ban on several opium trading companies of which Jardine and Matherson was one. Jardine and Matherson , despite knowing the ill effects of opium on the local populace, were determined to continue with their opium trade in which profits were more important than ethics.
With the enforcement of the trade barriers, Jardine Matherson & Co saw their profits begin to dwindle and unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with the Chinese government to lift their restrictions. In order to protect their business interests, William Jardine travelled back to Britain to launch a lobbying campaign in an effort to get the British government to militarily intervene on their behalf. Jardine was successfully able to convince the British…