The Opium Wars were really not about Opium. Instead, they were a result ofWestern (especially British) desires to further their economic interests in China. In addition to rigid restrictions under the Canton System of trade, the British suffered from a negative trade deficit with China. Therefore, I feel that Opium was only a symptom of a much larger problem, that problem being that theWesternerswanted a virtually unrestricted trading environment that served their interests.
The Chinese had little use for Western goods for as they saw it, China was the "Middle Kingdom",
the center of everything civilized.The opposite was true of Westerners.Westerners, especially the British, loved tea.In addition to tea, they also purchased " large quantities of silk and rhubarb" (Hsu, 150) along with beautiful Chinese porcelain. This deficit was reduced once the sale of the Indian Patna and Malwa Opium commenced around 1820.Even though opium trade was forbidden by imperial decree, the Opium trade continued and flourished, especially along China's South Coast. Addiction was so bad by the 1830s that most men under 40 had smoked Opium at one time in their lives. The number of people addicted during that decade is estimated to be around 12 million. In order to compensate for the trade deficit, the Chinese exported silver, which began to drain the treasury.In the words of one government official “If we continue to allow this trade to flourish, in a few dozen years, we will find ourselves not only with no soldiers to resist the enemy, but also with no money to equip the army ( Chesneaus Jean, 55). Even though Opium is a drug and it is bad, I believe that the Chinese would have had a fit over any product that was draining their economy and benefiting the barbarians.If Opium was so "evil" and "bad", why were there so many people in government and military ranks addicted to it