History will explain the political impact of the Opium Wars on China by discussing its past and its facts, the Opium Wars themselves, and the causes and effects of the Opium Wars. Historically, opium was a drug that was used to ease pain during surgeries such as tooth pulling and amputations (Cowell). “Opium is produced from the opium poppy, a flowering plant native to Turkey.” It contains a latex solution, which is raw opium and includes morphine and other alkaloids. Raw opium can be eaten or diluted in a liquid, but it is usually boiled then dried so it can be smoked. The opium trade began due to a loss of British silver from the Americas.
China as a Communist country is at the cross roads of reform versus traditional Communist values. In fact, in 2012, the World Bank published an impressive report asserting that the People’s Republic of China needs to reform, or it faces total ruin (Brinkley 26). Alarming as this may sound, China has long been on this road of eventual destruction or salvation since 1978. Former Chinese President Hu Jintao even went so far as to acknowledge this fact by saying, “We should separate government administration from the management of enterprises, state assets, public institutions, and social organizations” (Brinkley 27). This comes as no surprise to many, considering China is no longer functioning as a true communist state.
“CHRONOLOGY OF U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS, 1784-2000.” Office of the Historian. 2000. Web. 14 Nov. 2013
The Opium Wars Bertrand Russell once said, power is sweet; it is a drug, the desire for which increases with habit. The addiction to power is equivalent to a drug, once you get used to the same amount you want more. In 1840, England and China had two different ideas on what trading and power meant to them. England wanted China to see them as equivalent trading partners and China was the main exporter at the time. Before the trade of Opium started, Britain was trading silver for silk and tea; although, after a while England had no more silver to give to China.
A main imperialistic power, Great Britain, began trading China opium, a heavily addictive drug, in exchange for tea and silk. At first, it seemed like a positive idea – the Chinese previously used opium for medicinal purposes. With little time, the government began to realize to the greatest extent the deterioration opium caused and how they must be wary of Great Britain. In an attempt to delete Great Britain’s influence, the Chinese began attacking British cargo ships. Thus began the Opium War and Great Britain’s evident influences in China.
"Ancient China: Confucianism ." Wikipedia. Accessed December 16, 2013. http://ancientchinaconfucianism.weebly.com/refrencesbibliography.html.
Chinese merchants later started profiting from distributing the drug as well. Therefore, the addiction of opium quickly spread to everyone in the Qing society not long later, even high-ranking officials were involved with the addiction. Ironically, the first Qing law that was set in 1729 happens to be banning all opium imports. However, as the Qing emperor and officials start coming to realize the addiction of opium, they debated whether to continue the banning and make it stricter or to legalize and tax the drug. They soon came to a conclusion of continuing the banning of opium and making the law stricter.