The Opium War(s) changed the entire British/Chinese relationship. Many saw the cause of the war as the "result of China's isolationalist and exclusionary trade policy with the West." (1) The invisible barrier China put up against all other cultures prevented many potential economic benefits for all those wanting trade with them. China restricted trade with all nations to keep themselves �pure�. China did permit silver to be imported, but drew the line at that when the exclusionary laws were implemented. (2) The biggest countries affected by this wall were Britain and America who viewed their exclusion as �trade imbalance�. (3) Britain saw a high demand for opium in the country and vision of economic prosperity from that trade pushed the mechanics to start the Opium Wars. The drug was grown in China but the amount was not enough for the demand. Most were imported from India. (4) The large use of opium by all walks of Chinese society resulted in lower mercantile business, lack of government work performed, and a much lower standard of living. (5)
To sum it up, Britain found a market for opium from India. The result was a decline in the functioning of the Chinese government and society. As a result, the China put up extremely strict trading laws that banned most Western trade. Britain saw the decline in money coming in and demanded a change in the laws. With none coming forth, Britain went to war to be a drug pusher in China.
Makes for interesting conversation and also calls for a little shame from many of the countries who pull such devious actions in world history.
(1) Philip V. Allingham, �The Opium Trade, Seventh Through Nineteenth Centuries,� Victorian Web, Lakehead University, accessed September 4, 2012, www.victorianweb.org/history/empire/opiumwars/opiumwars1.html.
(4) Cindy Yik-yi Chu, ed., Foreign Communities in Hong Kong, 1840s-1950s (Palgrave MacMillan, 2005), accessed August 29, 2012, NetLibrary e-book.