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"Opium Was A Minor Cause Of The First Opium War"

1448 words - 6 pages

"Opium was a minor cause of the first Opium War"The statement that Opium was a minor cause of the first Opium War is one with a great deal of substantiality. The war arose from a great number of factors primarily arising from an imbalance of trade and cultural clashes, both of which were exacerbated by the opium trade, but both of which existed before and during the opium trade as independent agents that could have individually caused conflict.A primary reason for misunderstandings between China and Britain was there very different social structure. In China, primarily due to a Confucius ideology, merchants were held at the bottom of the social scale. They were seen as parasites, growing wealth by stealing from others. In England, however, merchants were a highly esteemed class, many of which married into the royal classes, and assumed highly valued positions. They were a strong party that had to be taken seriously before elections into parliament and one which therefore had its views strongly represented at the very top. The primary problem with such different social values surrounding a common social group is the idea in China that people do not converse with members of society of a far lower social status. Here the merchants faced a great problem, many Chinese officials refused to speak directly with the British merchants which in many cases led to great frustration and delays in an industry were time was an essential player. Such cause for hostility existed before mass imports of opium and remained a constant cause of anger until latter treaties after the first opium war.A further cause for conflict was in grained in the Chinese culture. The Chinese saw themselves as the most superior race, and everyone else as barbarians, and as they were the country with a leader chosen by God they were clearly of a higher level than foreigners. The Chinese would not identify any other state as an equal and as such treated them appropriately. The British did not accept this and demanded diplomatic equality to no avail. Some British officials even walked out of meetings and refused to sit with other Chinese on the basis of they were put in an inferior position however the highest of these misunderstandings was when the British were expected to kowtow to the Emperor and shower him with gifts before even beginning negotiations. This of course hurt the Brits pride as they didn't see the need for them to show greater respect to the Chinese than the Chinese did to British. This of course resulted in both parties being aggravated. China could not believe the 'barbarians' could be so disrespectful, and the British could not accept themselves being treated as absolute inferiors to the Chinese. Such conflict will always remain in countries were a standard diplomatic procedure is not adopted and upheld by both sides and in the scenario, such as in China, where neither party is willing to alter its views conflict will most probably result.Furthermore, the lack of...

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