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The opium war and tea

By the 19th century, the British became a nation of tea drinkers, and the demand for Chinese tea rose astronomically. The East India Company had given up the monopoly privileges on all trade in 1833, and the free trade was already started. As the demand of tea increased, the cost to the exporting country also increased. Silver began to flow out of England. At the time, England was facing a shortage of silver after the War for American Independence, and for the industry revolution, they needed more silver. To solve the problem, East India company conceived a bright idea of exporting woolen fabrics to India, and exporting opium from India to China, which was called "Triangle trade". Even before, small amount of opium had been exported to China through the Portuguese trader, and about 1000 boxes of opium was exported to China only for the medical use. After 1830, the amount of opium exportation to China had risen to 20000 boxes, then in 1835, it even increased to 30000 boxes. The consumption began to skyrocket, and in 1839, 40000 boxes opium was exported to China. Large amount of silver was flowing out from China to pay for the opium. China faced serious economic crisis and the opium weakened a large percentage of the population. East India company did not directly deal this opium trade, but using their authority and power, they made other trading companies to sell opium to China. Apparently, Jerden Madison Co. known for Japanese green tea trading to West was also involved this opium trade. In 1839, Lin-Tse-Hsn, capable officials in China were chosen to regulate the opium trade. Around that time, there was an incidence that one Chinese man was killed by drunk British sailor. The British refused to submit the offender to China, and that caused China to close the port of Macao. Next year, the war was started. British sent their military marines with the powerful weapons, but China could not match the powerful British forces and new technology. In 1842, China agreed to the provisions of the treaty. China was forced to accept the British demands and sign the agreement. Hong Kong was ceded to Great Britain, and other five ports including Shanghai and Guangdong were opened to British residence and trade. After the war, the amount of tea exporting from China increased more, but the country of China had to face a lot of problems. Impact of the opium war also reached to Japan. The demonstration of foreigners elimination occurred around that time after realizing the power and technology of British military. Tea was absolutely the key for this historical incident "Opium War". By tracing this war, we can see that the British people's enthusiasm on tea actually caused this historical incident.

(Takahiro Moritake)