However, the profound analysis of the situation in China and its international trade reveals the fact that cultural factors were secondary compared to economic effects of the opium trade. In order to understand the extent to which economic effects determined the beginning of the war between two countries, it is necessary to take into consideration the importance of the opium trade for the British Empire.
Firstly, it should be said that during a couple of decades preceding the Opium war, the trade between Britain and China grew progressively. At the same time, as the trade with China progress its economic effects became extremely negative for the British Empire. The reason is obvious – the country was rapidly progressing due to its imperialistic policy, territorial expansion of the empire, its leading position in the world and international trade, and the exploitation of its colonies. In such a way, the development of Britain was directly dependent on the effectiveness of its colonial policy and trade with other countries. In this regard, China was the major threat to the further economic growth of the British Empire because the import of Chinese products substantially exceeded the export of British commodities to China (Tan, 214). As a result, the British Empire stimulated the economic growth of China and slowed down the development of national economy. The losses of Britain were particularly obvious when silver was used as the main means of payment. The stock of silver became scarcer, until the traditional approach to trade with China had not been changed.
In fact, the decision of the British Empire to shift from the use of conventional means of payment, such as silver, to the use of opium had nothing in common with cultural background of British or Chinese people, but it was determined by objective economic factors and the profitability of the opium trade to the British Empire. The substitution of silver by opium had changed the balance in the trade between the British Empire and China radically. China increased the consumption of opium exchanging its products on the drug that was consumed without any positive economic effect. No wonder the opium trade was booming and within a decade the volume of opium export to China increased from 4000 chests per year in 1820 to 18000 in 1830 (Polachek, 231). In such a way, Britain exported opium from India, saved silver and received all commodities it got used to import from China and economic benefits of the British Empire were enormous.
In contrast, Chinese economic was affected dramatically, though social effects may seem to be more significant. In this regard, it should be said that by 1836 about 1800 tons of opium were imported to China annually and more than 12 million people were addicts (Chen, 227). Obviously, the losses of the country in the international trade enormous because opium became the main means of payment, but it could not be used to produce some commodities that could stimulate economic development of the country.
Moreover, 12 million of addicts were serious ballast for the national economy because many of them could not work normally. The lack of material resources to acquire the drug undermined social stability in society that also produced a negative impact on the national economy. What is more, the number of addicts grew progressively, while economic crisis caused by the uncontrollable opium trade was inevitable. As a result, the Chinese took decision to control the opium trade that led to the conflict of economic interests of China and the British Empire and eventually resulted in the Opium war.