British Raj: Occupied India and the Chinese Opium Wars

Image retreived from and on January 30th, 2011.
Text retreived from on January 30th, 2011.

In the eighteenth century, Britain had a huge trade deficit with Qing Dynasty China and so in 1773, the Company created a British monopoly on opium buying in Bengal. As the opium trade was illegal in China, Company ships could not carry opium to China. So the opium produced in Bengal was sold in Calcutta on condition that it be sent to China.[20]

Despite the Chinese ban on opium imports, reaffirmed in 1799, it was smuggled into China from Bengal by traffickers and agency houses (such as Jardine, Matheson and Company, Ltd.) in amounts averaging 900 tons a year. The proceeds from drug-runners at Lintin Island were paid into the Company's factory at Canton and by 1825, most of the money needed to buy tea in China was raised by the illegal opium trade. In 1838, with the amount of smuggled opium entering China approaching 1,400 tons a year, the Chinese imposed a death penalty for opium smuggling and sent a Special Imperial Commissioner, Lin Zexu, to curb smuggling. This resulted in the First Opium War (1839–1842). After the war the British seized Hong Kong and opened the Chinese market to British drug traffickers.