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Source of the trade...|
The source of the opium sold by the British in China was primarily India. Since opium is addictive, it is sort of unfair to say that those who became addicted to it had a choice. Of couse, since India was a British colony too, their leaders are hardly to blame for the trade.
What I have learned most about China's recent history is that it is one of anti-colonialization. First, the Dutch and Portugese colonized countries. Then France, England, and Spain colonized countries. Then America, Japan, Italy, and Germany began to colonize countries. At one point, China was divided in small sections ruled by treaties signed with trading nations of Europe plus America.
In World War Two, Russia, America and Britain fought Germany, Japan, and Italy. Afterwards, China chose a form of government that was completely different from that of all the countries which had colonized it. Then it struggled to unify itself. People are embarassed by Mao today, but it was Mao that kept China's map from looking like Africa's map -- dozens of small, dis-united, unstable countries with colonial pasts. Now that China is unified, it is re-emerging into the world on its own terms. Because the old colonial powers are often distrusted in Africa, China can help Africa in ways that the west cannot. The many poor people in Africa need help just like the many poor people in China and other countries too.
One of the sadder stories about opium is its association with tuberculosis. If a person frequented an opium den, he or she was likely to become infected with TB. This had the effect of not just of killing the person slowly, but also made the opium quite a medical need. Opium is a powerful cough suppressant.
The other unique thing about opium is its relationship to gold. It's tough to make a person want to give you his gold. But if you can hook him on opium, then he'll bring you his gold, his neighbor's gold, and all the gold he can scratch from the ground too! Isn't colonialism fun?