When China wouldn’t trade with the British in the 1800’s, they did something truly despicable
What happens when the British desperately wanted luxurious silk and tea but the Chinese would only accept silver, something the British didn't have enough of? They broke bad, of course. The trade deficit was too much, and only opium would settle the score, something Britain gladly shipped into China with a vengeance.
Over a 50 year period in the mid-1800s, Britain paid a whopping 27 million pounds in silver to the Chinese for their goods, while China only paid 9 million pounds, since they were not impressed with what Britain had to offer. “We possess all things and of the highest quality. I set no value on strange and useless objects and have no use of your country's manufactures,” Emperor Qian Long wrote to King George III about the wedgewood pottery, scientific instruments, and woolen good they offered.
The British took advantage of China's opium ban and were smuggling at least 7,500 chests of the stuff into China by 1836. By 1839, China declared a war on drugs, taking the fight to Western traders. For the next two years the British brought their own warships to bombard the Chinese, killing between 20,000 and 25,000 while only losing 69 men.