Welcome to the Shroomery Message Board! You are experiencing a small sample of what the site has to offer. Please login or register to post messages and view our exclusive members-only content. You'll gain access to additional forums, file attachments, board customizations, encrypted private messages, and much more!
The Opium Wars still define relations between the UK and China November 10, 2010 - telegraph.co.uk
“David Cameron leads largest trade delegation to China in 200 years”, hollered the headlines this week, with an almost subconscious allusion to the fact that two centuries of Anglo-Chinese trade includes the most demonic chapter in the history of the British Empire: the Opium Wars.
That particular imperial adventure is long forgotten in the UK, but the Chinese claim it as a national tragedy. As a result, the innocent Rememberance Poppy has now been caught in the historical crossfire.
To the shock of David Cameron and his colleagues, they were asked to remove the emblems before the PM’s official welcome at Beijing’s Great Hall. To their credit, a host of officials and four other Cabinet ministers — George Osborne, Michael Gove, Chris Huhne and Vince Cable — all refused to take them off.
But the effects of the Opium Wars still cascade through time. Then, like now, China produced what Europe and the USA desperately wanted. Rather than iPods and Primark’s latest autumn/winter range, it was tea, silk and porcelain.
As the Emperor Ch’ien-Lung, a famous scholar and able ruler, told another British trade delegation in 1793. “Our Celestial Kingdom possesses all things in abundance and wants for nothing within its frontiers. Hence there is no need to bring in the wares of foreign barbarians to exchange for our own products.”
Like David Cameron and his corporate cohorts today, that’s the last thing the traders from the West wanted to hear. China, the British government and the East India Company agreed, needed to “get its mind right” and that was to be achieved by sending it dotty with an epidemic of opium addiction. A nation of zonked-out drug fiends would finance Sino-British trade and do what it was told.
Drug smuggling became official foreign policy. (The mafia – a bunch of lightweights. Mexican narco-gangsters – small-time. We’re talking the British Empire, my ol’ China.) Sure there was a “turf war”‘ but – despite the fact the Chinese invented gunpowder – there was only going to be one winner.
The First Opium War (1839) was condemned in the House of Commons by a newly elected young member of Parliament, William Ewart Gladstone, who wondered if there had ever been “a war more unjust in its origin, a war more calculated to cover this country with permanent disgrace”. When Anglo-French forces sacked and looted Peking, burning the the beautiful and ancient imperial Summer Palace, the Second Opium War (1860) concluded and China’s demotion to drug-addled subservience was complete.
Thus in 1842, China’s population was 416,118,200, of whom 2 million were drug addicts. But by some estimates, in 1881, of a population of 369,183,000, 120 million were addicts.
While China was being despoiled Karl Marx arrived in London in 1849 and began work on his opus “Das Kapital”, based on his observations of the first Industrial Revolution and capitalism’s insatiable hunger for cheap labour and new markets. A century later, in 1949, driven by Marx’s radical ideas, Mao seized power in China.
Totalitarianism came and went and today China is now the undisputed workshop of the world, a 21st century kingdom of industrial capitalism, though still a one party state and a Communist one to boot.
Hence, political oppression still thrives there, with Nobel Peace prize winners rotting in prison and the hapless Mr Cameron being placed under pressure to take a moral stand, when he only aspires to being a glorified travelling salesman.
For, as in the 19th century, China is running a “chronic trade surplus”. What the West wants is for the Chinese to revalue upwards its currency (the renminbi, still adorned with Mao’s chubby visage) and buy more of our expensive baubles, consumerism being the ultimate opiate of the people.
But China’s new emperors have not forgotten the words of Ch’ien-Lung . The upshot this time, the doomsayers predict, won’t be gunboat diplomacy and state-sponsored drug pushing, but instead a protectionist trade war.
In the West, where millions are desperate for jobs, anger is growing. As US President John Quincy Adams said of the Opium Wars, “the cause is the kowtow – the arrogant and insupportable pretensions of China that she will hold commercial intercourse with the rest of mankind not upon terms of equal reciprocity, but upon the insulting and degrading forms of the relations between lord and vassal.”