Opium As A Chinese Saga
Opium As A Chinese Saga
The Lure That Was China Amidst it all, she withstood the grandeur of her civilization and past, her legacy and mystique, her people and culture: China is the ever yearned for prize of colonization; of commercialism; of travelers of yore and hitherto – for she has everything to be proud of in any given time. She has achievements, inventions, products, people, craft, art, inert knowledge, philosophies, grace – so with her natural resources. Up until the end of the 17th century, China and her people and their life was as they preferred it to be.
Then the West was utterly impetuous to indulge China to comprehensive trade. China has most exquisite exportable products: porcelain, silk, tea. The West love to have them. However, there is nothing much that the Chinese need from the West – nor find of any use. Specifically Great Britian, Europe could not allow an imbalance trade. So, in 1793, Britain sent a diplomat and successfully was given an Imperial audience. The array of European products presented was wonderful and would be suitable for the balancing of trade that must be established between Europe, between Britain and China.
It was a disappointment. The Emperor wrote King George: “. . . As your Ambassador can see for himself, we possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country’s manufactures. . . Our Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific abundance and lacks no product within its own borders. There was therefore no need to import the manufactures of outside barbarians in exchange for our own produce.
But as the tea, silk and porcelain which the Celestial Empire produces, are absolute necessities to European nations and to yourselves, we have permitted, as a signal mark of favour, that foreign hongs [merchant firms] should be established at Canton, so that your wants might be supplied and your country thus participate in our beneficence. ” (Historywiz, 1999-2005) And the problem began. China Sets A Foothold As the West expressed its agitation about such imbalance of trade, China thenon closed its doors from trade. It isolated itself. It allowed selective foreign trade only via the City of Canton (now Guangzhou).
The Europeans could not do away with the Chinese goods. So their gold and silver paid for what they want. It never flowed back to Europe because there was nothing that the Chinese want from Europe. What drove China to distance itself from Europe is because of the haughtiness the Europeans pursued with regards to trade. To this the Chinese is unaffected. For the Chinese, they are sufficient to themselves. Their confidence is a sense of superiority in their race. Their domestic trade is immensely rich on their own. China is a country, a nation, a people that is very big, very fruitful, very rich, very diversified in natural resources.
Furthermore, as China’s interaction with the foreigners from that time made them wary. They felt intimidated and therefore became protective of itself. Thus, the isolation. Then, particularly the British, drew the gambit: Opium. Benign Was Opium Supposed To Be Opium has been in China and its use for as far back as 12 centuries ago. The purpose was medicinal. It cured diarrhea. Up and until 17th century it was sparingly mixed with tobacco as a means of relaxation. It was said to have been introduced by the Arabs, then the Portuguese, the Dutch.
It is one of the lesser portion of trade that China indulges in but placed under control. This is what the British saw to balance things out with China. But “in 1729, when the foreign import was 200 chests, the Emperor Yung Ching issued the first anti-opium edict, enacting severe penalties on the sale of opium and the opening of opium-smoking divans. The importation, however, continued to increase, and by 1790 it amounted to over 4,000 chests annually. In 1796 opium smoking was again prohibited, and in 1800 the importation of foreign opium was again declared illegal.
Opium was now contraband, but the fact had no effect on the quantity introduced into the country, which rose to 5,000 chests in 1820; 16,000 chests in 1830; 20,000 chests in 1838, and 70,000 chests in 1858. ” (La Motte) China therefore was alarmed with the increasing use of opium by its people. It decreed a complete prohibition of its trade. Yet, the addiction that the Chinese evolved into towards the drug, encourage Western traders to penetrate China. On top of this the Chinese empire is facing corruption and fraud in its government. Bureaucracy is becoming inefficient and weak emperors are no longer qualified to face the problems.
No matter what laws and penalties are imposed on the trade and use of opium, it fell on deaf ears. The profits were too much for underground Chinese traders not to connive with Western exporting traders. The balance of trade is deteriorating and China was awakening to the scourge. “In 1839 the Emperor ordered Commissioner Lin Tse-Hsu to put a stop to the opium trade. Lin wrote to Queen Victoria, appealing to the British sense of justice and compassion: ‘We have heard that in your own country opium is prohibited with the utmost strictness and severity:—this is a strong proof that you know full well how hurtful it is to mankind.
Since then you do not permit it to injure your own country, you ought not to have the injurious drug transferred to another country, and above all others, how much less to the Inner Land! Of the products which China exports to your foreign countries, there is not one which is not beneficial to mankind in some shape or other. There are those which serve for food, those which are useful, and those which are calculated for re-sale; but all are beneficial. Has China (we should like to ask) ever yet sent forth a noxious article from its soil? ’
He received no reply. Left on his own to solve the problem, Lin ordered the destruction of a large supply of opium stored on Chinese soil. ” (HistoryWiz, 1999-2005) Then, the two opium wars ensued. China lost. Effects of Loss Moral Effects All because of misunderstanding and obstinacy about how to balance trade, China had to experience a loss not just in terms of economics more importantly the destruction of their moral fibre. The imbalance is not only in trade but waging conflict towards strengths and weaknesses, superiority and pride. The unknowing Chinese at the end was the one who paid the bigger price because of an addiction he likewise unknowingly developed.
Because of the lure of the profits, even the Chinese himself pitted against his own countryman’s destruction of his morality. After so many years of demoralization due to the tremendous addiction of the Chinese and the usurping profiteering of the scrupulous Chinese and foreign businessmen, China for once and for all to work itself unanimously to kick the habit. The emperor ordered that in ten years no more opium traffic will be allowed. No matter that China has tremendous distances as a vast land; no matter that have no viable means of telecommunication; no matter that they have very few learned people – they all decided to get rid of opium.
The West agreed to cooperate with China to lift them from their moral bondage of drug addiction. Economic Effects As a turning point in the life of China as a nation and a people, its loss counted likewise the diminishing territorial rights it holds. China then had to sign the treaties of Nanjing and Tietsin in surrender and allowed its doors again to international trade. As foreign trade was pursued, Western merchants bought silk and tea from China, increasing the volume remarkably as years went by. Because of this, Chinese farmers opted to abandon producing food stuff and concentrated on silk and tea.
Thus food prices skyrocketed. With five more ports opened, the former boatmen who worked in Canton ports met with unemployment. Aggravated by rising food prices, the unemployed became more miserable. It is not all glory with increased trade. The instant resurgence of trade volumes caused a shortage in Spanish silver dollars. It has to be abolished due to its uncontrollable appreciation and was replaced by the Mexican dollars. There are also imbalances in the local currencies. Copper cash depreciated because of inadequate supply of copper and the inefficient government.
This is a total destruction of the financial systems of China and they were left with the introduction of paper money in 1853. Another commercial activity affected after the loss to the opium war was the textile industry. Cloths are produced by hand in China. The West brought in cheap machine made cloths. That killed local production. And then there is the basic agriculture and home grown industries that were affected by the changes in other commercial activities. Capitalism surged into China’s consciousness and yet China was not ready for the big time game of capitalism. They were not that knowledgeable about managing profit and loss.
Sociological Effects With the shameful loss from the opium war, the Chinese lost faith in the superiority of their race. They came to recognize the superiority of the Westerns. They decided to get to know them and their ways. The Chinese decided to discover the political, social and technological know-how of the Western culture. Thus, they came to know and open up to what diplomacy and foreign relations are all about. Political Effects: Since the loss of China was due to the superiority of the Western armaments, China looked into the advancement of their military and armory. They opened modern factories for modern weapons to be produced.
The factories were set not to make money but for purposes of the development of Chinese military. The opium war likewise revealed the ineffectiveness of the feudal system. Its Manchu government became incapable of protecting and governing the citizenry. Poverty prevailed; petty revolution ensued; the economy collapsed. The Chinese intellectuals rose up to the occasion and likewise looked into re-organizing its government an dpolitics. Conclusion: China’s quagmire in opium was not a show of the total weakness on the part of its people, but rather insufficiency of appropriate support.
For not knowing any better, they indulged because it was available. The inherent cultural perspective and philosophies are quite strong yet it was limited to the features of their time. Modern circumstances that come along their way are not something they are really prepared for. Education and information was not present at that time. Coupled with this shortcoming of the pertinent period of time, the West was incessant in its colonization and commercial and capitalist activities. At that period of time, the West sees itself as the lord and master of the whole world.
What they occupy and spread must be taken hook, line and sinker. The trade objectives of the West were very encompassing, so with the rest of their occupation strategies. If the West was morally short sighted in instigating addiction among the Chinese people and the infiltration and condoning of underground Chinese business man with the lure of profit in the opium trade – then the Opium War is something that it is not a laurel to have won. And on the part of China, the opium war and rising above its ashes might have been a blessing in disguise. For what China is now in this 21st century is a result of lessons learned.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 24 December 2016
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