Monday, December 30, 2019

50 Years Ago: The Opium War With China 1842 (1966)

The 50 Years Ago column from the December 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Educated opinion in China adverse to the consumption of opium as being detrimental to the prosperity of the Chinese nation steadily grew, eventually culminating in laws passed by the Chinese Government strictly prohibiting the traffic in opium. Under cover, however, of an agreement with the Chinese Government for the existence of establishments to carry on general trade in Canton and Macao, our honest English traders smuggled in large quantities of the forbidden drug, in which they did a very profitable trade.

The Chinese Government then took the matter into their own hands with the following result as summarised by Justin McCarthy (Short History of our Own Times) P.27
  “When the Chinese authorities actually proceeded to insist on the forfeiture of an immense amount of opium in the hands of British traders, and took other harsh but certainly not unnatural measures to extinguish the traffic. Captain Elliot, the Chief Superintendent, sent to the Governor of India a request for as many ships of war as could be spared for the protection of life and property of Englishmen in China. Before long British ships arrived and the two countries were at war”.
The Chinese were of course, worsted in the war and compelled to come to terms, the ‘swag’ obtained by England being as follows:

The island of Hong-Kong ceded in perpetuity; Five ports: Canton, Amoy, Foo- Chow-Foo, Mingpo and Shanghai, thrown open to British trade and Consuls established there.

In addition to the above, China had to pay a war indemnity of four and a half million pounds and . . . a further indemnity of one and a quarter millions in respect of the smuggled opium they had destroyed. 

From the Socialist Standard, December 1916.

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