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Chinese and Opium under the Republic, The

Worse than Floods and Wild Beasts

Alan Baumler

Publication Year: 2007

In the nineteenth century, opium smoking was common throughout China and regarded as a vice no different from any other: pleasurable, potentially dangerous, but not a threat to destroy the nation and the race, and often profitable to the state and individuals. Once Western concepts of addiction came to China in the twentieth century, however, opium came to be seen as a problem “worse than floods and wild beasts.” In this book, Alan Baumler examines how Chinese reformers convinced the people and the state that eliminating opium was one of the crucial tasks facing the new Chinese nation. He analyzes the process by which the government borrowed international models of drug control and modern ideas of citizenship and combined them into a program that successfully transformed opium from a major part of China’s political economy to an ordinary social problem.

Published by: State University of New York Press

The Chinese and Opium under the Republic

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pp. vii

List of Figures and Tables

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-13

This project could not have been completed without the help of a large number of people. Most important of these was Lloyd Eastman, who introduced me to Chinese history with the expectation that I would eventually write something worth reading. I hope that this book fulfills that requirement, and one of my greatest regrets is that he will not be able to see it. ...

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Introduction. Worse Than Floods and Wild Beasts: Opium, Politics, and Society in Republican China

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pp. 1-8

On January 7, 1919, Zhang Yipeng, a special representative from Duan Qirui’s government in Beijing assembled fifty notables at the New Happiness and Contentment Warehouse on Sichuan road in Shanghai. The assorted government officials, educators, bankers, merchants, and social reformers were to assist Zhang in destroying 1,207 chests of Indian opium. Zhang opened the first ...

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1. Establishing a Meaning for Opium

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pp. 9-34

The Pudong opium burning was a political ritual that harked back to Commissioner Lin Zexu’s destruction of British opium at Humen in 1839, and looked forward to contemporary ideas about public health and public relations. Even today in Taiwan, June 3rd, the date of Lin’s event, is celebrated as anti-smoking day and always involves a public burning of illicit drugs.1 Public destruction ...

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2. The Narrative of Addiction in China and the West

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pp. 35-56

How opium was perceived changed in the mid-nineteenth century. This was the beginning of the prohibitionary discourse that motivated twentieth century anti-opium campaigns. Anti-opium crusaders in the first part of the twentieth century, and scholars in the second part, assumed that the opium problem and how it was understood remained the same from the 1840s to the ...

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3. The International Campaign against Opium

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pp. 57-88

As the Chinese state began asserting more control over the opium trade in the late nineteenth century, it did so as part of a general trend all over East Asia and the world. In the early part of the century, Asian colonial and national states tried to increase their control over opium primarily as a revenue measure. This trend continued into the later part of the century, both out of a continuing desire to increase ...

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4. Warlords and Opium

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pp. 89-110

China’s problems with the international system were created by the fact that it was moving backwards in history. All the states of Asia were imposing tighter controls on the opium trade while the Chinese central government was losing control. As elsewhere Chinese government organs were inserting themselves into opium planting and distribution, controlling boiling and opium dens and ...

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5. Opium, the Nation,and the Revolution

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pp. 111-150

All state formations of the warlord period faced the same problems in dealing with opium. All needed and wanted opium profits, and to some extent, all had to reconcile this with opium suppression. Each also had to adapt their opium programs to the specific conditions of the opium trade in the area they operated in. Some warlord regimes made considerable progress in adapting to the economic ...

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6. Hankou, the Anti-Opium Inspectorate, and Control of the Opium Trade

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pp. 151-176

The Nationalist government could see the events of 1927–1929 as partial successes. Although they had been unable to establish a national opium monopoly, they were able to maintain their involvement in the Yangzi opium trade, and this would yield considerable profits over the coming years. There were also reasons to be unhappy with the state of affairs. As the 1931 attempt at a new national ...

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7. Purifying the People and Defending the State: The Six Year Plan to Eliminate Opium

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pp. 177-194

In the years between 1929 and 1935, the central government made considerable progress in controlling opium trade as a practical matter but almost no progress was made in justifying state involvement. This was a problem for several reasons: It made it difficult for Nanjing to justify its policy internationally. It made it difficult to expand its control much beyond the level reached in ...

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8. Defining Drugs

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pp. 195-214

The southwestern warlords were brought under control because the central government controlled market access. They were also put in a bad position because Nanjing’s opium control system legitimately claimed to be taking successful action against opium smoking, which was the chief way opium threatened the Chinese nation. Nanjing was formally committed to the totalizing views of the ...

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9. War, Poppies, and the Completion of the Plan

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pp. 215-230

The outbreak of war with Japan in 1937 changed everything in the short term, but very little in the long term. The occupation of almost the entire coastal area profoundly disrupted the flow of opium across China, and made the Nationalist’s entire opium strategy unworkable. The considerable progress that had been made in eliminating poppy growing, controlling distribution and registering and ...

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pp. 231-238

In China today, opium is a problem that is presented as one of the perennial issues of modern Chinese history.1 This is not surprising given that modern Chinese history begins with the First Opium War. The history of the century following that war is often organized around themes of China’s exploitation by foreign powers; the disorganization of Chinese society and the failure of Chinese ...


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pp. 239-276


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pp. 277-293


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pp. 294-298

E-ISBN-13: 9780791480755
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791469538

Page Count: 310
Illustrations: 1 table, 7 figures
Publication Year: 2007