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Global Boston Book Review On Opium War Boston College Globalization Ii Essay

830 words - 4 pages

Write a two-page essay: What does the author of this book argue about this topic, overall? What does each individual chapter of the book argue? What kinds of evidence does the author use to support his/her arguments?
In the book China and The Brave New World: A Study of The Origins of The Opium War, author Tan Chang argues that the trigger of the Opium War was neither cultural differences nor British imperial rapacity. In the last chapter of the book, Chang concludes that the Opium War was the ultimate solution to the conflict of socio-economic interests between peoples of the two empires.
After laying out the two conventional theories that explain the reason of the Opium War in Chapter 1, Chang presents a piece of evidence in each following chapter to support his argument. Some scholars, such as John. K. Fairbank and His-pao Chang, believe that the Opium War was caused by a clash between Western and Eastern cultures, “One was agricultural, Confucian, stagnant…The other society was industrial, capitalistic, progressive, and restless” (Chang 9). Another theory is that the conflict was between British commercial expansion and Chinese containment. The Opium trade generated an indispensible market for British merchants due to the amount of profit it brought. As Chinese officials banned the influx of opium to China, the British blamed China for obstructing its quest for commercial expansion. In Chapter 2, Chang refutes both theories by stating the misunderstandings that led to the theories. Chang uses the widely accepted distortions of the Chinese culture to disapprove the cultural-war theory. The allegation that the Chinese treated foreigners as “barbarians” can be countered by all the Chinese ideographs used to designate westerners (Chang 18). For example, both the Jesuits who stayed in Peking during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the later British traders in Canton were called Yi, which demonstrated the enormous respect from the Chinese (Chang 19).
On the other hand, Chang asserts that the Chinese emperors’ assumed abhorrence of trade, in harmony with the Confucian contempt for commerce, is a mere fiction. China has imported metals, food-grains, spices, raw cotton, and perfumes since ancient days (Chang 27). The Chinese were equally interested in attracting foreign buyers for silk, porcelain, tea and sugar (Chang 30). In Chapters 3, Chang claims that both the British trader and the Chinese blamed the “close-door” policy and the unwarranted arrogance of the Manchu government. The Chinese government did not understand or support Manchu rulers’ hatred toward the...

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