China’s Attack on the Opium Problem -- By: George D. Wilder

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 072:286 (Apr 1915)
Article: China’s Attack on the Opium Problem
Author: George D. Wilder


China’s Attack on the Opium Problem

George D. Wilder

China’s marvelous success in her battle with the opium evil in recent years, together with the growth of Christian public opinion which has compelled the British Government to relinquish enormous revenue and honestly help China in her fight, have brought the opium problem to the attention of the world with a new interest. This interest is heightened by the attitude of the municipal councils of foreign concessions in China and of the money power aiding the opium merchants to thwart the great Chinese and British peoples in their efforts to stop the ruinous traffic. The difficulty which England, America, France, Russia, and other nations have found in fighting drug habits, alcoholism, etc., makes a study of China’s amazingly successful fight well worth our while. In order to understand it, we need to consider how China came to have an opium problem. The reader who is familiar with the history may well turn nearly to the middle of this article, where the developments since 190C are treated.

It has been a common impression that the Chinese have been addicted to the use of the drug from time immemorial, and that the British opium trade has but ministered to a demand that previously existed. On the contrary, a study of history shows that the Chinese, although they knew of the medicinal uses of the drug as early as the twelfth century, knew nothing of the method of smoking it for pleasure, and

relief from pain, until about 1700 a.d., when the Dutch from Java, who smoked it in their tobacco pipes, introduced it to the island of Formosa. As early as 1729 the Chinese Government recognized the dangerous nature of the habit, and when Portuguese traders endeavored to land a few cases, the Chinese shipped it back to its source and prohibited further import. At this time it was known only to the very few Chinese who came in contact with the foreign traders along the southern coast. The great mass of the nation knew nothing of it. It is to the credit of the Chinese Government that it so early saw the -ruinous nature of the habit and tried to keep it out of the country. The Chinese had already succeeded in stamping out the alcohol habit, and would have succeeded undoubtedly in keeping out the opium trade had not the British East India Company found in it a promise of great profit for the produce of rich lands in India. The Company fostered the growth in India, prepared the drug to suit the Chinese taste, and sold it to traders, who promoted the use of the drug along the coast of China. As Sir Joshua Rowntree said, “British merchant ships spread the habit up and down the coast; opium store ships armed as fortresses were moored at the mouth of the Canton River...

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