The New Opium War

Posted 28 Jul 2002 at 18:07 UTC by atai Share This

This is an English translation of the Chinese article "The Alternative Story of the Opium War" written by Professor Chao-Kuei Hung (ckhung@cyut.edu.tw), Chaoyang University of Technology, Taichung County, Taiwan, Republic of China. It provides a insightful view of the debates over Microsoft's dominance, and recent crackdown on software piracy, in Taiwan. People in other countries may also find the story familiar in their own situations, that governments may be willing to deal with Microsoft to satisfy the immediate needs (accepting donations, obtaining lower prices, etc., but leaving the MS monopoly in place, like the state of the food industry in this story), thus not taking on initiatives to switch to Free (libre) software. (Note: the Ching, or Qing, Dynasty is the last dynasty of China before the Republic of China)

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In the past decades, the British imported large amount of opium and earned many silver dollars from the Ching Empire, turning our country's previous favorable trade balance into trade deficit. Recently, the BFA (the Food Business Alliance, whose members are mainly the child companies of the British East India Company: think, what kind of food today does not contain opium?) asks the Ching government to harshly punish these farmers growing opium poppy without authorization from the East India Company, and these people growing poppy at home to save on the costs for the drug.

The East India Company's China Region President, Shu Yao-Kan, says, "the East India Company spends millions every year on R&D on opium products and marketing so now we can have the good taste, so enjoyable opium products to smoke/eat. If people do not respect the Poppy Growth Rights and just take our improved poppy seeds to grow their own, what difference are there between such people and pirates? Please support the concept of 'Poppy Growth Rights'. We already give a period of amnesty, and if you come forward during this time to pay sufficiently for the pop you are growing, we will not prosecute."

The Justice Ministry rushed to buy enough Poppy Growth Rights at very favorable prices before initiating a crackdown on illegal poppy growth--since inside the Ministry also planted many unauthorized poppy plants. After all, if you want to cut the beards of others, you have to cut your own first. However, a people's representative questioned this: "if the Ministry pays more than the fair price, it is waste of public money; if it pays lower, then it is government backdoor deal with a particular company. I will sue the Minister for corruption." But since the Ching Dynasty has not implemented democracy, this did not go anywhere.

But the opposition did not stop here. The Young Opium Smokers' representatives protest: "we condemn the Ministry of Justice for becoming the debt collection agency of the East India Company! We the young people only learned to smoke pop in schools, and we did not sell the poppy that we grew. Our actions were not for profit, why should we pay so much to the East India Company?" The Young Opium Smokers demand poppy to be freely grown in schools. After all, opium is daily necessity!

The National Poppy-Smoking Educator Association's president also comes forward to support the Young Opium Smokers. He says, "the young people are the future of the nation. We (the teachers) train them to smoke opium also for non-profit purposes as well as to encourage the growth of the food industry." (In the past 20 years, "food" and "opium" have become synonyms.) If the East India Company insists to collect fees from the young people, we will boycott opium! (But he did not mention what replaces opium)

Food industry expert Ku Li-Hsi says, "our negative comments on the East India Company should not be based on emotion or nationalism. After all, the Company has contributed greatly to the food industry of the Ching Empire. If everyone boycotts opium, our food industry is also impacted." Asked about some people's attacking the East India Company for adding something to foods to make people craving for the newest kinds of opium products, Ku responds, "that their foods have good taste is the truth. Even if there is some secret in these foods, that is normal practice of business. The protesters probably are jealous that the Company earns too much money." But some other scholar also has a different viewpoint: "The protest is not about nationalism or emotional responses. Don't you see that the British government is also suing the East India Company, asking that different kinds of opium cannot be tied together on the market?"

The East India Company says, "Educational prices of the Poppy Growth Rights have been very cheap. A food opium poppy plant, for example, costs 10000 silver dollars on the market but only 5000 silver dollars for schools." Company President Shu also announces a donation of free poppy seeds, valued at 100 million silver dollars, to non-profit organizations. But there are disputes over the way this value is calculated, based on market prices, educational prices, or the prices of illegal opium.

Between the protesters of the "Anti-piracy" and "Anti-anti-piracy" is a group of strangely-dressed people, who give everyone they saw a strange type of seeds, called "rice." Rice is protected by a large-bearded monk's "GNU Public Growth Rights" so can be grown by anyone. These people say, "rice is not addictive. Rice is rather tasteless, compared to opium products, but can fill your stomach just fine. If you eat rice, you can change to corn or other foods at any time and you won't feel bad. So stop taking opium and switch to rice!" But the people passing by trying rice tend to shake their heads and leave. The news reporter heard of "free (gratis) food" and tries a bite, but the taste is really boring. He asks the monk, "if everyone takes gratis food, what will happen to the food industry?" The monk protests, "please don't call it gratis food! it is libre food! It means you can freely pass around and grow, but it does not mean you cannot sell it! What is free is the Rights of Growth! The food industry will still exist. It just has to transform itself..." The reporter thinks, "Gosh! these religious zealots are really hard to communicate with. Do they belive they can change the world? I will go to more interesting news! Bye!"

So do the Young Opium Smokers have the right to grow opium poppy for their own use? Or should they buy the rights from the East India Company? What is the fair price for the Poppy Growth Rights? These core issues (you don't agree these are the core issues? What is more important than money?) will continue to be the topics of debate.

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the following is also part of the original page

This article will be published in the June/July issue of the "Linuxer" magazine. The author, Chao-Kuei Hung, believes more and more people will wake up and realize the truth about the computer dictator (like in the movie "The Matrix") and has full faith in the future of Free (libre) Software.

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Original permission statement

You are welcome to copy and publish this article if the whole article stays intact.


What could have happened to China, posted 29 Jul 2002 at 18:19 UTC by sye » (Journeyer)

If British hadn't invented this scheme of using Opium to open the door of an ancient society under the influence of western power? British aren't as powerful as Mao Zedong. Chiang Kai-shek was only married into Song family who had ties in US and hence was in control of the foreign capital in China. I believe captilist's market will work out laws/ regulations/old boys network and its etiquette for any new trade given enough time,granted free flow of information and sovereign of property ownership. What China should be pondering upon its history is what makes the difference between Karl Marx's socialistic 'Opium' and Westerners' greed on gold.

His Majesty is Wise, posted 31 Jul 2002 at 01:45 UTC by tk » (Observer)

That was a good laugh! Several colourful characters have been left out though, perhaps intentionally:

  • Bogus research institutes: "An experiment conducted by a group of court officials found that rice poses greater risks to health than opium."
  • Peruvian Congress: "In view of the recent demise of Your Majesty's favourite pet, we beseech Your Majesty to cease the current action against opium traders."
  • Mac: "Don't buy the EIC's low-grade opium! Buy our state-of-the-art opium!"
  • Whiner #1: "Why can't rice be made to taste like opium?"
  • Whiner #2: "Opium and rice are both horrid. Vapourcrop rules!"
  • GNU wannabe: "This grain of rice will help solve world hunger."
  • RMS: "All Western products are evil."
  • ESR: "I disagree. We should engage other Westerners to join us in our fight against the EIC."
  • Linus: [grows rice]
  • ...

(And, how can any story set in ancient China not contain at least one reference to the Emperor? This is outrageous!)

His Majesty is Wise, posted 31 Jul 2002 at 01:51 UTC by tk » (Observer)

That was a good laugh! Several colourful characters have been left out though, perhaps intentionally:

  • Bogus research institutes: "An experiment conducted by a group of court officials found that rice poses greater risks to health than opium."
  • Peruvian Congress: "In view of the recent demise of Your Majesty's favourite pet, we beseech Your Majesty to cease the current action against opium traders."
  • Mac: "Don't buy the EIC's low-grade opium! Buy our state-of-the-art opium!"
  • Whiner #1: "Why can't rice be made to taste like opium?"
  • Whiner #2: "Opium and rice are both horrid. Vapourcrop rules!"
  • GNU wannabe: "This grain of rice will help solve world hunger."
  • RMS: "All food produced in Western colonies is evil."
  • ESR: "It's in the best interests of the EIC to give away its opium."
  • Linus: [grows rice]
  • ...

(And, how can any story set in ancient China not contain at least one reference to the Emperor? This is outrageous!)

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