Book Review: A war on drugs or a war on tradition?

From the Taipei Times: “Opium has always been associated, for better or worse, with China. And almost invariably it’s been for the worse. The myth, in both the Christian West and the communist East, has been that this pernicious substance was brought to the Celestial Empire by the perfidious British, forced onto a gullible people, and as a result accelerated the decline of a once-great nation.

This is simply untrue, says Frank Dikotter (supported by his two research assistants) in his controversial new book Narcotic Culture. Opium was consumed at all levels of Chinese society, he argues, both as a highly effective medication and for relaxation and civilized pleasure. The British certainly cornered the trade of importing opium into China in the early 19th century, but they were in no sense imposing a substance they knew to be harmful on a passive market. Not only was opium already well-known and well-loved in China, it was also used throughout Europe in a far stronger form and without any legal controls, as a cure-all and the only reliable pain killer available.”

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