Millennia of Chinese dominance ended abruptly in the first half of the nineteenth century when the Qing Dynasty came face-to-face with the power of an industrializing, imperial Western Europe. When the Qing tried to prohibit British merchants from selling opium to Chinese in the 1830s, London dealt them a quick, decisive defeat in the First Opium War, begun in 1839. When the Qing sued for peace, the British pressed their advantage with the Treaty of Nanjing, which ceded control of Hong Kong to Britain, opened five Chinese ports to trade with foreigners, and granted British citizens immunity from local law. And thirteen years later, in 1856, the French joined the British in the Second Opium War, eventually burning the imperial Summer Palace in Beijing to the ground in 1860. The defeated Chinese were forced to legalize both foreign merchants’ attempts to hook them on opium and foreign missionaries’ efforts to convert them to Christianity.
– pgs. 111, 112, DESTINED FOR WAR, by Graham Allison, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017
In a single generation, a nation that did not appear on any of the international league tables has vaulted into the top spot. In 1980, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) was less than $300 billion; by 2015, it was $11 trillion – making it the world’s second-largest economy by market exchange rates. In 1980, China’s trade with the outside world amounted to less than $40 billion; by 2015, it had increased one hundredfold, to $4 trillion.
– pg. 6, ibid.
Most students are stunned to learn that on most indicators China has already surpassed the United States. As the largest producer of ships, steel, aluminum, furniture, clothing, textiles, cell phones, and computers, China has become the manufacturing powerhouse of the world. Students are even more surprised to discover that China has also become the world’s largest consumer of most products.
– pg. 9, ibid.
A few weeks ago, I asked a Belizean who supports the Donald Trump agenda because of her extreme religiosity and her detestation of the LGBT agenda which was being pushed during the Barack Obama years, whether it was people or drugs that Trump was more interested in keeping out of the United States with his call for a wall along the Rio Grande.
If it’s drugs that the Americans want to keep out with their wall along the Mexican border, and let’s say the wall was built and succeeded in reducing the inflow of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, PCP, Ecstasy, and so on, then what that will do is raise the price of those illegal narcotic products.
Always the constant in the situation is the powerful demand for these drugs amongst the American people. So there is this very rich, seemingly permanent market in the United States for products which their political leaders have declared illegal. If you build a wall and drive the prices higher, then you bring sea routes along the Atlantic and Pacific oceans into play, and perhaps even the air routes. There is simply too much money to be made bringing drugs into the United States. The money is so big, the impoverished rest of the hemisphere is willing to kill and to die to make some of the Franklins.
There was once an American president who said that if the Americans made peaceful change impossible in Latin America, then that would make violent revolution inevitable. That was John Fitzgerald Kennedy talking in the early 1960s, before he was assassinated in 1963. The United States had assisted the rise and supported the regimes of some of the most brutal dictators in history, from Guatemala, Salvador, and Honduras on down through the rest of Central America and into South America. (The Americans had supported the dictator Porfirio Diaz in Mexico, but that was what the Mexican Revolution of 1910 was all about.) The same was the case in Caribbean countries like the Dominican Republic (Trujillo), Haiti (Duvalier), and Grenada (Gairy).
Historically, there have been these hundreds of millions of people south of the American border who were desperate to survive. These are the people who risk their lives and murder their own people in order to bring drugs into the American market. That market was tremendously lucrative, and the market is always there. The Americans, rulers of planet earth, always want their high.
Across the other side of the world in Asia, the laws the Chinese enforce against drugs are strict to the point of cruelty. One hundred and seventy five years ago the territory we know as China was home to one of the most pathetic populations in the world. A people with one of the most ancient and glorious civilizations in the world, the Chinese were being devastated by opium. Opium was been forced into China by Europeans like the British and the French, who wanted to rape the Chinese.
For the Chinese to recover from the early nineteenth century to the point where their economy has been the fastest growing in the world for decades, it took a communist revolution which triumphed in 1949, led by the iconic Mao Tse-tung and the silky smooth Chou En-lai. It is said that the Chinese communist leaders sacrificed hundreds of millions of Chinese lives in their journey from national disgrace to international glory. So, that is the other side of the coin.
Neither you or I know the future, but for sure drugs are nothing to play with. In fact, America’s political leaders, between 1919 and 1933, were so hard line in their morality that they passed laws making alcohol illegal during that period. That so-called Prohibition era gave rise to the crime families we refer to as the Mafia. The masses of the American people, for their part, had insisted on drinking alcohol, and the profits to be made supplying Americans with illegal alcohol were such that immigrant criminal families (European in origin) became wealthy.
The mere fact of declaring a product illegal changes the economics of that product drastically. Illegality brings the criminal element into play. In the case of China in the middle of the nineteenth century, it was a matter of European imperialist invasion/domination with opium as the weapon. In the case of America today, their empire is threatened from within, because hedonistic American citizens have become too dependent on drugs, including prescription drugs.
Donald Trump’s base includes a fanatic evangelical core which is very hostile to the American big city lifestyles with their wild parties, drugs, and sexual liberalism. The United States became the world’s leading empire after World War II because they placed American interests first. But then, those of us in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean became “incentivized” to get into America, by any means necessary. Our home economies had been devastated by American foreign and economic policies which enriched American companies, supported military dictatorships south of their border, and left our people to become recruited by drug traffickers.
Donald Trump wants to make America “great” again, and what he desires is a nation committed to naked white supremacy. I don’t know how all this will play out. I know that the African American population in the United States comprises the financial and technological elite of the Black world, so down the road we may see a move such as Hugo Chavez’s come into reality – a regional/hemispheric coalition of color. The Chavez vision, first introduced into Western Hemisphere discourse by Simon Bolivar two hundred years ago, is one of the reasons Venezuela has been targeted by Washington. The other thing I know is that drugs are a ticking time bomb in America.
Empires have risen throughout human history, and all of them have fallen. I believe it is important for us Belizeans to have a homeland. Perhaps America will take the rest of the planet down with it when it goes. Nuclear Armageddon and all that … Who knows? Whatever the case, old-fashioned as I am, I believe in the old adage: God bless the child that has his own. We have a little Jewel here. Let’s try to hold on to it with all we’ve got.
Power to the people.