For the truth shall (always) set you free

A few years back there was a big hoo-ha about Britain’s involvement in the slave trade, the protesters wanted statues of men involved or having any connection with the slave trade to have their statues taken down and in one incident pulled down and dropped into the harbour at Bristol. All pretty stupid really.

The slave trade was of course a black mark in British history but if you put it into context and look at what the lives of the ordinary men and women of this country were at that time, factories workers laboured in appalling conditions into an early grave in satanic mills and forced to live cheek and jowl, in slums, ridden with rats and decease. Men press-ganged into the Royal Navy, or into the army – horrendous conditions, cannon fodder, building Britain’s empire (for the rich). But far worse would come; the real stain on British history was the China (opium) Trade.

I am reading James Bradley’s book The China Mirage – the hidden history of American disaster in Asia. The book opens with the opium trade – first by Britain and then by America.

As ever (and to this day) when any nation restricted Britain or America’s (god-given right) to exploit their lands, British and American gunboats will appear on their shores, or gun-ships in their skies, to beat them into submission. Bradley explains in great detail how not only the civil war in America but the waterfront properties of NY, railways, copper mines, in Tennessee and Maryland, coal mines in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Perkins Institution for the Blind, factories, cotton mills and the great harbours on the east coast, all built on opium money. Along with these the great universities, were then, and still are today, dependent on trust funds set up with opium drug money. America was built and financed by the opium trade, disguised as the China Trade.

Britain of course was well ahead of the game. In July 1836 Commissioner Lin addressed a letter to Queen Victoria, then still a girl of twenty and only two years on the throne.

We have heard that in your own country, opium is prohibited……has China (we would like to ask) ever yet sent forth a noxious article from its soil? ….. If foreigners came from another country, and brought opium into England and seduced the people of your country to smoke it, would not you the sovereign of the said country, look upon such a procedure with anger, and in our just indignation endeavour to get rid of it?

England, responded in its usual high-handed manner, as it would to anyone that dares to speak out against its foreign policy or question its god given right to dictate to others (including countries within the UK – Scotland) – Victoria sent the Royal Navy to blast away at China’s coastal cities until they surrendered to Britain’s demands.

You see Britain wanted the tea and fine goods from China but they came at a cost, the trade was draining the coffers of England and nothing was being bought by China from England. Britain made nothing that China needed or wanted. Britain (just as in America) was able to wash their hands of being directly involved in the opium trade by the use of the East India Trading Company, (protected by the British government’s armed forces) which shipped the drugs from India. America shipped their drugs from Turkey, into China, (privateers like the Russell Company, not the government although protected by America’s armed forces) the profits made in opium were 26 per cent on investment.

All the wealth pouring into America from the opium, still, the trade was well hidden – all that was ever said in the reams and reams of paperwork over the decades, opium was never mentioned that was buried and never spoken of in America.

The slave trade was evil but nothing in comparison with the death toll from the opium trade and the wars that followed before China regained its lands from the British and Americans (buccaneers).

In John Pilger’s film ‘The Coming War on China’ we see how when Mao Zedong came to power, America was shocked, and dazed, how had they lost China (just as Britain must have felt when it lost India, their jewel in its empire crown). The parasites that had fed off China for decades now could not find a boat quickly enough to scurry back home.

James Bradley will take me from the nineteenth century through the Second World War, and to the origins of the Vietnam War. Bradley reveals how American misconceptions about China have distorted America’s domestic and foreign policies and led to the avoidable deaths of millions.

What I have never understood is why we (the people of these islands) tolerated such behaviour from our government, a government now fully joined at the hip with American foreign policy. I hear no voices of dissension; from the British media – newspapers, the BBC, Sky News, or Channel 4, quite the opposite – we simply swallow the government’s press releases, hook line and sinker, Russia Bad – China Bad – we still have not acknowledged our part in the Iraq War, where thousands of innocent civilians were killed, for a lie, Weapons of Mass Destruction. Our part in the horrendous death toll in Yemen, and still dying even to this day, yet not a line of print or a word from good old “Aunty” (our public service broadcaster.) However, they will broadcast appeals for money to aid the suffering of people we are complicit in bombing the hell out off.  

The man who took this country into the Iraq war, Tony Blair– was he punished – no, England’s highest honour was bestowed upon him. He much like the statues we now see in George Square in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, of nineteenth-century, slavers and opium barons were put on a pedestal. Everyone in that government (who voted for that action, in Iraq) was complicit in a war crime, and sadly we too, allowed them to do it, then sweep it under the carpet – remember it was done in our name.

When Mao Zedong rose to power in 1949, the US government and media portrayed him as an angry, anti-American Soviet pawn. Yet, Mao had reached out to President Roosevelt in 1945, saying he was eager to fly to the US to discuss his vision, a historic opportunity – how New China, he believed could work with America – tragically America nipped it in the bud, China had no choice but to turn to Russia.

Did we not see the same attitude at the collapse of the Soviet Union? Anyone coming cap in hand to America (or Britain, one and the same when it comes to self-interest and foreign policy) will simply be seen as weak and ripe for exploitation. 

Once again, we see Russia and China moving closer and closer together in trade and as an alliance against American foreign policy that is dependent on a large military presence around the world. 

Today, like Britain in the 19th century, America and Britain once more find their balance of payments in the red, we buy from China, but China needs little of what we make. The money is all flowing one way – from west to east. Not only China but also India and Indochina, all their country’s industries will now be fed with gas and oil from Russia. The troubled history between China and America – two of the largest economies in the world – still plays out to this day.

A large military force is no longer the threat it once was, people power has proved itself to be most resilient against sheer power. We see it in South America, people rising up against America when they try to impose unwanted puppet governments on the people. Likewise in the Middle East, North Africa, where sanctions no longer have any effect, and now in the Far East, whose domestic market far outstrips anything that American and Europe would ever import, China no longer need America’s buying power as it once did.

Now America’s proxy war in Ukraine is all about America’s wish to control Ukraine as part of its empire, (although it will never be spoken in those terms) we are not building military bases on foreign soil, we are supporting allies – go tell that to the marines.  

Europe with its draw bridge mentality has a demographic problem, unlike India, with a rising young, well-educated, workforce. China has the wealth and a government that is willing to see new opportunities and exploit them without the bottom line mentality of the west, where nothing can be done unless it is sanctioned by private finance and only then if there is a percentage profit at the end. And Russia with its vast regions of still untapped natural resources is a clue to why Russia and China have become a threat to the world power that was once the domain of the US.

China has not squandered its wealth on big military spending (for the first time ever getting into the top 100 of countries’ arms sales, the UK is fifth). Rather china bought gold, mineral rights and now oil and gas from its neighbour (and thanks to the EU following US sanctions) I’m sure at a cut-price deal.

I am already fascinated with this book – I only wish we had a more enlightened and independent media in the UK – for the truth shall (always) set you free.

Stay safe.   


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