China’s Revenge for Opium Wars: Our Fentanyl Epidemic

My fifth-grade Catholic teacher, Sister Daniel, loved telling us tales of her days as a missionary teacher in China.  Her stories echoed an impression of the Chinese people as the Noble Peasants similar to those portrayed by bestselling novelist Pearl Buck’s “The Good Earth.”  She did not tell us about the history of the Opium Wars or the Boxers Rebellion or how the Versailles Treaty undermined Chinese democracy after WWI.

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Sister Daniel may not have even been aware but probably would have considered this part of American Chinese history beyond the ken of 5th graders anyway. Unmentioned was how Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s grandfather, Warren Delano as well as many other prominent Americans, made their fortunes in the China opium trade by addicting millions of Chinese.

Nor did she tell us how Teddy Roosevelt secretly encouraged a Japanese “Monroe Doctrine” for a Japanese sphere of influence that presaged Japan’s invasion of China.  She did tell us about the martyr missionaries trying to bring Christianity to China and what it was like to be expelled from China by Mao’s Communist Party. We were exhorted to save our nickels and dimes and quarters for the annual mission’s collection to help the “poor children in China.”

It is easy for Americans with our relatively short history to not understand how far back events in national memory can influence current events.  Once, while meeting with Croatia’s President Tudman a colleague asked how the war in Bosnia started.  His reply commenced a thousand years ago.


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