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On a bitterly algid December morning in 2009 at the Xishan Detention Centre in Urumqi, western China, 53-year-old Akmal Shaikh was woken up by a aggregation of guards from the high-security prison. Afterwards a quick battery and a breakfast of porridge, Shaikh was escorted out to accommodated a prosecutor, who apprehend out to him a notification in Chinese — he didn’t accept a chat of it. Afterwards, he was led to a adaptable van, placed on a accumbent barrow and beggared up. Again it all happened rather apace — a baleful aggregate of sodium thiopental, pancuronium boiler and potassium chloride injected into his veins took alone about a minute to still his heart.

The beheading of Shaikh is alone one amid the estimated 1,700 to 10,000 afterlife sentences agitated out in China every year, admitting there are no official figures. However, it created all-embracing account and kicked up a above adept spat. Shaikh, a Pakistan-born British agent from arctic London, was arrested and confined in Urumqi afterwards he was bent at the bounded airport in September 2007 accustomed 4 kilograms of heroin in his suitcase. He had travelled from Poland to China, and admiral declared he had brought the drugs from Kyrgyzstan via Tajikistan. His ancestors and non-government organisations angry the afterlife amends argued that Shaikh suffered from brainy affliction and bipolar disorder, which was exploited by biologic cartels, who tricked him into alteration heroin in acknowledgment for a music recording contract. Shaikh himself, however, denied in cloister that he suffered from any brainy illness. Sometime in 2008, China’s absolute cloister upheld the afterlife amends handed bottomward to Shaikh by lower courts in Urumqi.

When British prime abbot Gordon Brown said he was “appalled” at the beheading and Adopted Office abbot Ivan Lewis said it was “entirely unacceptable” that Shaikh’s brainy bloom was not adjourned afore he was put to death, the Chinese government and accessible bristled at the “foreign interference”, citation “the absinthian memory” of China below adopted imperialism harking aback to about two centuries.

To bags of Chinese people, it was a admonition of the Opium Wars of the 19th aeon amid the Qing authority and the British and the French, when, as one Chinese analyst put it, “the confiscation of opium and abuse of British biologic dealers led to the aboriginal war of China in the century, through which the British affected accessible the aboideau of China by opium and cannons”. China absent the wars and suffered from its “century of humiliation”. One internet user from Guangxi summed up the affect for abounding Chinese in his online comments: “History will bethink this date for ever. It’s a day that Chinese bodies captivated their alive up and it’s a day to abundance civic heroes … who fought adjoin opium smoking.”

Whether Chinese history immortalises Shaikh’s beheading or not, the 170 years aback the aboriginal cannon was accursed in Canton — triggering the alpha of the Aboriginal Opium War in 1840 — accept been an afflictive bequest for both Britain and China and acquisition able resonance in all-around cartography today, says historian Julia Lovell, an award-winning translator and a academician on Modern Chinese History and Abstract at the University of London, whose book The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Authoritative of China was appear aftermost month.

“The adventure of Britain’s drug-dealings in Asia and of the wars it fought for opium is one of arresting advantage and hypocrisy, as politicians, traders and soldiers buried their action to assure an actionable narcotics bargain below the flags of civilisation and progress,” Lovell says in an account with Weekend Review. “I wouldn’t altercate that there are any absolute analogues in the apple today. But countries such as Britain and the United States are still allotment to action wars in the apple for affidavit that are not clear. While there was a bright moral catalyst to Britain’s contempo action in Libya, several commentators accept speculated that the accommodation was apprenticed by bread-and-er imperatives.”

Rarely mentioned in Chinese history above-mentioned to the Tiananmen Square annihilation of 1989, and adored as a assignment on civic abasement thereafter, the Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860) absorb a able position in Chinese discourse.

It all started with the British advertent an able trading arrangement to abate the empire’s ascent bargain arrears afterwards the acquisition of India in the 18th century. By 1790, the arrears had risen to £28 actor and swelled abundant above it by 1820, aback the British trading affiliation and the government activate the absolute band-aid for the situation: Indian opium. Taking advantage of Chinese affection for the Indian variety, British merchants bribed Chinese admiral to acquiesce access of s of opium alien from British-ruled India, admitting such imports had continued been banned by administrative decree in China. Amid 1800 and 1818, the boilerplate ceremony cartage of opium to China was 4,000 s (with ceremony absolute about 64 kilograms of opium); by 1831, the cardinal of s affected 20,000; and by 1840, aback the British East India Company had absent its cartel on the bargain and the bazaar was abounding of clandestine merchants, the sales affected about 40,000.

An attack by the Chinese authorities to ascendancy the bargain at the anchorage of Canton by antibacterial ample consignments of opium and about alive biologic merchants resulted in a massive British army from India advancing China, alive through Canton and abduction the tax barges on the Yangtze. The draft accepted disastrous. The Accord of Nanjing alive in 1842 affected China to pay an apology to Britain and accessible four ports to it, and accord up Hong Kong to the Queen. The Additional Opium War (1856-1860), led by an Anglo-French coalition, concluded in added discredit for the Chinese: Beijing’s acclaimed Old Summer Palace was gutted as a avengement for the ache of a British arbitration team; the treaties alive to achieve the war affected China to accessible all-encompassing trading relations with the West, legalise opium bargain throughout the country, abalienate Kowloon and pay a absolute apology of 5 actor ounces of argent to the British and the French.

While the wars themselves accept been commonly glossed over as the alpha of a continued and adverse artifice of adopted assailment (by China) or as administration the advance of a corrupt authority on the aisle of change (by Britain), Lovell’s estimation of them is far added advancing for both sides. “This war has continued been apparent as a blow of assured civilisations — amid expansionist, free-trade Britain and xenophobic, bourgeois China,” she says. “Many still accept that China, aback time immemorial, has been an about articular abode whose bodies accept consistently articular with a single, axial set of political and cultural ideas. As the country boarded aloft its aboriginal war with Britain, it was annihilation of the sort. It was a fractious, declining empire, broadcast with depression and chancers accessible to advertise their casework to the accomplished bidder, behindhand of his or her ethnicity.”

That adventure of arduous advantage raises several afflictive questions. For a post-Tiananmen China embarking on a aisle of reform, ambitious to be a all-around superpower and aiming to anamnesis its pre-1890 celebrity as the world’s better abridgement by 2015, the Opium Wars accept been a analytical point of advertence in Sino-Western relations. “In Chinese politics, [the Opium Wars] angle for the alpha of a abiding Western artifice to abuse China. If the West criticises China, the Chinese government can columnist what you ability alarm the Opium War on: It reminds the Chinese bodies that the West has consistently been abounding of schemes [such as the Opium War] and accordingly not to be trusted,” Lovell says.

Indeed, China has apprenticed that on several times — including at atomic alert in the aforementioned year that Shaikh was executed. The aboriginal was the Chinese arch Wen Jiabao declining to appear negotiations at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, with the West afterwards blaming China for the breakdown of the summit; and the additional was the 11-year bastille book handed to agitator biographer Liu Xiaobo, who went on to win the Nobel Prize for Abstract the aing year.

In a seminal article appear in the Chinese Journal of All-embracing Backroom that reviews China’s position in all-embracing affiliation over the accomplished brace of centuries, Barry Buzan,

a assistant of All-embracing Relations at the London School of Economics, argues that “the rhetorics of ‘harmonious society’ and ‘harmonious world’ do not aish the worries of outsiders about what a risen China would be like and how it would behave. The choices China makes amid the bounded and all-around levels of all-embracing affiliation will greatly appearance both the aisle that peaceful acceleration takes and the probabilities of its success or failure.”

Lovell is akin added attentive of the anecdotal of Chinese superpower. “Beneath the account about China’s rise, it’s important to bethink that the country is a high-wire act: There are apparently as abounding affidavit for this complex, assorted country to abatement afar as there are for it to authority together. Its government is actual anxious about political and amusing instability; consequently, we’re seeing disentangle appropriate now one of the best unblinking crackdowns on bone aback the afterlife of Mao,” she says.

The crackdown comes hardly as a abruptness in a nation area the 150th ceremony of the Aboriginal Opium War in 1990 was apparent as an break to “remember our history of abasement and body a admirable future”, according to a state-sponsored documentary, and area the beheading of Shaikh was compared to the “burning of opium stocks in Humen in 1840 during the Opium Wars” by a Chinese bookish who empiric that “this time, though, ‘gunboat diplomacy’ could not work”.

Such reactions are allotment of the character of China’s story, observes Lovell. “I anticipate nationalisms all over the apple tend to ascertain themselves abnormally — namely, adjoin a accepted enemy,” she says. “What is altered about China is the way in which opinion-makers abide on ‘national humiliation’ [rather than added absolute struggles and achievements] as a key acquaintance in the Chinese nation amid 1840 and 1945. There are books, museums, monuments and films on the idea. India, for example, which has a added acquaintance of colonialism, does not accept museums of civic humiliation,” she says.

But the takeaways from the Opium Wars get far added afflictive on the added ancillary of the Pacific. There is the West’s affiliation with banned narcotics trade, to alpha with — a bargain that begins with the aurora of civilisation in Mesopotamia, is alien to Persia and India by Alexander the Great, is monopolised by the East India Company for the advantageous Chinese market, acknowledgment to its stranglehold over the opium growing districts of Bengal and Bihar, and is acclimated as a bargain by European and American merchants with Chinese traders to bank up argent affluence of the West, afore actuality acclimated to set up a all-around whirlpool of addiction patronised by bedrock stars and terrorists alike. Popularised by British Romantics such as John Keats and Elizabeth Barret Browning, opium — and heroin, in about-face — has sapped the activity out of talents alignment from from Janis Joplin to River Phoenix to Kurt Cobain to John Belushi.

“The banned narcotics bargain has thrived through, and contributed to, the political alternation that has afflicted countries such as Afghanistan over the accomplished 50 or 60 years,” Lovell says. “It’s an afflictive bequest for the British to be associated with. To be frank, the British are not acquainted abundant of their opium-trading accomplished in countries such as China and India. This is a history that still has able resonances for a all-around politics. In Britain today, our role in the opium bargain and in the Opium Wars is abundantly forgotten. In our alive imperialist 19th century, the acumen conceivably is that the Opium Wars were a sideshow, about to our exploits in India, say, or Africa,” she says.

Cut to a altered time, a altered date — Iraq, perhaps, or Libya — and acting opium with oil, and it is not difficult to see why Lovell says the Opium Wars are added than a bald allotment of history in the theatre of all-around backroom and business today. Or accede the “honourable” absolution of opium bargain and analyze it to the dizzying acquisitiveness and avidity of the cyberbanking industry that is abhorrent for triggering a all-around recession. “To accept China’s afflicted accord with the West today, you accept to accept how and why China remembers the Opium Wars, and Britain’s role in these conflicts,” she says.

As China and the West change forth in an afraid all-around affiliation — or sometimes the abridgement of it — Lovell sees hope.

“Although the West’s actual crimes adjoin China approach ample in Chinese alertness and although aback the 1990s the country has accomplished alternate eruptions of anti-Western nationalism, the country is absolutely now added accessible to all-embracing forces, and added globalised and cosmopolitan, than at any point in its past,” she says.

More than 170 years afterwards the theatre of the abundant Opium Wars was abandoned, the aspect of the action continues incessant amid altered nations and on altered stages — as the classic of an charlatan bargain gone wrong. It no best involves bottle address but finds added adult agency of beheading — in the coursing for oil by all-around giants, in businesses aloof new markets for amplification and conceivably in the bastille beef of Urumqi, area one Akmal Shaikh spent his aftermost night on Earth.

3,400BC: Opium poppy is able in Mesopotamia. The Sumerians alarm it Hul Gil, the “joy plant”. They will anon canyon forth the bulb to Assyrians, who will canyon it on to Babylonians. The addiction is again transferred to Egyptians.

1,300BC: In the basic burghal of Thebes, Egyptians activate agronomics of opium developed in their acclaimed poppy fields.

460BC: “The ancestor of medicine”, Hippocrates, dismisses the bewitched attributes of opium but acknowledges its account as a analgesic and styptic in alleviative centralized diseases and epidemics.

330BC: Alexander the Abundant introduces opium to the bodies of Persia and India.

AD400: Opium from Egyptian fields is aboriginal alien to China by Arab traders.

1,200: Ancient Indian medical treatises call the use of opium for diarrhoea and animal decrepitude and call the medical backdrop of opium.

1500: The Portuguese, while trading forth the East China Sea, admit the smoker of opium. China considers the convenance barbaric.

1527: Opium is reintroduced into European medical abstract by Paracelsus as laudanum and assigned as painkillers.

1600s: Residents of Persia and India activate arresting opium mixtures for recreational use. Portuguese merchants accustomed cargoes of Indian opium through Macao absolute bargain breeze into China.

1601: Ships accountant by Elizabeth I are instructed to acquirement the finest Indian opium and carriage it aback to England.

1637: Opium becomes the capital article of British bargain with China.

1700: The Dutch consign shipments of Indian opium to China and the islands of South East Asia; the Dutch acquaint the convenance of smoker opium in a tobacco aqueduct to the Chinese.

1729: Chinese emperor Yung Cheng issues a decree prohibiting the smoker of opium and its calm sale, except below licence for use as medicine.

1750: The British East India Company assumes ascendancy of Bengal and Bihar, the opium-growing districts of India.

1773: The British East India Company assumes cartel over all the opium produced in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

1796: Acceptation of opium into China becomes a banned trade. Argent is banned out to pay for smuggling opium in.

1799: China’s emperor Kia King bans opium completely, authoritative bargain and poppy agronomics illegal.

1803: German scientist Friedrich Serturner discovers the alive additive of opium by abandoning it in acerbic and again neutralising it with ammonia. The result: morphine.

1819: British artist John Keats and added English Romantics agreement with opium advised for austere recreational use.

1827: E Merck & Company of Darmstadt, Germany, begins bartering accomplishment of morphine.

1830: Jardine-Matheson & Company of London accede India and its opium from the British East India Company.

March 18, 1839: Lin Zexu, administrative Chinese abettor in allegation of suppressing the opium traffic, orders all adopted traders to abandonment their opium. In response, the British accelerate expeditionary argosy to the bank of China, alpha the Aboriginal Opium War.

1842: The Chinese are defeated by the British in the Aboriginal Opium War. Forth with advantageous a ample indemnity, Hong Kong is ceded to the British; the Accord of Nanjing is signed.

1856: The British and French renew their hostilities adjoin China in the Additional Opium War. In the after-effects of the struggle, China is affected to pay addition indemnity. The access of opium is legalised.

1874: English researcher C.R. Wright aboriginal synthesises heroin by baking morphine over a stove.

1878: Britain passes the Opium Act with hopes of abbreviation opium consumption.

1895: The Bayer Company in Germany begins assembly of diacetylmorphine and bill the name “heroin”. Heroin will not be alien commercially for addition three years.

1903: Heroin addiction rises to alarming rates.

1905: US Congress bans opium.

1906: China and England assuredly achieve a accord akin the Sino-Indian opium trade. Several physicians agreement with treatments for heroin addiction.

1909: The aboriginal federal biologic prohibition is anesthetized in the US outlawing the acceptation of opium.

1910: Afterwards 150 years of bootless attempts to rid the country of opium, the Chinese are assuredly acknowledged in acceptable the British to annihilate the India-China opium trade.

1923: The US Treasury Department’s Narcotics Division (the aboriginal federal biologic agency) bans all acknowledged narcotics sales. With the prohibition of acknowledged venues to acquirement heroin, addicts are affected to buy from actionable artery dealers.

1925: In the deathwatch of the aboriginal federal ban on opium, a advancing atramentous bazaar opens up in New York’s Chinatown.

Early 1940s: During the Additional Apple War, opium bargain routes are blocked and the breeze of opium from India and Iran

(formerly Persia) is cut off. Scared of accident the opium monopoly, the French animate Hmong farmers to aggrandize opium production.

1950s: To advance their accord with Asian warlords in Laos, Thailand and Myanmar, while continuing to armamentarium the attempt adjoin Communism, the US and France accumulation them with ammunition, accoutrements and air carriage for the assembly and auction of opium. The result: an access in the availability and actionable breeze of heroin into the US and into the easily of biologic dealers and addicts.

1962: Myanmar outlaws opium.

1965-1970: US captivation in Vietnam is abhorrent for the billow in actionable heroin actuality banned into the US.

1972: Heroin exportation from South East Asia’s Golden Triangle, controlled by Shan warlord Khun Sa becomes a above antecedent of raw opium in the assisting biologic trade.

July 1, 1973: US admiral Nixon creates the Biologic Administration Administration (DEA) below the Justice Department to consolidate around all federal admiral of biologic administration in a distinct agency.

1978: The US and Mexican governments acquisition a agency to annihilate the antecedent of raw opium — by spraying poppy fields with Agent Orange.

1992: Colombia’s biologic lords are said to be introducing a high-grade anatomy of heroin into the US.

1993: The Thai army with abutment from the DEA launches its operation to abort bags of acreage of opium poppies from the fields of the Golden Triangle region.

1999: Bumper opium crop of 4,600 tonnes in Afghanistan. United Nations Biologic Ascendancy Programme estimates about 75 per cent of world’s heroin assembly is of Afghan origin.

2000: Taliban baton Mullah Omar bans poppy agronomics in Afghanistan.

Autumn 2001: War in Afghanistan; heroin floods the Pakistan market.

October 2002: UN Biologic Ascendancy and Crime Prevention Bureau announces that Afghanistan has regained its position as the world’s better opium producer.

October 2003: The US Food and Biologic Administration (FDA) and the DEA barrage a appropriate force to barrier billow in internet sales of narcotics from online pharmacies.

September 2004: Singapore announces affairs to assassinate a self-medicating heroin user, Chew Seow Leng. Consumers face a binding afterlife book if they booty added than 15 grams of heroin a day.

May 2006: In Mexico, Congress passes a Bill legalising the clandestine claimed use of all drugs, including opium and all opiate-based drugs. Again admiral Vicente Fox promises to assurance the admeasurement but buckles a day after below US government pressure.

September 2006: The UN Office on Drugs and Crime letters that Afghanistan’s autumn in 2006 will be about 6,100 metric tonnes of opium — a apple record. This amount amounts to about 92 per cent of all-around opium supply.

-Compiled from agencies

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