Lin Xezu’s letter to the Queen demonstrated anger towards the opium trade and urged Britain to stop. Xezu addresses the queen, telling her that opium killed the Chinese and disadvantaged them in trade (“Commissioner Lin Xezu, Letter to Queen Victoria” 193). The letter conveys urgency to end the trade and threats to foreigners if they did not obey the Chinese laws. Lin Xezu urges the Queen to stop the British from importing opium in China and to respect its policies by detailing the adverse effects it had on the population like death, and how it would affect China’s trade relations.
Xezu pours over the adverse outcomes of the opium trade to the Chinese. Poison, as he calls the opium, has condemned many to death. Opium wreaked havoc to humanity and robbed the Chinese of their wealth (193). Further, foreigners benefit from trade at the expense of the Chinese. Xezu views the opium trade has disadvantaged the Chinese by reducing their ability to work and accumulate wealth. High death tolls means that the population of productive people declines, affecting the commercial success of the Chinese. He further states that the opium seduces the community. The statement implies that the Chinese become gullible and would be subjected to unfair trade practices because they are addicted to opium. In effect, China will receive less revenue than it deserves in foreign trade. So poisonous is opium that even the heavens do not approve of its production. By alluding to the heavens, Xezu likens the production and consumption as sinful. Xezu convenes urgency in stopping the opium import by indicating the adverse effects on the Chinese.
Xezu puts the Queen in the shoes of the emperor concerning law adherence. Xezu asks the queen if it should be expected that foreigners follow the Celestial Empire’s law as she would demand if they visited England (194). Asking such a question points out the double-standard nature of British. That they would punish those, who broke their rules but disregarded the policies of other nations. That Britain defeated China in the first opium war suggests that Britain enforced its rule and commercial needs of the Chinese. Equally, Xenu appeals to the moral standards of the queen. If she was ethical, then it was only just that she would do unto China what she would want to be done unto Britain. Xezu implores the queen to end the trade by reminding her to respect the same strictness by China that she would enforce in her nation.
China’s trade relations with foreigners will be at stake if they fail to abide by Chinese laws. Xezu sternly warns that foreigners who did not adhere to the fixed rules of the land or face punishment. He even challenges the queen to punish the traders as a symbol of respect, and to gain blessings (195). Xezu tells the queen that she would be a hero if she agrees with the Chinese and stop the trade. The threat to kill foreign opium traders illustrates that China is willing to forego any good relations to safeguard the interests of its locals. The Celestial Empire has the power to enforce its rules, and Britain should start respecting its policies. Xezu mocks that the Celestial Empire is bigger than the queen can even fathom. Partly, this statement is to intimidate her into recognizing China and also to remind her that China is equal to, if not better than Britain, and does not rely on Britain for prosperity. Xezu demonstrates China will disband with foreign trade as it is a mighty nation.
China was also fed up with unfair trading practices by foreigners, which must end. Xezu squarely blames foreigners for China’s opium problem. He cites that the Chinese would not have any opium to resell if it was not sold to them in the first place (194). Additionally, the Chinese were selling valuable items like porcelain and tea, and it was unfair that they got opium in exchange. Xezu’s words portray China as a shortchanged because it gave more than it got. Xezu demonstrates the hypocrisy of the British in their conduct. They sold opium which they did not even produce. The substance was being shipped from other colonies like Bengal and Patna (193). The fact that even England could not grow this poisonous substance in their land shows that they are aware of its harm to human beings. It also shows that Britain was unfair because it exported items that it did not manufacture but wanted authentic Chinese items. Highlighting the discriminatory practices by foreigners justified the harsh punishment of death that China would impose on foreigners. Applying the same sentence to the locals and foreigners shows that the Chinese are fair, unlike the British. China depicted the unfair trade activities it was subjected to and used the findings to give credence to their punishment.
Lin Xezu urges the Queen to stop the British from importing opium in China and to respect its policies by detailing the adverse effects it had on the population like death, and how it would affect China’s trade relations. The poison impaired the ability of the Chinese to conduct trade, harming their profits. Comparatively, Xezu reminded the Queen the importance of respecting laws because she would demand the same. As a powerful nation, China demonstrated that it was capable of enforcing its rule and should be regarded. The country had had enough of unfair trade and demanded its immediate stoppage. The powerful letter illustrated China’s disdain for opium trade effectively.
“Commissioner Lin Xezu, Letter to Queen Victoria.” Chinese Repository, vol. 8, pp 479-503.