Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age
By Stephen R. Platt
We’ve been fielding quite a few questions lately on what it would take for a trade war between China and the U.S. to become a shooting war. It’s natural to wonder, both because the current U.S.-China rivalry goes far beyond trade, and also because that kind of escalation has happened before.
“Imperial Twilight,” Stephen R. Platt’s insightful account of the decades leading up to the First Opium War – in which a trade contest between Great Britain and China over goods like silver, porcelain, tea, silk and opium boiled over into “gunboat diplomacy” between 1839 and 1842 – is packed with parallels to the present day. China’s Qing dynasty had an uneasy relationship with the outside world, to say the least, and tried to solidify its rule by shielding the country from foreign influences. The government was worried about its diminishing foreign exchange reserves. It was c