segunda-feira, maio 23, 2005

Solução para a crise no têxtil – A Guerra do Ópio

Não sendo grande perito em economia internacional, confesso que o tema das relações comerciais entre países me fascina. Como comércio é dinheiro, isto significa que se tratam de relações de poder, das mais puras e duras que pode haver. No momento actual vivemos uma fase de grande instabilidade, que afecta em muito o nosso país, devido à recente liberalização do comércio têxtil. E nada como estes momentos para conhecer o passado.

A Guerra do Ópio é um episódio vergonhoso, que envolve precisamente europeus e chineses, e ilustra bem a hipocrisia reinante nestas coisas do dinheiro e, além do mais, como variam as relações entre países (a decadência de Inglaterra enquanto potência e a subida “ameaçadora” da China). Naquele então o comércio livre interessava ao mais forte...

Quanto à crise no têxtil, basta ver como os ingleses vergaram os chineses com o ópio e, posteriormente, com as guerras do ópio (1839–42 e 1856–60) para ganhar inspiração. Rebentemos com eles! Abaixo o livre comércio! Os amarelos que fechem os portos!

Baía de Hong Kong

Despite strict government regulations, foreign trade in China expanded during the late 18th century and early 19th century. As trade grew, the West found themselves to have a large and rising trade deficit with China. They were increasingly anxious to balance their trade. Yet the Chinese, having a self-sufficient economy, showed little interest in Western products. Finally, in 1820, the West found a product which China did not have, opium. Between 1829 and 1855, opium smuggling developed rapidly along China's South Coast.

In the 1830's, opium had become a vice in China (mais de 50% dos homens adultos fumavam). Due to the smuggle of opium, the trade deficit Western countries had with China quickly turned into a trade surplus. China could not export enough tea and silk to balance the trade. Instead the difference in trade was made up by the export of Chinese silver, which was highly valued for its fine qualities. In 1839, for instance, the Chinese opium smokers spent 100 million taels, while the government's entire annual revenue was only 40 million taels. The drain of silver greatly weakened the Chinese government.

Faced with this problem, the Chinese government opened a debate among Manchus and senior officials. In 1839, the emperor issued 39 articles which imposed extremely severe punishments, including death, for smoking and trading opium. Special Commissioner Lin Ze-xu was sent to Canton to ensure the rules were carried out. Lin, while in Canton, made 1,600 arrests and confiscated 11,000 pounds of opium in two months. In June, Lin forced foreign merchants to hand over 20,000 chests of opium. He burned the opium in a public demonstration and scattered the ashes across the sea. When Lin gave the order that Canton should be completely closed to foreign trade.

Great Britain, which had been looking to end China's restrictions on foreign trade, responded by sending gunboats to attack several Chinese coastal cities. China, unable to withstand modern arms, was defeated and forced to sign the Treaty of Nanjing (1842) and the British Supplementary Treaty of the Bogue (1843). These provided that the ports of Guangzhou, Jinmen, Fuzhou, Ningbo, and Shanghai should be open to British trade and residence; in addition Hong Kong was ceded to the British. Within a few years other Western powers signed similar treaties with China and received commercial and residential privileges, and the Western domination of China's treaty ports began.

In 1856 a second war broke out following an allegedly illegal Chinese search of a British-registered ship, the Arrow, in Guangzhou. British and French troops took Guangzhou and Tianjin and compelled the Chinese to accept the treaties of Tianjin (1858), to which France, Russia, and the United States were also party. China agreed to open 11 more ports, permit foreign legations in Beijing, sanction Christian missionary activity, and legalize the import of opium. China's subsequent attempt to block the entry of diplomats into Beijing as well as Britain's determination to enforce the new treaty terms led to a renewal of the war in 1859. This time the British and French occupied Beijing and burned the imperial summer palace (Yuan ming yuan). The Beijing conventions of 1860, by which China was forced to reaffirm the terms of the Treaty of Tianjin and make additional concessions, concluded the hostilities.

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