Trade War

Let me tell you a tale, stir a hornet’s nest
Well remembered in the east, most forgotten in the west
It was the 1830’s and the industrial revolution
Was turning Europe into a land of wage slaves and air pollution
The history books tell us it was the era of free trade
And the entire world hungered for the products Europe made
Merchants plied their wares across the seven seas
And they brought back things like porcelain, silk and tea

Soon all the tea in China could barely keep the west awake
Such a thirst for Chinese products as could barely be slaked
They liked to drink their tea in cups of Chinese porcelain
And those who could afford it loved the silk upon their skin
But what made the merchants and the monarchs scream and cry and shout
They seemed to have little to offer that China couldn’t live without
They didn’t want their muskets and they didn’t want their wool
Which left the British coffers empty and the Chinese coffers full

And they called it a “trade war”

They called it a trade war and I guess that could be so
They say it’s not free trade if it’s just a one-way flow
Because apparently free trade is when the west comes out ahead
That’s how it is in practice though that’s never what is said
The fact of history they’d have us sweep under the rug
The one thing they could sell in China was an addictive drug
It had long been banned by Chinese law but the British didn’t care
They packed the opium up in crates and they shipped it there

And they called it a “trade war”

It all came to a head in 1838
When the soldiers of the emperor torched twenty thousand crates
It took three days to burn it, and when the fires had gone out
The Chinese people would soon learn what free trade was all about
Navies came from Britain, France and the USA
In blood, land and silver they would make the Chinese pay
Cities levelled, thousands killed, the war was three years long
That’s how they “opened” China, that’s how they got Hong Kong

And they called it a “trade war”

Buy/share the album:

“Trade War” appears on the Bandcamp album, Spies Are Reading My Blog (2013) and on the CD, If I Had A Hammer (2013).

You don’t get a more naked view of colonialism than the Opium Wars of the 19th century.  Military forces from the UK, the US, France and Russia ganging up on China, in order to punish the Chinese authorities for daring to enforce Chinese drug laws.  The alliance of European countries, however, wanted to push opium on the people of China in order to profit massively from their misery — and because they wanted to import Chinese tea and porcelain without having to pay for it in hard currency.

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