Opium and Capitalism on the Chinese Maritime Frontier


Henry Luce Foundation/ ACLS Program in China Studies Postdoctoral Fellowships




Opium was a source of livelihood to a great many people. Putting these people at the center of analysis, this project offers a new approach to the history of opium in China. Drug traders carved out their own spheres of power at the precise moment when modern states pushed into local communities in unprecedented ways. They fought to protect their profits as outside institutions claimed new sovereignty over the narcotic. Drug traders alternately subverted and infiltrated the Chinese state, creating new patterns of corruption, shaping and limiting state power, and manipulating imperial institutions. Their actions had consequences that ranged far beyond treason, or even capital accumulation for that matter. Drug traders built the modern Chinese political economy.