Report on Opium in China from the German Embassy in Tokyo, 1944

On June 8, 1944, the German Embassy in Tokyo sent a report back to the Auswärtiges Amt, or Foreign Ministry. Unlike so many other files dealing with foreign affairs, at this particular dispatch showed no signs of Ribbentrop’s blue pencil — the German foreign minister was notoriously narcissistic and had to see the full text of every article mentioning his name.

Instead the leader dealt with most in this text was China’s Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang was no stranger to the politics of commemoration in his day; the CCP learned far more from him about the ‘politics of national humiliation’ than is usually admitted. In summer of 1944, Chiang might have been preoccupied with things like Japan’s renewed offensive in the south, but instead was looking at questions of opium.

Chiang was commemorating the anniversary of the Opium War (begin in 1839). But rather than a narrative of fully national humiliation, the leader was keen to see a reduction in opium smoking in his capital city. This was the top priority as expressed in the speech, on with curtailing opium production in the mountains in Sichuan. Secondly, opium traffic from Japanese occupied areas into areas of China controlled by the Nationalists had to be interdicted. Third, China had to have a plan for how it was going to deal with the opium problem in what it called ‘currently occupied areas’ and put into place plans so that when the new areas that would presumably fall under Nationalist rule when the war ended were not overrun by addicts.

Source: Stahmer in Tokyo, “Für Rundfunkabteilung,” Bundesarchiv file R901/73380.

Photo by George Lacks (LIFE magazine photographer in Shanghai c. 1940s) 

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