HONG KONG — In 1840, Britain went to war with China over questions of trade, diplomacy, national dignity and, most importantly, drug trafficking. While British officials tried to play down the illicit origins of the conflict, opponents gave it a name that made the link quite clear: the Opium War.
香港——1840年英国与中国开战的原因涉及贸易、外交和国家尊严,而更重要的是毒品走私。英国官员试图淡化这一不正当的冲突根源,但反对者们给冲突起的名字却点明了两者的关联:鸦片战争。
The war’s settlement forced Chinese ports open and gave Hong Kong to Britain. It began what China calls the “Century of Humiliation,” when foreign powers forced weak Chinese governments to cede territory and sign unequal treaties. Britain and France waged a second Opium War against China from 1856 to 1860. China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, alludes to the era in his call for a “China Dream” of national rejuvenation.
结束战争的协议迫使中国开放了港口,并把香港割让给了英国。鸦片战争是中国所说的“百年耻辱”的开端,各国列强开始迫使软弱的中国政府割让领土、签定不平等条约。英法联军在1856年至1860年间对中国发动了第二次鸦片战争。中国现任领导人习近平在呼吁实现民族复兴的“中国梦”时,间接地提到了那个时代。
The war is often seen as having been inevitable. But viewed through the lens of its own era, the conflict is deeply counterintuitive, Stephen R. Platt writes in “Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age.” The new book from Mr. Platt, a history professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, explores how the war came about through the influence of unscrupulous traders.
鸦片战争常常被认为是不可避免的。然而裴士锋(Stephen R. Platt)在他的《帝国的黄昏——鸦片战争及中国最后的黄金时代的终结》(Imperial Twilight Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age)一书提出,站在那个时代的视角来看,那是一场极度反直觉的战争。在这部新作中,这位马萨诸塞大学阿默斯特分校(University of Massachusetts, Amherst)历史学教授探究了战争是如何在不择手段的商人怂恿下爆发的。
In an email interview, Mr. Platt discussed the origins of the Opium War and its influence on China’s relations with the world today.
在通过电子邮件的采访中,裴士锋讨论了鸦片战争的起源、及其在今天对中国与世界的关系有何影响。
裴士锋
裴士锋 Michael Lionstar
It was surprising to learn about the extent of public opposition to the war in Britain. How was it able to go forward?
听到英国公众对战争的反对如此剧烈,令人吃惊。战争是怎么得以进行的呢?
Yes, the war was incredibly controversial in its own time, far more so than I expected when I started my research. For the proponents, it was a matter of framing. They denied any connection to opium and argued that the war was entirely about defending Britain’s national honor and protecting their countrymen from alleged atrocities in China. But the involvement of opium was inescapable — thus the name “Opium War,” as the London Times and other papers called it. To many people in Britain the notion of going to war to advance the interests of drug dealers, against a country that had always been friendly to Britain, was abhorrent. As William Gladstone wrote in his diary at the time, “I am in dread of the judgments of God upon England for our national iniquity towards China.”
是的,鸦片战争在其所在的时代非常有争议,其程度远远超出我开始这项研究时的预期。对支持者来说,那是一个表述问题。他们否认战争与鸦片有任何关联,并声称战争完全是为了捍卫英国的国家荣誉,保护自己的同胞不受所谓中国暴行的伤害。但是,战争涉及鸦片是逃避不了的事实——所以它才被伦敦《泰晤士报》和其他报纸称为“鸦片战争”。对许多英国人来说,为了毒贩的利益去与一个一向与英国友好的国家开战,是一个可憎的想法。正如威廉·格莱斯顿(William Gladstone)当时在自己的日记中所写的那样:“我很担心上帝会因我们对中国的民族罪行对英国做出怎样的判决。”
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The collision between those two sides came to a head in the spring of 1840 with a huge debate in the House of Commons over a motion to stop the war by forcing the resignation of the ministers who started it. After three full nights of debate, with impassioned speeches that in some cases went on for hours, the motion failed by a razor’s margin.
1840年春,主战派和主和派的冲突达到了顶点,双方在下议院就一个动议举行了一场大辩论,动议的目的是迫使发动战争的大臣辞职,从而阻止战争发生。辩论进行了整整三晚,充满激情的演讲有时持续好几个小时,但这项动议以极其微弱的差额未获通过。
How did China and Britain’s lack of mutual understanding influence the conflict?
中国和英国之间缺乏相互了解,这对那场冲突有怎样的影响
Sadly, in some ways it worked better the less they knew about the other. When China was still a mystery, it was seen as unified and impenetrable. As the British started learning the reality of conditions in the empire, however, it became apparent that it was weaker than imagined and there were serious divisions within its society. On its face, the Opium War was almost absurd in its conception: the British sent a small fleet and a few thousand troops to make war on an empire of more than three hundred million people. But they were emboldened by reports from travelers that the merchants of China wanted free trade with the British and only their government stood in the way — essentially, that the British would be welcomed by the ordinary people with open arms. It was a gamble that would have been unthinkable a generation earlier.
不幸的是,在某种程度上,越是不了解对方,战争就越是行之有效的做法。当中国仍然神秘的时候,它被认为是一个统一的、高深莫测的国度。但是,当英国人开始了解大清帝国的实际情况后,很显然,它比想象的要弱,而且其社会中存在着严重的分裂。从表面上看,鸦片战争在概念上几乎荒谬:英国派了一支小舰队和只有几千人的军队,对一个拥有3亿多人口的帝国发动战争。但是,英国人从旅行者那里听到的消息给他们壮了胆,他们称中国商人希望与英国进行自由贸易,只是中国政府不让他们那样做——这基本上等于说,英国人会受到普通民众的欢迎。这样一场赌博,对上一代人来说是无法想象的。
You also show how people who learned about the other’s culture were better able to interact, like the missionary and interpreter Karl Gutzlaff. But the person in Britain who had perhaps the most knowledge of China, George Staunton, was key to the war being launched. What does this say about the value of such knowledge?
你的书还表明,了解对方文化的人能够怎样更好地互动,比如传教士翻译家郭士立(Karl Gutzlaff)。但是,英国当时最了解中国的人也许是乔治·斯当东(George Staunton),他是发动战争的关键人物。由此该如何看待这种知识的价值呢?
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They didn’t always use their knowledge for good ends. Gutzlaff, for instance, was one of the most talented linguists of his age and he wound up interpreting for opium smugglers. But in a broader sense, the events of this era are a reminder that so-called experts do not always appreciate the limits of their own knowledge. When the country they profess to understand so well behaves in ways they think it shouldn’t, they can become especially hostile critics. It’s almost as if they feel personally betrayed.
他们并不总把自己的知识用到好的目的上。拿郭士立的例子来说,他是那个时代最有才华的语言学家之一,结果给鸦片贩子当起了翻译。但是,从更广泛的意义上说,那个时代的事情提醒我们,所谓的专家并不总意识到自己知识的局限性。当他们自诩对一个国家了解得如此透彻,而这个国家却以他们认为不应该的方式行事时,他们可能会成为格外有敌意的批评者。几乎就像是他们觉得自己被背叛了一样。
In Staunton’s case, he was vocally opposed to the opium trade and had acted as Britain’s voice of conscience towards China in the past. If this had been a movie then he would have stood up in the House of Commons in 1840 and denounced the war and everyone who supported it. But he did exactly the opposite. As a historian it was heartbreaking to see him do that, but that is one of the things that makes history so fascinating. Sometimes people just don’t do what you expect, and when that happens it opens up a whole new dimension of their character.
就斯当东而言,他直言不讳地反对鸦片贸易,并且曾经在对待中国的问题上是英国的良心之声。如果那是一部电影的话,本会有这样的一幕,他1840年在下议院挺身而出,谴责战争以及所有支持战争的人。但他做的恰恰相反。作为一名历史学家,看到他那样做令我心碎,但这正是让历史如此迷人的事情之一。有时,人们就是不按照你所期望的那样去做,这种情况的发生,让这些人性格的全新一面展现出来。
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Britain’s early diplomacy with China introduced the word “kowtow” to the English language, from the Qing court ceremony of prostrating before the emperor. You write that debates over the kowtow and their supposed effect on future relations are not clear-cut. How so?
英国与中国的早期外交将“磕头”这个词直接音译为kowtow引入到英语中来,“磕头”指的是清廷上朝拜皇帝的仪式。你写道,关于磕头、及其对未来关系的假定影响的争论并没有明确的答案。为什么这样说呢?
As the British saw it, the kowtow was a national humiliation — basically, their ambassador was being asked to abase himself before China’s emperor. It became for them the ultimate symbol of Chinese arrogance and inflexibility. The kowtow even became a sort of hindsight logic for the Opium War: Britain had to fight that war, the reasoning went, because the Chinese refused to treat Westerners as equals. The irony of this is that actually neither of Britain’s ambassadors to China before the war were refused audiences for declining to kowtow. The Qing court showed itself to be more flexible on this count than the British. Which is to say that the hysteria about the kowtow really says more about Great Britain than it does about China. In any case, some Western observers at the time wondered why the British should expect China to adapt its court ceremonies just to suit them. As Napoleon put it, if it was the custom of the British to kiss their king on his buttocks, would they go to China and demand that the emperor drop his trousers?
在英国人眼里,磕头是一种国耻——从本质上说是他们的大使被要求在中国皇帝面前卑躬屈膝。对他们来说,要英国人磕头是中国傲慢和固执的极端象征。磕头甚至成为了鸦片战争的一种事后逻辑:有种说法是,英国不得不打这场战争,因为中国人拒绝以平等身份对待西方人。具有讽刺意味的是,鸦片战争之前,英国派往中国的使节,没有一位因为拒绝磕头而未能与皇帝见面。清廷在这一点上显得比英国更灵活。也就是说,在“磕头”问题上的情绪失控,实际上更多地反映的是大不列颠,而不是中国。无论如何,当时的一些西方观察家觉得奇怪,英国人凭什么认为中国应该调整自己的宫廷礼仪来适应他们呢。就像拿破仑所说的,如果英国人的习惯是吻他们国王的屁股的话,他们去中国时会要求皇帝脱下自己的裤子吗?
As we enter into a period of increasing tension between the United States and China, particularly over trade, are there any lessons to be learned from two centuries ago?
随着我们进入一个美国与中国关系日益紧张的时期,特别是在贸易问题上,我们能从两个世纪前的事情里到什么教训吗?
In the early nineteenth century, trade was a common language between China and Britain despite the great differences in their national cultures. Chinese and British officials alike recognized that the legal, aboveboard trade was a strong stabilizing factor in international affairs. It was when governments intruded too directly, and especially when issues of national prestige entered the mix, that problems would arise. Left to its own devices, however, the Canton trade was a largely peaceful and profitable meeting of civilizations. So maybe the lesson to remember today is that economic engagement provides the ballast for our relationship with China, and we should be very careful how we let politics interfere with it.
19世纪早期,尽管中国和英国在民族文化上存在着巨大的差异,但贸易仍是两国的共同语言。中国和英国的官员都认识到,合法的、光明正大的贸易是国际事务中的一个强有力的稳定因素。只是当政府过多地直接干扰时,尤其是当国家威望与贸易问题混在一起时,才会出问题。反之,如果任其自行其是的话,广州的贸易基本上是和平且有利可图的一次文明交汇。因此,或许今天要记住的教训是,经济接触是我们与中国关系的压舱石,我们对如何让政治介入其中应当非常小心。