My dad still sometimes talks about his great-grandfather, my great-great grandfather, and how he lost a lot of his land due to opium addiction. My mom still talks about opium addiction as if it were a shared history, as if my great-great grandfather's story is not unique. And it isn't for her, for the people of Taiwan. I didn't recognize the Chinese name of opium when my dad told me this story, so she had to describe it to me, how the foreigners brought it with them, how you smoke it in long pipes, and how it made rich people very poor. She didn't talk about it the way I learned about the Opium Wars in high school, like it was something that happened to someone else so long ago we barely have to remember it.
In Taiwanese airports, they have signs posted everywhere about how drug trafficking is punishable by death.
So at the end of Empire of Ivory, we get a look at how dastardly the British government is for introducing a virus to the French dragon population, and part of me can't give a shit because there was this whole theme in Throne of Jade about how trade is good yay! and how by the end of the book, Laurence is both the newest son of the Emperor and how England has secured a trade deal. Both of these things are presented as unambiguously good, though maybe that's meant to be undercut by the reveal in Empire of Ivory. Maybe even later, we will see the effect of British trade on China. I don't know.
I do know what happened in our universe when the British traded with China, with Taiwan. I can still see the scars it left behind, over a century and a half later.
Sometimes, I wonder if those scars will ever fade.
Sometimes, I wonder if we even want them to.
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