in the news, eighty years ago

A bit of follow-up on the persistence of colonial structures.  On the same page that The Evening Telegraph recorded the sale of four ships from China Merchants to Jardines, we see the galling legacies of geographic morality. And yes, the stories could have been tweeted today with the caveat that today we are angry and then we were smug. Sigh.

  1. The Japanese blockade of Chinese ports began in September 1937, but Hong Kong as a British possession remains a “free port.” Jardines is determined to use Haiyuan, Haili, Haichen, and Haisheng on their Hong Kong to Tianjin route. The Japanese, of course, were trying to get in on the colonial game, setting up the Japan Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere in occupied Asia, including Manchuria (and eventually Hong Kong). Within the context of colonial economic structures its more a question of business as usual. In the context of colonial capitalism invasion wasn’t an obstacle to continued trade, but rather the first step toward redirecting goods from one government to another.
  2. Seemingly oblivious to the source of Jardine’s and the British Empire’s good fortune (illegal smuggling of opium from India into China proceeded from 1799 to 1947), editors at The Evening Telegraph lamented the fact that the ancient occupation of smuggling was booming in England! After that first sentence, the article gets even worse, reassuring readers (the stolidly British?) that the Home Office and international police promptly pick up refugees from Germany and Austria and ? … and actually that’s when the article goes silent. Just where did the Home Office send refugees who were making “a last desperate fling for freedom”? Did they also put children in cages? The article does note that those with visas were allowed into the country, although one can imagine the glee that ICE Home Office officers felt when they could revoke a refugee’s visa thereby making the vulnerable even more vulnerable.
  3. Resolving the problems in India required “a certain amount of desultory heavy shelling.” Nevertheless the Evening Telegraph helps for a “peaceful settlement” despite the “intransigence” of the Congress Party. Seriously? The Indians were responsible for the violence and lack of accord? It’s like listening to US Americans discussing problems in the Middle East or Latin America; we’ve done everything we could and they just won’t listen to reason.
  4. And yes, when drug addiction spreads into the European community (this time in Africa), it’s no longer good business, but a social a problem, “This organised traffic is resulting in an increased consumption of the drug in the Union, and it is stated that the evil habit has spread to Europeans and even to young schoolchildren, who smoke dagga mixed with tobacco in cigarettes.” Or perhaps the problem is that dagga production was outside control of the British government?
  5. Meanwhile, the solution to the genocide of European Jews by Nazis and their sympathizers is to send them to Palestine.
selling ships to jardines copy

Evening Telegraph. British Newspaper Archive. 6 August 1938.

smallHong-Kong 1938

Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, May 1938 from Lamotte-Picquet.

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