Beyond opium : a history of refined drugs and government regulation in modern China, c. 1871-1945

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This thesis examines the history of refined drugs in China from around 1871 to 1945. It traces the process that how refined drugs including morphine and cocaine were introduced and established in China and what drove the Chinese government to regulate them. Through an analysis of a wide range of primary sources, it explores how the Chinese state sought to draw and to police a line between licit and illicit use of refined drugs. It contributes to the historiography by shifting perspective from opium to refined drugs and by making use of some archival sources which have not been consulted in connection with the history of drugs in modern China before.This research demonstrates that the authority of deciding what were licit and illicit use of refined drugs were in different hands in different periods. Until the twentieth century, the power belonged to the medical missionaries and later the pharmaceutical companies. Between around 1900 and 1910 the Qing administration realised that it should have this power, and it drew on a regulatory model borrowed from abroad to declare that only medical and scientific use is legitimate.This then became complicated by international discussions of the same issue and a struggle in China by Chinese doctors and drug stores that used Western medicines to have themselves included in the licit/legitimate/legal category. The Bureau of Drug Inspection and Standardisation in 1920s Shanghai and the National Narcotics Bureau established in the 1930s indicate the efforts by the Chinese state to make its control of the issue permanent, with varying degrees of success.Throughout the period which this thesis covers, the authority on refined drugs was gradually decolonised and centralised into the hand of the central government of the Chinese state. Drawing and policing a line between licit and illicit use of refined drugs was a process extending the authorities of the Chinese state over the society and the economy. It was also a process which was constitutive of state building and modernisation of China.
Date of Award9 Sep 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorJames Mills (Supervisor) & Patricia Barton (Supervisor)

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