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How Britain Went to War With China OverOpium

中英鸦片战争的起源和影响

By Austin Ramzy
July 3, 2018



The bombardment of Guangzhou during the first Opium War in 1840.

1840年第一次鸦片战争期间对广州的轰炸。

HONG KONG — In 1840, Britain went to war with China over questions oftrade, 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 toBritain. It began what China calls the “Century of Humiliation,” when foreignpowers forced weak Chinese governments to cede territory and sign unequaltreaties. Britain and France waged a second Opium War against China from 1856to 1860. China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, alludes to the era in his call fora “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**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 beeninevitable. But viewed through the lens of its own era, the conflict is deeplycounterintuitive, Stephen R. Platt writes in “Imperial Twilight: The Opium Warand the End of China’s Last Golden Age.” The new book from Mr. Platt, a historyprofessor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, explores how the warcame 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(StephenR. 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》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 Warand 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。


 
Stephen R. PlattCreditMichaelLionstar

裴士锋

It wassurprising to learn about the extent of public opposition to the war inBritain. 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 sothan I expected when I started my research. For the proponents, it was a matterof framing. They denied any connection to opium and argued that the war wasentirely about defending Britain’s national honor and protecting theircountrymen from alleged atrocities in China. But the involvement of opium wasinescapable — thus the name “Opium War,” as the London Times and other paperscalled it. To many people in Britain the notion of going to war to advance theinterests of drug dealers, against a country that had always been friendly toBritain, was abhorrent. As William Gladstone wrote in his diary at the time, “Iam in dread of the judgments of God upon England for our national iniquitytowards 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WilliamGladstone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。”

The collision between those two sides came to a head in the spring of 1840with a huge debate in the House of Commons over a motion to stop the war byforcing the resignation of the ministers who started it. After three fullnights of debate, with impassioned speeches that in some cases went on forhours, 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 didChina 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 theless they knew about the other. When China was still a mystery, it was seen asunified and impenetrable. As the British started learning the reality ofconditions in the empire, however, it became apparent that it was weaker thanimagined and there were serious divisions within its society. On its face, theOpium War was almost absurd in its conception: the British sent a small fleetand a few thousand troops to make war on an empire of more than three hundredmillion people. But they were emboldened by reports from travelers that themerchants of China wanted free trade with the British and only their governmentstood in the way — essentially, that the British would be welcomed by theordinary people with open arms. It was a gamble that would have beenunthinkable 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 alsoshow how people who learned about the other’s culture were better able tointeract, like the missionary and interpreter Karl Gutzlaff. But the person inBritain who had perhaps the most knowledge of China, George Staunton, was keyto the war being launched. What does this say about the value of suchknowledge?

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Karl Gutzlaff。但是,英国当时最了解中国的人也许是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?


  
They didn’t always use their knowledge for good ends. Gutzlaff, forinstance, was one of the most talented linguists of his age and he wound upinterpreting for opium smugglers. But in a broader sense, the events of thisera are a reminder that so-called experts do not always appreciate the limitsof their own knowledge. When the country they profess to understand so wellbehaves in ways they think it shouldn’t, they can become especially hostilecritics. 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Gutzlaff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 hadacted as Britain’s voice of conscience towards China in the past. If this hadbeen a movie then he would have stood up in the House of Commons in 1840 anddenounced the war and everyone who supported it. But he did exactly theopposite. As a historian it was heartbreaking to see him do that, but that isone of the things that makes history so fascinating. Sometimes people justdon’t do what you expect, and when that happens it opens up a whole newdimension of their character.
就Staunton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。

Britain’searly diplomacy with China introduced the word “kowtow” to the Englishlanguage, from the Qing court ceremony of prostrating before the emperor. Youwrite that debates over the kowtow and their supposed effect on futurerelations 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. Itbecame for them the ultimate symbol of Chinese arrogance and inflexibility. Thekowtow even became a sort of hindsight logic for the Opium War: Britain had tofight that war, the reasoning went, because the Chinese refused to treatWesterners as equals. The irony of this is that actually neither of Britain’sambassadors to China before the war were refused audiences for declining tokowtow. The Qing court showed itself to be more flexible on this count than theBritish. Which is to say that the hysteria about the kowtow really says moreabout Great Britain than it does about China. In any case, some Westernobservers at the time wondered why the British should expect China to adapt itscourt ceremonies just to suit them. As Napoleon put it, if it was the custom ofthe British to kiss their king on his buttocks, would they go to China anddemand 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 weenter into a period of increasing tension between the United States and China,particularly over trade, are there any lessons to be learned from two centuriesago?

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得到什么教训吗?

In the early nineteenth century, tradewas a common language between China and Britain despite the great differencesin their national cultures. Chinese and British officials alike recognized thatthe legal, aboveboard trade was a strong stabilizing factor in internationalaffairs. It was when governments intruded too directly, and especially whenissues of national prestige entered the mix, that problems would arise. Left toits own devices, however, the Canton trade was a largely peaceful andprofitable meeting of civilizations. So maybe the lesson to remember today isthat 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。