Reviews Song-Chuan Chen. Merchants of War and Peace: British Knowledge of China in the Making of the Opium War. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2017.x, 230 pp. Hardcover $50.00, ISBN 978-988-8390-56-4. As the title suggests, Song-Chuan Chen’s new monograph, based on his Cambridge Ph.D. dissertation, is not just another retelling of the nineteenth- century military engagements between Great Britain and the Qing empire but rather an inquiry into the contexts and motives that led to the outbreak of war in 1839. Chen reframes the path to war for a twenty-ﬁrst century audience familiar with the publicity campaigns and lobbying that accompany global military interventions. The road to war in nineteenth-century Canton was no different. Advocates of war consciously understood the necessity of waging an “information war” to support their agenda. They directed their persuasion and propaganda towards fellow merchants, the British authorities and public, and even the Chinese public. Their goal was to convince these audiences of the legitimacy of a British-centered “proﬁt order” in greater China and to denigrate the Qing-centered “proﬁt order” in Canton that had been established by the Qing state. As Chen argues, the slogans and interpretations of the pro-war cause have had an
China Review International – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Mar 6, 2018
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