File No. 774/169–173.

Chargé Fletcher to the Secretary of State.

No. 845.]

Sir: I have the honor to report that an agreement has been reached by the British and Chinese Governments for the obliteration of the opium trade between India and China in 10 years.

As will be seen from the inclosures, which I am able to send through the courtesy of Sir John Jordan, it has been arranged that beginning with 1908, the annual exportation of opium from India shall be reduced by 5,100 chests annually. India’s total yearly exports of opium to Chinese treaty ports and Hongkong amount to 51,000 chests, so that by the reduction mentioned it is calculated that the opium trade between China and India will cease in the next 10 years. The customs returns show that China’s total imports of opium last year amounted to about 43,000 chests.

It is understood also that efficient measures shall be taken at the same time by the Chinese Government to limit the production of opium in China, so that the production of Chinese opium will decrease pari passu with the exportation from India. If at the end of three years it is found that such measures have not been taken by China, the arrangement now made will become inoperative.

It was deemed more practicable to limit the export from India than the import into China, as the traffic can and will be more effectively controlled there than at the various treaty ports in China. It has also been arranged, I understand, that the government of Hongkong will prohibit the export of prepared opium to China and, vice versa, China will prohibit its export to Hongkong. These arrangements, coinciding with sincere and effective measures on the part of China, should exterminate the opium evil in the Empire.

An interesting report prepared by Mr. Stephen Leech, of the British legation, showing the result of the action taken by China to restrict the production and consumption of opium, has been forwarded to the foreign office and will no doubt soon appear in print. I would suggest that the embassy in London be requested to furnish copies to the department when available.

I have, etc.,

Henry P. Fletcher.
[Inclosure 1.]

Sir John Jordan to the Prince of Ch’ing.

Sir: With reference to my dispatch, No. 23, of January 8 last, antf. in confirmation of my telegram, No. 26, of the 27th ultimo, I have the honor to transmit to you copy of a memorandum which I received from the Wai-wu Pu on the 24th of January, in which the Chinese Government at length, after considerable hesitation, signify their willingness to accept the proposal of the Indian Government to decrease the total annual export of Indian opium, taken on the basis of 51,000 chests, by 5,100 chests per annum, to commence from 1908.

The board at the same time renew their expression of gratitude for the assistance afforded China by His Majesty’s Government.

Prior to this I had received, on the 10th of January, a memorandum, copy of which I have the honor to inclose, in reply to my memorandum, forming inclosure [Page 77] in my dispatch, No. 23, of January 8, in which, while admitting the greater feasibility from the point of view of convenience of the Indian plan, the Chinese Government betray a complete misunderstanding of the whole question by reiterating their previously expressed view that the annual reduction should be based upon the total import of 42,320 chests, on the erroneous assumption that an export of 51,000 chests from India would necessarily mean a corresponding increase by 8,680 chests, the difference between 42,320 and 51,000, of the annual import of China. As a compromise they were willing to halve the difference and they therefore requested that the annual decrease should be 4,660 chests, based upon a fictitious average of 46,660 chests formed by the addition of 4,340 chests to the annual import of 42,320 chests shown in the customs returns.

In a memorandum of January 17 I pointed out the advantages of the Indian scheme over the plan proposed by the Chinese Government, and eventually on the 24th ultimo I received the memorandum referred to in my telegram, No. 26, in which the Chinese Government at length accepts the Indian proposal without any modification.

I have, etc.,

J. N. Jordan.
[Inclosure 2.—Translation.]

The Prince of Ch’ing to Sir John Jordan .


The board have had under earnest consideration Sir John Jordan’s memorandum of the 17th instant, on the subject of the measures to be taken for the restriction of opium, stating that, in Sir John Jordan’s opinion, the limitation of the total export of Indian opium to all countries would be the more advantageous to China, and asking the board to reconsider the matter before coming to a final decision.

The board have come to the conclusion that the direct restriction by China herself of the import into the treaty ports would be impracticable, and they fully recognize that the proposal of His Majesty’s Government taking as a basis the total export of Indian opium to all countries to decrease the amount annually is the result of an earnest desire on the part of His Majesty’s Government to suppress the use of opium. The board have the honor, therefore, to request that the total export of Indian opium taken on the basis of 51,000 chests may be decreased annually by 5,100 chests, thus affecting the total abolition of the trade in 10 years from 1908.

The board have also the honor to request Sir John Jordan to convey to His Majesty’s Government the expression of their deep gratitude,

[Inclosure 3.—Translation.]

[Memorandum from the Wai-wu Pu.]

opium prohibition.

The board have received Sir John Jordan’s memorandum of the 7th instant pointing out that the figure 51,000 chests include all the consignments made from India to Hongkong and the treaty ports of China, and that it would be more advantageous to China that India should reduce her total export by 5,100 chests than by 4,232 chests per annum.

In reply the board would observe that the figure they gave as the average had reference to the quantity of opium imported. That quoted by His Majesty’s Government had reference to the quantity of opium exported.

To limit the export is, naturally, more convenient than to limit the import. Only for the first two years would the figure be comparatively high, while after 10 years’ time the export would finally cease altogether.

The board are sensible of the efforts which His Majesty’s Government are making to afford assistance, and are most grateful. But, they would point out, [Page 78] the underlying motive in this case is to eradicate opium, and if to the existing import figure an addition of 8,680 chests were made, they consider that the result would be in direct opposition to the principle they have in view.

They propose, therefore, to reduce the excess figure by one-half, thus making a fixed total import of 46,660 chests. This figure would be annually reduced by 4,666 chests, and by this means a middle course affecting both parts equally would be arrived at, while there would be greater security if the limitation of the export to China and Hongkong were to be undertaken at the Indian end.

The Chinese Government rely wholly upon the support of His Majesty’s Government in this matter. The board therefore request Sir John Jordan to transmit their proposal and obtain its acceptance so that it may be put into effect.

With regard to precautions against transshipment or alteration of destination, these can be postponed for further discussion.

[Inclosure 4.]

[Draft of memorandum.]


Sir John Jordan has had under consideration the board’s memorandum of January 10 proposing that the total import of opium from India into China be fixed at 46,660 chests, which figure would be annually reduced by 4,666 chests.

Sir John Jordan sees great difficulty in this proposal. The board seems to think that the limitation of the export to China and Hongkong might be undertaken at the Indian end, but, as Sir John Jordan pointed out in his memorandum of January 7, “Any restriction which might be imposed in India on the quantity of opium shipped for any given destination would always be liable to evasion by transshipment or an alteration of the ship’s destination.” The board says, in reference to this, that precautions could be taken after further discussion. But such discussion would have to be undertaken with all the treaty powers and would occupy considerable time. Under such an arrangement of directly restricting import at the treaty ports India would, moreover, be free to regulate export as demanded by the market.

It should be clearly understood by the Imperial Government that the choice lies between the limitation by India of the total export to all countries and direct limitation by China herself of the import into the treaty ports. The latter plan, as already stated, could not be put into operation until it had received the assent of all the treaty powers.

Of the two alternatives there is no doubt in Sir John Jordan’s mind that the proposal of the Government of India is more advantageous to China, and he would earnestly ask the board to reconsider the matter before coming to a final decision.

[Inclosure 5.]

Sir John Jordan to the Prince of Ch’ing.

Your Highness: I have the honor to refer your highness to my note of September 21 and to your reply of December 2 last, by which it was mutually agreed, with reference to the prohibition of the trade in prepared opium between China and Hongkong, that each Government should take steps to prohibit the import into its own territory.

I am now informed by his excellency the governor of Hongkong that he is only awaiting notice from me that the Chinese Government has taken the necessary steps, in order to prepare an ordinance prohibiting the export of prepared opium from Hongkong to China.

In order that the steps taken by the Chinese Government may be equally binding upon Chinese subjects, I have the honor to suggest for your highness’s consideration that the export of prepared opium from China to Hongkong may be prohibited by imperial decree.

I avail, etc.,

J. N. Jordan.