File No. 774/169–173.
Chargé Fletcher to the Secretary of State.
Peking , February 14, 1908 .
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.,