Changing History through Theft

April 23, 2011

When I typed “China intellectual property theft” into Google, there were about 1.5 million hits.

Innovators Network, the first hit, said, “China is known in some circles as a bastion of rampant product piracy and intellectual property theft…”

The second hit was from Canada Free Press, which published a piece on Foreign Companies Concerned Over Intellectual Property Theft in China.

When did this cycle of theft begin?

You may be surprised to learn that the British Empire started this cycle of theft in the 19th century.

In the 18th century, China was the most advanced nation on the planet. In 1793, China’s Qianlong Emperor sent a letter to King George III of Britain. The emperor made it known that, “As your Ambassador can see for himself, we possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country’s manufactures.”

Then the Industrial Revolution started in England but wasn’t felt until the 1830s or 1840s.  After almost two thousand years, the West had an advantage and used it.

For All the Tea in China: How England stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History, a March book buyers’ pick for Costco, reveals one of the steps the British took to change the balance of global power.

The author, Sarah Rose, tells the story of how, before 1848, China was the only country that knew how to grow and make tea. The British sent botanist Robert Fortune deep within China to steal plants to grow on British plantations in India.

In addition, by the 1830s, the English had become the major drug-trafficking criminal organization in the world; very few drug cartels of the twentieth century can even touch the England of the early nineteenth century in sheer size of criminality.

By the 1840s, the British and French fleets sailed into China’s rivers and destroyed its fleets forcing China to bend to the will of the West. Besides Western opium trade and the theft of China’s tea, Britain and France forced China’s emperor to allow Christian missionaries free access to Chinese everywhere.

Today, with China’s rise as a major economic and military power, it seems that theft may be changing history again but this time the wind blows from the East to the West.

However, in an attempt to keep the power, Europe and America came up with a new set of rules making the kind of theft they used in the 19th century wrong.

Discover The Opium Wars or the magic of Puer Tea


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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