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'in My Heart I Opposed Opium': Opium and The Politics of the Wang Jingwei Government, 1940-45

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The Wang Jingwei government has been reviled as the Chinese collaborationist regime par excellence, and one of the major indictments against it was its involvement with the alleged Japanese 'narcotisation policy'. The politics of collaboration, however, were complex, and are not fully captured by a one-dimensional portrayal of the leading collaborators as 'national traitors'. The Wang Jingwei government was, indeed, complicit in facilitating the Japanese-sponsored opium monopoly during its early years, although it played only a marginal role in running this monopoly. At the same time, as this article seeks to demonstrate, the regime did attempt to continue implementing the pre-war Nationalist government's opium suppression programme. Its motives were mixed: it wanted to bolster its legitimacy by portraying itself as the successor regime to the pre-war Nationalist government, and, also like that government, it sought to bolster its parlous finances by recourse to an opium tax. Political developments in Japan in 1943 enabled the Wang Jingwei government to gain control of the opium monopoly, and from 1944 until its demise it made a genuine attempt to implement a policy of opium suppression. This policy achieved some success. The government, however, never resolved the ambiguity between the political aims and the financial needs that drove its policy; nor did it effectively overcome the demoralisation produced by years of open trafficking; and it was never able to curb the Japanese military's narcotic operations.


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