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Letter by Lin Tse- Hsu Essay (Critical Writing)


The letter by Lin Tse- hsu of China to Queen Victoria of Britain was written just before the Opium wars. This book, together with the works of other people, helps us a lot in understanding what happened. Many scholars have given their views regarding a letter to Queen Victoria of Britain by Lin Tse- hsu (Waley, 1958).

The argument degenerates from whether the war was purposeful to Britain. Others note that it was the unexpected impact of industrialization while others believe that resulted to a war of disgrace to Britain. It is generally acceptable to say that the oldest empire and the most aggressive plain of the ninetieth century went into war. The latter of course emerged victorious.

The Author

The text is a letter written by Lin Tse- Hsu. He was commonly referred to as Commissioner Li. He was the Chinese commissioner to Canton, who was promised promotion as a governor if China emerged victorious. Other sources indicate that he was actually the governor of Hope and Hunan.

This was during the reigns of Qing Emperor Tao Kuang of Manchu Empire of China. The author had just gained popularity, but in some way, the war that was later named the Opium war led to both his temporary rise and eventual down fall. Some sources even indicate that he wrote an article while on his way to exile expressing his frustrations, but again insisting that there was no alternative option to evade the war.

The central Argument

The letter points out issues that were of great consequence to the international system at the time. To begin with, the letter was diplomatic due to the level of diplomacy that the Chinese empire had exhibited then. During Tao Kuang’s reign, opium importation to China by British and Dutch Merchants had reached its apex.

The larger tea trade between the political leaders of these countries occasioned this trend. It had created a class of addicts and had therefore become a social problem. This had spread widely such that other sources indicate the Qing lost his mind due to over dosage

At this level, the matter takes national importance. The authorities therefore discussed the necessary courses of actions. The text even says that Qing considered it his duty to protect his subjects. The letter stated that the British undertook some actions that made it a criminal offence to smoke opium. Other sources indicate that Qing brought up the matter discussion. There are those who proposed that it had to be legalized.

They argued that its sell had to be permitted, but had to be controlled. The usage had to be controlled and the empire had to obtain taxes. Those opposed to it stood on moral grounds that if allowed to circulate, the empire would end up without a population (Ssuyu, & Fairbank, 1954). Lin Tse-Hsu led this group. He further argued that the empire would have a weak army for there would be no people fit enough to serve in the discipline forces.

His confidence and the death of his son convinced Qing to oppose legalization. He was then tasked with the responsibility of putting to an end what had become a national disaster. It actually does not make sense to criminalize smoking of opium in Britain but allow its people to trade in the same internationally. Britain forced the Chinese empire to legalize it after the war.


The article relates to global industrialization and imperialism. Other sources indicate that the letter was send to the Queen through a British friend of Li. The British Empire was on the rise and very aggressive. Imperialism is the creation and maintenance of unequal economic power based on subordination.

It is therefore easy to say the letter was delivered to the generals of the British army. The Britons also wanted to dominate economically. The military strength of the British could not be compared to that of the Chinese. Whereas the British had sophisticated artillery, the Chinese army was untrained, amorphous, and lacked clear command. The difference in technological innovation also played a role


Ssuyu T., & Fairbank, J. (1954). Cambridge China’s response to the West, Harvard: Harvard University press.

Waley, A. (1958). The Opium War through Chinese Eyes. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Letter by Lin Tse- Hsu'. 23 November.

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