In the wake of the Chinese economic reform, Chinese scholars have welcomed in the resurgence of historical social research. Looking back over the past 30-odd years of research development, it could be said there existed four general periods: A brainstorm period, an initial “beginning” period, a period of maturation and lastly an expansion period. From looking at the context of [its] theoretical development, it is clear that scholars researching Chinese social history were, from the beginning, focused on how exactly to define “society.” This, however, resulted in much debate about the different concepts of social history itself. Though the matter has yet to be settled, the ultimate research objective for the field of historical social research is in its pursuit of truth. In recent years following the dissolution of disciplinary boundaries, the interdisciplinary viewpoint(s) established by social and cultural history have also provided forth a new horizon for the development of Chinese historical social research.
This article analyzes China’s attempts to participate in and use the negotiations about reforming the international opium control system in the interwar period. China had a contentious relationship with the international opium control system from its creation in the International Opium Convention of 1912 through the League of Nations opium control system of the 1920s and 1930s. The Chinese government wanted to gain acceptance for China as a modern state no longer in need of tutelage from the international community. They also wanted to portray the Chinese people as a modern race as a way of undermining colonial opium monopolies, which made a disproportionate amount of their profits from sales to Overseas Chinese. While they were not fully successful in either of these efforts, China did manage to win some support, drawing the United States into closer agreement with China’s positions. Engagement with the international system also had a considerable impact on China’s domestic opium politics and its broader diplomatic relationship with the major powers.