Friday, 9 October 2015

Her Majesty and Commies

The irony of history often becomes sharper with time. Given enough of it, the intricate matrix of cause and effect often produces results which were previously unimaginable. The significance of any event does remain “too early to tell” for a very long period. 
In 1792, King George III (Why couldn’t they name them something other than Henry and George to avoid version numbers?) had recently lost the American colonies. It probably drove him nuts, and to pivot towards Africa and Asia. He sent Lord Macartney (who’s also George by the way) to open trade with China. “Get some kind of a free trade agreement, George,” said George. But Britain and China were going through drastically different phases in their life cycles. Britain was in the middle of a world shattering industrial revolution. After centuries of religious bondage, it had discovered a newfound sense of enlightenment, enjoying an unprecedented level of confidence and ambition. On the other hand, the ageing Emperor Qian Long was tired. Go tell your O King Georgie Number Three the Celestial Empire doesn’t need gadgets, he told George lethargically, then dozed off.


話說1792年,英皇喬治三世(外國的皇室替孩子改名似乎不大創新,來來去去不是亨利便是喬治,結果要加版本號辨認)剛剛丟了北美州這大片殖民地,氣得發瘋,於是跟今天的美國一樣,把精力轉移亞非。他派高檔外交家馬戛爾尼伯爵(名字也是喬治!)訪華,要求中國開放市場,最好搞個自貿協議之類。但當時的天朝和大英帝國正處國運循環的對立方位,無法溝通。英國剛擺脫了千多年的宗教枷鎖,啓了蒙,正處工業革命高潮,意氣風發,活力無窮。乾隆則是個快要死的老皇帝,對馬戛爾尼的建議,根本聽不進去。只想要這老外扣扣頭過過癮,然後送點禮物打發回國算數。「喬治先生,回去告訴你的喬治三號,咱天朝啥都有,不需要你們的小玩意。」 皇上說罷,倒頭便睡。