A clash of symbols

In the introduction of Julia Lovell’s The Opium War she discusses an incident from November, 2010. David Cameron had gone to China, and it being November he and his team were all wearing poppies. For the British the poppy is a symbol of the war dead of the Great War. It is not really a symbol in China, although of course a British PM with a poppy on did bring up memories of the Opium Wars. Cameron was asked to take his poppy of, and of course refused. Despite the possible hurt feelings of the Chinese people the Chinese government allowed him to keep his poppy.


As the link above shows, even Daily Mail readers were sometimes understanding of the Chinese position, and the Chinese were willing to let Cameron run around with a poppy, so everyone behaved very well. I’m actually glad to see that when there is a deal to be made the ancient hatreds of the past can be set aside.

For those of our readers who are Chinese, the association of poppies with wartime sacrifice is more important in Britain, but is also known elsewhere.



1 Comment

  1. The red poppy and the opium poppy are two different species. I do not think the red poppy contains opium to any significant degree.

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