"There is no place to satisfy the Western powers, so if they take the first step,
they will seek to take one more step."
Lin Zexiu presided over the affairs conducted in China during the Opium War. He was one of
the first patriots to maintain China's fighting spirit against Britiain, and the first
person to aim at the excellence of the Modern Western civilisation as a means to improve
China. He is remembered both for his solid character and his undying loyalty to his
country and fellow men.
Lin Zexiu was born 1885, in the Chinese Province of Fujian. In the last good days of the
Qing Dynasty, a shadow of corruption started to blanket society. With the corrupt
self-sufficient systems rising everywhere, disturbances spread throughout the peasant
community. When the land started to go to favoured people, instead of those who earned it,
the conflict between classes grew intense, increasing the anxiety among a society opposed
to bribery and corruption in its top leaders. Lin Zexiu had to grow up in a time when the
old dynastys were starting to fade, and the new wave of Western influence began to bloom.
Lin's entire family loved reading. His father studied hard in order to pass the
examinations to become a government official, but he was forced to give that up
because he suffered from an eye disease. He entrusted the dream to his son, Lin Zexiu.
From this moment on, Lin had big shoes to fill, and he would live his life to serve the
Lin lived up to his father's exhortations beautifully. He was extremely wise, and he also
passed the exams to become a government official at the age of twenty-six, in 1810. He
advanced to higher and higher positions, and finally in 1837, he became governor. He exercised
his talent in working with river improvement projects and relief of disease, and thorough
those works, he achieved more and more confidence from the people. From the later part of
the 18th century to the early part of the 19th century, the Western powers put increasing
pressure on China. China rejected their demands to open trade, so they tried to force their
demands by military means.
In 1838, Lin was ordered to deal with the opium problems and he came up with a firm and
concrete answer to the problem. He first tried out his solution in his own territory. In
1839 he left for Guangdong, where he tackled the opium problem. He called for morality
among officials who were to take action against the smuggling of opium, and he cracked
down hard on those who sold the drug, with all the might of the law. He told the foreign
merchants to surrender all the opium they held. He used the army against the British
merchants who wouldn't surender their opium, and made them yield to his orders. The
quantity of opium that was seized then reached to 20,283 cases. But the UK tried to make
China open its trade and this started the Opium War. Lin strengthened the army by
organising volunteers to join the army. Although he continued to maintain that China
should fight against the UK, many people, especially the conservatives, did not see his
point of view. In 1841, he was exiled to the countryside, and accused of starting
the Opium War himself. However, he later returned to his government position in 1845.
Despite his age, he was appointed by the government to suppress the revolution of the
Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in 1850. Before he could handle the task he came down with a
cold, and died that same year.
An Able Official
He was more of a thinker and strategist than an able official; however, he did serve his
country well, whichever way you want to look at it. He thought that in order to defeat one's
enemy, one must first understand that enemy. He fought against the British, but at the
same time he understood the excellence of the Western powers. He said, "there is no
place to satisfy the Western power, so if they take the first step, they will seek to take
one more step". He predicted the colonisation of China after the end of the Opium War
under the peace treaty. Therefore he tried to protest against traditional China,
encouraging leaders not to persist in conventional thought.
A Moral Official
Although often government officials were corrupt and immoral, Lin continued to maintain
his morality and strong will. Of course the government exiled him after the Opium War, but
his moral and strict attitude left a deep impression on not only the Chinese but also on
some of the foreign merchants. In addition, he dealt with the conflict between Hun and
Muslim fairly at Yunnan in his late years, and as a result his reputation grew. It is said
that when he left Yunnan, more than ten thousand people gathered in his honour. However in
the end, his morality and effort couldn't stop the eventual colonisation of China.