As Vladimir Lenin said, there are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen. What makes our times particularly turbulent is that we are simultaneously at the late stages and transitional moments of three big cycles:
- Carlota Perez’s technological revolutions / financial capital cycle (50-60 years)
- Strauss–Howe generational cycle (80-100 years)
- Ray Dalio’s empire / reserve currency cycle (200 years)
If you don’t understand these cycles and how they interact with each other, you can’t understand what’s coming at you. Collectively, they explain the U.S.-China strategic rivalry, the clash over Hong Kong, political extremism across the world, and the rise of Bitcoin. It is in moments of greatest danger like ours where once-in-a-lifetime opportunities lie.
The mysterious way in which seemingly disparate historical events are connected with each other fills me with awe. The human intellect simply cannot grasp the infinite permutations and the sheer complexity of the laws of history. In 1773, the Boston Tea Party threw 342 chests of Chinese tea into the Boston Harbor, leading to the independence of America. In 1839, Qing dynasty official Lin Zexu dumped 20,000 chests of British opium into the Canton Harbor, marking the onset of China’s century of humiliation. The two events are separated by over 60 years and happened on opposite sides of the world, but both can be traced to the seizing of Bengal by the British East India Company in 1757.
A series of mismanagement by the British led to the Great Bengal Famine of 1770 which killed up to 10 million Indians (one of the many holocausts in India which the UK remains silent to this date). The destruction of food crops by the East India Company to make way for opium cultivation reduced food availability and contributed significantly to the famine. The company suffered financially as a result of the famine, and influenced Parliament to pass the 1773 Tea Act to allow direct shipment of tea to the American colonies. The undercutting by the East India Company infuriated American colonists who were tea smugglers, many of whom went on to become founding fathers of the United States of America.
In fact, all the East India Company tea which the Boston Tea Party dumped in 1773 were produced in China. Year after year, the East India Company bought large quantities of tea from China, draining silver out of England. The British were desperate to search for a counterpart commodity to trade for tea. They found it in opium, which they planted in large quantities thanks to the taking of Bengal. By 1839, the drug trade became such a serious social problem in China that the Daoguang Emperor sent viceroy Lin Zexu to confiscate all the British opium.
This is how the throwing of tea in 1773 and the dumping of opium in 1839 into the sea were connected with each other.