This panel event will delve into the murky history of the Opium Wars—a series of battles fought between 19th century Britain and China over one of the most infamous and addictive substances of all time.

The result of the two wars would change the course of both empires’ futures in ways that are still unfolding. For China, the Opium Wars accelerated the end of its imperial age, laying the groundwork for its development into a world superpower.

The panel, featuring professor of Chinese history Yang-Wen Zheng, historian Joseph Lawson, and author of The Poppy War, Rebecca F. Kuang, will discuss what led to the Opium wars and ask: is the British victory of yesteryear responsible for China’s evolutionary growth into the superpower we know today?

About The Host

Afshin Shahi

Dr Afshin Shahi is a senior lecturer in Middle East politics and International Relations at Bradford University. He is a multilingual scholar and his research interests encompass sectarianism and the politics and security of the Middle East, with a particular focus on political Islam. He is the author of Politics of Truth Management in Saudi Arabia (Routledge 2013), and co-author of the forthcoming book, Iran: the Shia State and the Sunni Minority.

About The Speakers

Rebecca Kuang

Rebecca F. Kuang resides in the UK, where she is pursuing an MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies at the University of Cambridge on a Marshall Scholarship. Her debut fantasy ‘The Poppy War’ is a Crawford Award winner and a Nebula, Goodreads Choice, and Compton Crook finalist.


Yangwen Zheng

Born and raised in China, Yangwen Zheng was educated at Oberlin College (USA) and the University of Cambridge (King’s College). She taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the National University of Singapore before joining Manchester where she is Professor of Chinese History. She has authored and edited several books on China and Asia.