Good evening, and welcome to this week’s instalment of the Victoria 3 Dev Diaries! To cap off this month’s theme of trade, I’ll be talking about the Opium Wars and introducing the concepts of Cultural Obsessions and Religious Taboos.
In the 1830’s China was ravaged by opium addiction. The impact was severe and broad in its effects, with myriad social, economic and even military consequences. Despite attempts by the Qing government to restrict imports, British merchants continued to illegally flood the market. The situation came to a head when Qing officials ordered the seizure and destruction of opium in Canton, to which the British responded with force - the First Opium War resulted in crushing defeats for the Qing government and began an era of unfavourable and humiliating treaties with the Western powers.
In Victoria 3 we represent the Opium Wars through Journal Entries and Events. Qing China begins in the midst of this crisis, but it is also possible for other unrecognised countries to experience this content if the in-game conditions are appropriate.
The Opium Crisis event applies harsh negative modifiers to Standard of Living throughout your country, to your Mortality Rate, and to the effectiveness of your military forces.
This is a good time to talk a little more about Cultural Obsessions. A culture can become obsessed with a specific Good - Pops of that Culture, regardless of where they are in the world, will spend significantly more on Goods they are obsessed with compared to other goods in the same Pop Needs category. So in the case of Opium in China, Han pops will spend a lot more of their wealth buying Opium than they do on Liquor or Tobacco. This naturally drives up demand for Opium, and therefore makes it more expensive within the Chinese market. The foreign powers selling Opium to China are making a killing exploiting this demand and feeding the addiction. Cultures can develop new Obsessions over time, and you’ll need to react to changes in pop demands as a result.
On a mechanically related note (though unrelated to the Opium Wars), Religions have Taboos against certain goods. For instance Muslim faiths have a Taboo against the consumption of Liquor and Wine. This has the opposite effect from a Cultural Obsession - pops following these religions will spend much less on purchasing that Good compared to other Goods in that category. So Muslims will typically buy Tobacco and Opium instead of Liquor, and they will buy Tea or Coffee instead of Wine. Just as in real life, not everybody completely adheres to the tenets of their faith, and so these act as powerful modifiers on purchasing decisions rather than total “bans” on consumption. Unlike Obsessions, Taboos are static throughout the game.
Beijing is one of the most populated States in the world in 1836. Besides its 19 million people, it is also home to the Forbidden City Monument, a massive Government Administration sector, as well as a large section of the now defunct Great Wall.
Back to the Opium Wars!
If China (or whichever country is the target, but we’ll keep things simple and refer to China from here on out) chooses to confront the issue head on, the Opium Crisis Journal Entry will describe the conditions for successfully resolving the issue, as well as the conditions that will cause immediate failure. China must avoid at all costs enacting the Free Trade law as well as resist the attempts of the Great Powers to establish a Treaty Port - both of these are potential war goals which the AI will strongly prioritize when starting Diplomatic Plays against China. While resisting the Western powers, China must maintain a total ban on the Opium trade.
Playing as Great Britain (or any major opium exporter), you'll have the opportunity to thwart the opium ban through all the usual diplomatic and coercive means at your disposal. It could even be an opportunity to make inroads into China.
China’s attempts to halt the flow of opium will not go unchallenged. All Great and Major powers exporting Opium to China will receive an event prompting them to decide their stance on the matter - though there is some chance that they will let the issue slide, it is much more likely that they will take an opposing stance. This will add the Opium Wars Journal Entry to that country, in which their success conditions match the failure conditions for China. Opium-trading countries must either force China to adopt the Free Trade law, or else acquire a Treaty Port in that nation that allows them to bypass goods bans. Rather than immediately creating a Diplomatic Play with predefined war goals, the AI (and indeed the player!) is strongly encouraged to start a Play with wargoals that would complete the Journal Entry.
Free from the ravages of opium addiction and the interference of froeign powers, the strengthened Qing dynasty might avoid or avert the crises that would historically bring them to ruin.
If China succeeds in suppressing the flow of opium while withstanding the onslaught of the Great Powers, the course of history is altered and the addiction crisis will be resolved. All its primary cultures will lose their Opium Obsession, and the negative modifiers representing the effects of widespread addiction will be removed. With foreign powers repulsed, China has not been forced into the unequal treaties that would lead to further conflict and turmoil.
Fragile Unity is the “broadest” Journal Entry in Victoria 3, encompassing content that can emerge at all stages of the game - for instance while the stage is already set for the Opium Wars in 1836, the Boxer Rebellion will not happen until later in the game when a stronger sense of Han nationalism has appeared.
Failure, however, may have dire consequences. The government will lose Legitimacy, Radicals will rise across the nation, and Turmoil will engulf your states. But that is not the worst of it; failing the Opium Wars Journal Entry increases your fragmentation, tracked by the Fragile Unity Journal Entry. If your fragmentation rises to 100%, it will herald the end of a unified China, with the nation breaking up into a dozen warlord states. Failing the Opium Wars Journal Entry will indirectly lead to an influx of missionaries into China which may spark radical uprisings on a scale never seen before. And if exploitative foreign presence in China continues into the era of Han nationalism, the people’s demands for sovereignty will shake the foundations of the state and threaten the survival of the Qing Dynasty. One great failure can lead to a chain reaction of disaster.
That’s all for today! Next week we’ll be moving on from trade to a month of focus on the theme of strife. Join us next week where Mikael Andersson will introduce Victoria 3’s Revolutions.