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How did America extend its influence into Asia?

Today it is accepted, more or less, that nations are sovereign powers, that is, that they rule themselves. It is a basic standard of international law. We have also seen how the US has been more than willing to interfere in another nations sovereignty. Historically no two nations have guarded their sovereignty and isolation more than the Chinese and the Japanese, inevitably the mystery that surrounded them led to the invasion of their sovereign rights by western powers. The US was a part of this intrusion and it was done in the same spirit as other similar actions taken by the U.S.

The U.S. and Japan

1853 - Commodore Matthew Perry leads an armed expedition to Japan. The Japanese, a xenophobic nation, has traditionally been isolated and closed to foreigners. It is Perry's goal to "open" Japan.

1854 - A treaty is completed giving America anchoring and refueling rights in Japanese harbors. The treaty is signed as American warships sit in the harbor.

The result of the US intrusion was the removal of the Tokugawa Shoguns from power and the restoration to power of the young Emperor Meiji. As a result of the so called Meiji Restoration Japan underwent a rapid industrialization so that soon she would rival the European powers.

1859 -American envoy Townsend Harris persuades the Japanese to open a trading port in Kanagawa (Treaty of Kanagawa). Soon these rights are offered to other nations.

1905 - Newly industrialized Japan takes on and defeats Russian in the Russo Japanese War thus signaling the arrival of Japan as a world power. President Theodore Roosevelt successfully mediates the end to the Russo Japanese War. He wins the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1906 for his efforts.

1907 - President T. Roosevelt persuades California to end discrimination against Japanese school children. Japan in return agrees to stop the emigration of Japanese laborers and their relatives to the United States. This becomes known as the Gentlemen's Agreement.

The U.S. and China

1838 - 1842 - After China fails in the Opium Wars to end European sale of opium to its citizens they are forced to open additional ports to foreign trade and extend rights to the citizens of other nations that they would not ordinarily offer. These granting of these rights were known as extra territoriality. Each nation received extra territorial rights in an are they would control known as a sphere of influence. America received these rights along with other nations.

1868 - In return for favorable trading privileges the U.S. agrees to allow Chinese immigrants to enter freely.

1882 - Chinese Exclusion Act ends the migration of Chinese laborers to the U.S. The act was extended and made permanent in 1902 despite China's protests.

1899 - America suggests an Open Door Policy for China. In this policy (1) spheres of influence would be accepted formally by all powers, (2) all nations would be treated equally within each sphere of influence, (3) all nations would receive tariff extensions from China and (4) China's sovereignty would be preserved. The European powers rejected Secretary of State John Hay's proposal but the U.S. declared the Open Door Policy to be in effect anyway.

The effect of the Open Door Policy was to open China up for trade and end the policy of spheres of influence allowing competition.

The Open Door Policy - Conflicting Views

Selection One:

"The Open Door Policy in China was an American idea. It was set up in contrast to the "spheres of influence" policy practiced by other nations. "Spheres of influence was really a euphemism (another word) for the "partition (carving up) of China."


The "Open Door" is one of the most creditable episodes in American diplomacy, an example of benevolent impulse accompanied by shrewd skill in negotiation. Hay's vision and idealism were the more remarkable since he was going against the current of the age..."

--Mark Sullivan, "Our Times," 1900-1925


Selection Two

There has been a vast amount of misunderstanding concerning the Open Door. In popular phrase it meant equal commercial opportunity in China...The Open Door was designed basically for America's trade rather than China's rights. It did not become legally binding upon the powers because they did not all accept it.

--Thomas A. Bailey, "A Diplomatic History of the American People," 1964

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