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
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
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
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 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
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,”