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Opening the Door

next   American merchants arriving in Canton in the early part of the nineteenth century were well received by the Chinese. China’s mistrust toward imperial powers like Great Britain did not transfer to the United States, who had so recently defeated the British and shed colonial rule. Still, China counted the Americans among the “barbarians,” if less barbaric than others, and treated them as the foreign power they were.
Shang (1523-1027 BC)  
Chou (1027-221 BC)  
Ch'in (221-206 BC)  
Han (206 BC-AD 220)  
Three Kingdoms (220-581)   Lacking a treaty and formal political ties, Americans in China lagged behind other countries. For decades these merchants and mariners pleaded with Washington for help. In 1843 the Tyler administration dispatched Caleb Cushing to China to secure for the United States trading privileges already granted Great Britain. In 1844 he and envoys of the Emperor signed the Treaty of Wanghia, securing to America not only trading privileges but also protection for American citizens in China. Another treaty (1858) granted the United States most-favored-nation status and diplomatic representation in Peking.
Sui (581-618)  
T'ang (618-907)  
Sung (907-1279)  
Yüan (1279-1368)  
Ming (1368-1644)  
Ch'ing (1644-1912)  
The Period of Revolution (1912-1949)  
Mao's Dynasty (1949-1976)   As relations matured between the two countries, the stability of China under Ch’ing rule weakened. Chinese by the thousands immigrated to the United States, filling cheap mining and railroad jobs in the American West. Attempting to make legal sense of this migration, the Johnson administration received Anson Burlingame, who now represented China after serving as the U. S. minister there. Burlingame proposed a treaty to which the U. S. agreed that established free immigration between the two countries, in particular unrestricted immigration of Chinese laborers.
Raising the Bamboo Curtain (1972-1979)  
Into the Next Millennium (1979-)  
As the ranks of these labors swelled, resentment among Americans increased. Angered by their low wages, strange customs, religion, language, and unwillingness to assimilate, riots broke out in San Francisco, Washington, Wyoming, and elsewhere. State and federal action was taken throughout the 1880s to restrict Chinese labor immigration.
Meanwhile the United States struggled to craft a coherent China trade policy. America’s growing economic interests were threatened by the many countries that wanted a piece of Chinese trade. In September 1899, Secretary of State John Hay sent to those nations a letter asking each to allow equal trading opportunities for all countries within China.
Foreign governments other than Great Britain were unwilling to support Hay’s “Open Door” policy. A peasant revolt against the heavy-handed foreigners, known as the Boxer Rebellion, swept China’s coast in 1900, prompting each country to consider expanding its sphere. In July of that year, Hay sent another circular, emphasizing the importance of respecting China’s territorial integrity and restating the need for open trade, a policy that guided Sino-American diplomatic relations for the next fifty years.