What were Pre-World War II Relations Between China and the United States like? (The Chinese People 3/3)
Pre-World War II Relations with the Chinese People and Chinese immigrants (1787-1941):
As you have read above, the Chinese empire and later the Republic of China was in a state of decline. Plagued by a a weak and ineffective government, famine, European intrusions, and overpopulation, many Chinese left China. Some were young boys who left to send money back to help feed their families, other were fathers who took their entire families overseas in search of a better life elsewhere. However, no matter where the new Chinese immigrants went, they experienced massive discrimination (Anti).
A poster advocating for anti-Chinese legislation, it was hysteria like this that caused the infamous Chinese exclusion act.
Many people, especially low-level workers, were mad that the Chinese was "stealing their jobs" because the Chinese were willing to worker harder, longer, and for less pay.
The first wave of Chinese immigrants to the United States came during the 1820s, but Chinese immigration really picked up pace during the 19th century. At 1848, there was only 325 Chinese in all of America, at 1850, there were around 20,000, and at the end of the 19th century, there were a whooping 300,000 Chinese immigrants in the United States (History). After the first Opium War, many restrictions the Chinese government had against its people immigrating to foreign countries were lifted, that and the Gold Rush in California were the primary causes of Chinese immigration during the mid 19th century (Chinese). The new Chinese immigrants had many positive effects on their new surroundings, they were consider to be very hard-working and "reliable", an euphemism meaning that they can be worked harder and be paid less compared to other workers (History). The new Chinese immigrants worked on Southern cotton fields, in the Californian Gold mines, and on the first Transcontinental railroad (Chinese).
Of course, the immigration had negative affects on American society as well. The new Chinese immigrants caused a major prositiution problem, as up to 70% of the female Chinese immigrants here during the mid 18th centruy participated in the prositiution industry (Anti)(The First), though that number dropped dramatically as the years gone by, after the 1890s, only around 22% of female Chinese immigrants were prositiutes (The First). The Chinese people also sent most of their hard-earned gold back to China, which hurt the local economy. All in all, the Chinese immigrants were like most other immigration group, they contributed to society, but they hurt it as well (Life Experience).
A group of miners posing for a photo. Four Chinese miners can be seen at the right side of the conveyor belt.
However, because the Chinese workers were so "reliable", they hurt the living standards of other people. The Irish in particular were especially mad at the Chinese immigrants for competing against them for the lowliest jobs (Anti). Many anti-Chinese riots erupted throughout the west, and many Chinese were killed and their business and homes looted. The most important of which occurred in 1871 in Los Angles, where 17-20 Chinese immigrants were lynched in one attack, the biggest mass lynching in American history (Chinese)! Why have we never heard about this? Because the city of Los Angles actively tried to cover this up. At the time of the massacre, the city of Los Angles was competing for a railway station, and the city was afraid that the massacre would create terrible public relations (Johnson).
Not only did the Chinese immigrants create enemies because they worked hard, they also acting strangely and looked funny to the white settlers (Chinese). Before 1912 and the fall of the Qing Empire, all Chinese people, man and woman, were forced to wear a ponytail or be executed, as the rulers of the Qing Dynasty/Empire, the Manchus, had an ancient tradition of wearing ponytails, so when they took over China, they forced everyone to do so. Chinese immigrants to the United States often return to China to visit family and gravesites, and in order to do so, they must keep their ponytails (History Class back in China ). Why am I talking about the ponytails? Because almost all white settlers considered them to be weird and grotesque, and the ponytails starkly distinguished Chinese people from other Asians. It was not just the ponytails, though, Chinese tradition such as chanting Buddhist phrases, putting symbols at doorways and hallways, and refusal to convert to Christianity and assimilate into white American culture were also an important factor (Wang).
To recap, the white settlers strongly disliked the Chinese Immigrants because:
Legislation after legislation were passed, and with each new law, the rights of the Chinese immigrates were infringed on some more (Randolf) (Chinese). Unfortunately, the pre-World War 2 relations between the United States, and the Chinese people were very bad, as the Chinese were discriminated against very heavily and were generally a very hated race.
All of this eventually led to the Chinese exclusion act, which effectively banned Chinese immigration to the United States. The act was not repealed until World War II (Henry), which we will talk about next month (Randolph).
A poster advocating for the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Welp, I'm finally done with this 3-part post on the pre-World War 2 Sino-American relations, I can finally move on to more modern history, my favorite part! ^_^
Anti-Chinese Forum Poster. Digital Image. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016
Anti-Chinese Poster. Digital Image. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016
"Anti-Chinese Sentiment in the United States." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.
"Chinese Immigration and the Chinese in the United States." United States National Archives. Federal Government of the United States, 15 Aug. 2016. Web. 24 Nov. 2016. Date electronically published is date last edited
Chinese Miners. Digital Image. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016
"History of Chinese Americans." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.
Johnson, John, Jr. "How Los Angles Covered the Massacre of 17 Chinese." LA Weekly. LA Weekly, LP, 10 Mar. 2011. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.
Kissinger, Henry. On China. New York: Penguin, 2011. Print.
Poster Advocating Chinese Exclusion Act. Digital Image. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016
Randolph, Stephan, Dr. "Chinese Immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Acts." Office of the Historian. Federal Government of the United States, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.
"The First Asian Americans." Asian American History, Demographics, and Issues. AsianNation.org, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.
Wang, L Ling Chi. "Chinese Americans." Countries and Their Cultures. Advameg. Inc, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.