Chinese History

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The United States was forced to intervein in China when Japan invaded Manchuria and later the rest of the country and even set up a puppet state there, named Manchukuo. The United States invaded under the banner of The League of Nations. Prior to this intervention, the United States and China had formed economic relations that were proving to be beneficial to both nations. China was producing high-quality low-cost goods that attracted high demand in America while the Chinese government used to invest the proceeds from the trade-in various U.S government securities.


Relations between the United States and China were influenced greatly by the way in which the U.S related to Japan, China’s neighbor. In the 1930s Japan’s main export was silk, an item that was considered a luxury. With the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s, people in the U.S were more concerned with feeding themselves than buying luxury items such as Japan’s silk. Japan found itself in financial difficulties because of a drop in silk sales while China’s economy seemed to flourish.

The economic difficulties in Japan caused unrest among the population and the army. The Japanese military, which was independent of the weak government, sabotaged a railway that was situated near Mukden, a region in mainland China and blamed the resulting mess on the Chinese government. The invasion in China was based on this excuse. The United States government had to interfere because, although the League of Nations set up a commission to investigate this act of aggression, it did not have the power to do anything.

            Americans were contemplating sacrificing China in order to savor relations with Japan through appeasement. The policy of appeasement continued for many times since 1931 until Japan officially went into war with China in 1937. By the time this war ended in 1945, the U.S government had entangled itself in the conflict in very many ways.

            Jespersen reports that the ambivalence that the U.S displays in the early years of the Sino-Japanese conflict gave way to a wide spread feeling of revulsion among Americans at the idea of sacrificing China in order to maintain good relations with Japan (56). By early 1937, negative images about Japan were coinciding with positive ones about China. The net effect of this change of attitude resulted in an increased American national interest in the entire region. This bolstered a sense of Sino-American affinity, something that sentimentalists had proclaimed a long time ago.

            At the height of Japanese atrocities against the Chinese, the heroic resistance offered by China captured the attention of the U.S. however; continued sympathy did not necessarily translate in significant forms of assistance. In the opinion of many Americans, China was a kind of an abstract concept, a large but disorganized state of remote importance to the U.S. Ironically, this abstractness created a feeling among Americans that this state could easily be influenced to adopt American ways.

            Meanwhile, the American government gradually started offering humanitarian assistance to many suffering Chinese people. The American policy on China was increasingly being shaped by the legacy left by Great Britain and the attack on the country by Japan.  By 1941, the American government was supplying China with military equipment, radio networks, transport services, and airlines as part of the World War II efforts to tame Japan’s continued aggression on her neighbors.

            Although the goal of defeating Japan, nationalistic efforts in Free China seemed to be suffering some setbacks. The Sino-American treat that was signed on January 11, 1943, promising bilateral relations on equal terms was soon replaced by another one within five months, which required the Chinese criminal jurisdiction to free American troops (numbering 50,000 by 1945).

            Fairbank indicates that in 1943, the American government averted Civil war in China by facilitating a political settlement between Taiwan’s opposition Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), two factions that were contesting for nationalistic influences in China (341). This strengthened the nationalist government; it built up stable armies, and generally, reformed itself. The task of building armies was easy but that of bringing about reforms was difficult.

            The American policy in China, according to Fairbank, proceeded on three main levels. The first, carried out on the international level, was to try and make the nation a great power in form, if not by substance. It was for this reason that China was excluded from the high command of World War II during the proceedings of the British American Conference that took place in Quebec, Canada in 1943.

            Secondly, American military efforts led to the creation of a modernized Chinese air force and army. Thirdly, America tried to heal the breach that had taken place between KMT and CCP. By single-mindedly defeating Japan, the U.S was able to question the efficacy of Chinese efforts to deploy between 200 and 400 thousand nationalist troops in order to blockade the Communist area.

Works Cited

Fairbank, John. The United States and China. New York: Routledge, 1983.

Jespersen, Christopher. American Images of China, 1931-1949, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.

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