An Ordinary Relationship: American Opposition to Republican Revolution in China

By Daniel M. Crane; Thomas A. Breslin | Go to book overview

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America's Response to China's Prerevolutionary Reforms

As American political leaders came to believe that their fate was tied to China's willingness and ability to absorb American goods and missionaries, they began to pay more and more attention to internal conditions in China and to the nature of foreign competition in that market. At best, domestic conditions in China were fluid and foreign competition aggressive. Under such circumstances, securing the China market would be difficult. The Japanese and European powers were both willing and able to use military force to secure their share of the market. Moreover, the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 illustrated dramatically China's inability to resist foreign aggression. Yet China's poor showing in that war served to arouse American contempt rather than sympathy. As the future minister to China, William Rockhill noted that "a good thrashing will not hurt China in the least. . . . It is the only tonic which seems to suit her."1 Suggestions that the United States come to China's assistance were dismissed as impertinent: "Its [i.e., intervention's] only effect would be to preserve from destruction a dynasty which stands for all that is odious, reactionary, cruel and detestable in the government of mankind. Defeat will mean the liberation of many millions . . . from the bonds of ignorance, tyranny and barbarity. . . . For an American President and Secretary of State to undertake to rescue China from the Japanese was an offense against international justice."2 The other major powers were

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