Progressivism and the Open Door: America and China, 1905-1921

Progressivism and the Open Door: America and China, 1905-1921

Progressivism and the Open Door: America and China, 1905-1921

Progressivism and the Open Door: America and China, 1905-1921

Excerpt

The great beasts and the little halted sharp,
Eyed the grand circler, doubting his intent.
Straightaway the wind flawed and he came about,
Stooping to take the vanward of the pack.

William Vaughn Moody, The Quarry

WILLIAM Vaughn Moody's imagery reflects the fascination and dilemma of America in the Far East at the beginning of the twentieth century. The "grand circler" was the United States. All other powers interested in China were the "great beasts" with the Chinese being the "little." America had a role in the Far East: indeed many felt it to be a unique one. Yet even at the "vanward," the United States was but a part of the "pack."

China was America's great market, an extension of the domestic frontier closed by decree of the census and Frederick Jackson Turner in the 1890s. Always more a potential than an actual market, the myth of China's four hundred million customers was an American reality. The United States would transport surplus manufactured goods to sell in China. Through plans to build railways and public utilities in China, surplus capital would also be offered, adding a financial as well as a commercial goal to the Open Door.

China was also to be a market for all types of early twentieth- century progressive American reform. It was this idea of China as a tabula rasa for American reform interests that provided a most revealing link between domestic and diplomatic attitudes. Canton, like Chicago, was to be cleansed of crime and corruption. China was to be remade in the American image.

The joint desires for trade, investment, and reform provided a . . .

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