China And United States Essay

2342 words - 10 pages

The history of United States-China relations tells a story of distrust, exploitation, naivety, and conflicting viewpoints, but also one of a struggle to bypass those differences. In recent decades, the two nations have been increasingly reliant on one another, but America still cannot overcome many of the divisions established between the U.S. and Maoist China Michael Schaller argues. Though relations became hostile the era following the end of the Second World War, China's diplomatic view of the U.S. and the West had always been quite reserved. China's attitude towards America never deterred it (America) from pursuing its interest within the Far East. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, America sought to open the Chinese market to expand trade and increase the amount of missionary work within China. From the collapse of the Qing until the end of the "loss of China" in 1949, the U.S. sought to insure that the Chinese market and potential military power remained U.S.-friendly in the post-war era. After Mao's Communist Party of China seized the mainland, the U.S. began to point fingers for the loss of Chang Kai-shek's pro-American state. Tensions eventually cooled in the 1970s with Nixon's outreach to China, ushering in a détente between the powers. In this new stage of relations, America and China sought to forward mutual interests towards the containment of the Soviet bloc.
America began its history with China "from their initial contact in the 1780s" during the twilight years of China's imperial era (4). The aristocracy of the last Chinese dynasty, the Qing, clung desperately to preserve not only China's sovereignty but also its own relevance as the power structure with the region as Western powers sought domination of the region. Imports under British rule had been the only contact between the two nations. It was the "taste for imported Chinese luxury goods, such as silk and porcelain" spurred interest in the region, driving a desire for trade with this alien land (4). The original perception of China to that of the West and the U.S. was one of relative mystic, an antique culture vastly different from enlightenment Europe, yet backwards and pagan. China's view of the West was dismissive, seeing themselves as "possessing the dominant economy, culture, and military power in East Asia, [the] Chinese had reason to believe their society was the center of the world" (7).
In spite of the Qing's efforts to enforce the "tribute" system that they expected foreigners to adhere to, Western merchants continued to expand their trade throughout China much to the chagrin of the Qing. It was "the growth of... international narcotics trade [that] ultimately broke down China's isolation" as more Chinese became addicts of the opium imported by British merchants and to a lesser extent American merchants (9). Chinese officials attempted to halt the spread of opium, but it was too late. By 1839, the amount of opium imports had...

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