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Anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States

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Anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States

Anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States has existed since the late 19th century, during the Yellow Peril, and continued through the Cold War during McCarthyism. Modern anti-Chinese sentiment is the result of China's rise as a major world power. Anti-Chinese sentiment or sinophobia is a term that can refer to broad opposition or hostility to the people, policies, culture, or politics of China.

A caricature of a Chinese worker wearing a queue an 1899 editorial cartoon titled "The Yellow Terror In All His Glory"

Yellow Peril in the United States

Starting with the California Gold Rush in the late 19th century, the United States—particularly the West Coast states—imported large numbers of Chinese migrant laborers. Early Chinese immigrant worked as gold miners, and later on subsequent large labor projects, such as the building of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The decline of the Qing Dynasty in China caused many Chinese to emigrate overseas in search of a more stable life, and this coincided with the rapid growth of American industry. The Chinese were considered by employers as "reliable" workers who would continue working, without complaint, even under destitute conditions.[1]

Chinese migrant workers encountered considerable prejudice in the United States, especially by the people who occupied the lower layers in white society, because Chinese "coolies" were used as a scapegoat for depressed wage levels by politicians and labor leaders.[2] Cases of physical assaults on Chinese include the Chinese massacre of 1871 in Los Angeles and the murder of Vincent Chin. The 1909 murder of Elsie Sigel in New York, of which a Chinese person was suspected, was blamed on the Chinese in general and led to physical violence. "The murder of Elsie Sigel immediately grabbed the front pages of newspapers, which portrayed Chinese men as dangerous to "innocent" and "virtuous" young white women. This murder led to a surge in the harassment of Chinese in communities across the United States."[3]

The emerging American trade unions, under such leaders as Samuel Gompers, also took an outspoken anti-Chinese position,[4] regarding Chinese laborers as competitors to white laborers. Only with the emergence of the international trade union Industrial Workers of the World did trade unionists start to accept Chinese workers as part of the American working-class.[5]

During this period, the phrase "yellow peril" was popularized in the U.S. by newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst.[6] It was also the title of a popular book by an influential U.S. religious figure, G. G. Rupert, who published The Yellow Peril; or, Orient vs. Occident in 1911. Based on the phrase "the kings from the East" in the Christian scriptural verse Revelation 16:12,[7] Rupert, who believed in the doctrine of British Israelism, claimed that China, India, Japan and Korea were attacking England and the U.S., but that Jesus Christ would stop them.[8] In his 1982 book The Yellow Peril: Chinese Americans in American fiction, 1850-1940, William F. Wu states that "Pulp magazines in the 30s had a lot of yellow peril characters loosely based on Fu Manchu... Most were of Chinese descent, but because of the geopolitics at the time, a growing number of people were seeing Japan as a threat, too."[9]

Chinese Exclusion Act and legal discrimination

In the 1870s and 1880s various legal discriminatory measures were taken against the Chinese. These laws, in particular the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, were aimed at restricting further immigration from China,[10] although the laws were later repealed by the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943. Another key piece of legislation was the Naturalization Act of 1870, which extended citizenship rights to African Americans but barred Chinese from naturalization on the grounds that they and other Asians could not be assimilated into American society. Unable to become citizens, Chinese immigrants were prohibited from voting and serving on juries, and dozens of states passed alien land laws that prohibited non-citizens from purchasing real estate, thus preventing them from establishing permanent homes and businesses. The idea of an "unassimilable" race became a common argument in the exclusionary movement against Chinese Americans. In particular, even in his lone dissent against Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), then-Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote of the Chinese as: "a race so different from our own that we do not permit those belonging to it to become citizens of the United States. Persons belonging to it are, with few exceptions, absolutely excluded from our country. I allude to the Chinese race."[11]

In the USA xenophobic fears against the alleged "Yellow Peril" led to the implementation of the Page Act of 1875, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, expanded ten years later by the Geary Act. The Immigration Act of 1917 then created an "Asian Barred Zone" under nativist influence.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was one of the most significant restrictions on free immigration in U.S. history. The Act excluded Chinese "skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining" from entering the country for ten years under penalty of imprisonment and deportation. Many Chinese were relentlessly beaten just because of their race. [12][13] The few Chinese non-laborers who wished to immigrate had to obtain certification from the Chinese government that they were qualified to immigrate, which tended to be difficult to prove.[13]

The 1921 Emergency Quota Act, and then the Immigration Act of 1924, restricted immigration according to national origins. While the Emergency Quota Act used the census of 1910, xenophobic fears in the WASP community lead to the adoption of the 1890 census, more favorable to White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) population, for the uses of the Immigration Act of 1924, which responded to rising immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, as well as Asia.

One of the goal of this National Origins Formula, established in 1929, was explicitly to keep the status quo distribution of ethnicity, by allocating quotas in proportion to the actual population. The idea was that immigration would not be allowed to change the "national character". Total annual immigration was capped at 150,000. Asians were excluded but residents of nations in the Americas were not restricted, thus making official the racial discrimination in immigration laws. This system was repealed with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

Chinese Labours and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

According to statistics, between 1820 to 1840, only 11 Chinese people emigrated to the United States. Beginning in 1848 however, many Chinese were living in Distress due to the end of the Qing Dynasty. The United States offered a more stable life, thanks to the gold rush in California, the construction of railways, and the large labor gap. During this time many Chinese chose to immigrate to the US.

In order to recruit more laborers, the United States and China signed the Burlingame Treaty in 1868 [14] provisions of the Chinese people can freely enter and leave the United States; the right of abode in the United States, the United States most-favored treatment of Chinese nationals in the United States. The Burlingame Treaty stimulation, only from 1853 to 1873, 20 years, the United States of Chinese laborers there are nearly 14 million people.

However, laborers from entering the United States suffered a lot of unfair treatment that day. Very hard-working laborers, white workers are biased against them, they hate the taste of Chinese food, hate the language and habits of the laborers. In addition to American racism since the 19th century, scholars continue to preach Caucasians master race, other race is inferior or inferior race, racism has undoubtedly contributed to the rejection of the wave of laborers. Caucasian laborers riot bullying and murder of Chinese people, destroying their houses, and held many public meetings to incite hatred flame Caucasian laborers usually arson against them and their employers, which leads to some white employers were assassinated because they employ Chinese people.

In 1882, the United States convened the Congress, was to catch up with the election year in California. California politicians to get more votes, strongly advertised himself as a staunch anti-China stance. California Republican, Senator John Miller submitted a motion to suspend Huagong and the regulations since passed 60 days after the date of 20 years shall not allow laborers to emigrate to the United States. The motion, to be discussed in the Senate, eight days. All western states members and most of the southern Democratic Party per capita support Miller proposal, strenuously objected to the eastern states senator. After intense debate, the motion eventually to 60 days to 90 days, through 29 of 15 votes in the Senate, in the House of Representatives by 167 votes to 66 votes (55 abstentions).

On May 6, 1882, the U.S. Congress adopted the proposal of John Miller, signed by President Chester A. Arthur, this is the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. [15] The bill prohibits a U.S. citizen of Chinese ownership of private property is no essential difference with Miller motion, only the larger changes in the Chinese Exclusion period from 20 years to 10 years. 10 years later, however, the bill again been extended for 10 years; another 10 years later, the U.S. Congress was to cancel the time limit of this Act. California Governor Jimmy Doug, who in 1852 praised the Chinese are California recently accepted most valuable immigrants, but 30 years later, "the most valuable immigrants barred from the United States.[16]

Cold War

Anti-Chinese sentiment during the Cold War was largely the result of the Red Scare and McCarthyism. McCarthyism coincided with increased popular fear of communist espionage consequent to the Chinese Civil War and China's involvement in the Korean War. [17] During the era, suspected Communists were imprisoned is in the hundreds, and some ten or twelve thousand lost their jobs.[17] Many of those who were imprisoned, lost their jobs or were questioned by committees did in fact have a past or present connection of some kind with the Communist Party. But for the vast majority, both the potential for them to do harm to the nation and the nature of their communist affiliation were tenuous.[18] Among these victims were Chinese Americans, who were suspected of being affiliated with the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China.

The most notable example is that of the Chinese scientist Qian Xuesen. Allegations were made that he was a communist, and his security clearance was revoked in June 1950.[19] The Federal Bureau of Investigation located an American Communist Party document from 1938 with his name on it, and used it as justification for the revocation. Without clearance, Qian found himself unable to pursue his career, and within two weeks announced plans to return to mainland China, which had come under the government of Communist leader Mao Zedong. The Undersecretary of the Navy at the time, Dan A. Kimball, tried to keep Qian in the U.S., commenting:
"It was the stupidest thing this country ever did. He was no more a Communist than I was, and we forced him to go."[20]

Qian would spend the next five years under house arrest, which included constant surveillance with the permission to teach without any research (classified) duties.[19] Caltech appointed attorney Grant Cooper to defend Qian.


Modern anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States may originate from American fears of China's role as a rising power. Perceptions of China's rise have been so widespread that 'rise of China' has been named the top news story of the 21st century by the Global Language Monitor, as measured by number of appearances in the global print and electronic media, on the Internet and blogosphere, and in Social Media. [21]

Voice of America report on U.S Campaign attack advertisements taking aim at China.[22]

In the 2010 elections, a significant number[23] of negative advertisements from both major political parties focused on a candidates' alleged support for free trade with China. Some of the stock images that accompanied ominous voiceovers about China were actually of Chinatown, San Francisco.[24] In particular, an advertisement called "Chinese Professor", which portrays a 2030 conquest of the West by China, used local Asian American extras to play Chinese although the actors were not informed of the nature of the shoot.[25] Columnist Jeff Yang said that in the campaign there was a "blurry line between Chinese and Chinese-Americans".[24] Larry McCarthy, the producer of "Chinese Professor" defended his work by saying that "this ad is about America, it's not about China."[26] Other editorials commenting on the video have called the video not anti-Chinese.[23][26][27]

Chinese exclusion policy of NASA

As part of the Chinese exclusion policy of NASA, many American space researchers were prohibited from working with Chinese citizens affiliated with a Chinese state enterprise or entity.[28] In April 2011, the 112th United States Congress banned NASA from using its funds to host Chinese visitors at NASA facilities.[29] Earlier in 2010, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) had urged President Barack Obama not to allow further contact between NASA and the China National Space Administration (CNSA).[30][31]


  1. ^ Norton, Henry K. (1924). The Story of California From the Earliest Days to the Present. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co. pp. 283–296. 
  2. ^ See, e.g.,
  3. ^ Ling, Huping (2004). Chinese St. Louis: From Enclave to Cultural Community.  
  4. ^  
  5. ^  
  6. ^ "Foreign News: Again, Yellow Peril". Time. 1933-09-11. 
  7. ^ "Revelation 16:12 (New King James Version)". Archived from the original on 18 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  8. ^ "NYU’s "Archivist of the Yellow Peril" Exhibit". Boas Blog. 2006-08-19. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ """An Evidentiary Timeline on the History of Sacramento's Chinatown: 1882 - American Sinophobia, The Chinese Exclusion Act and "The Driving Out. Friends of the Yee Fow Museum,  
  11. ^ Chin, Gabriel J. "Harlan, Chinese and Chinese Americans". University of Dayton Law School. 
  12. ^ "Exclusion".  
  13. ^ a b The People's Vote: Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)
  14. ^ John Schrecker,"For the Equality of Men - For the Equality of Nations": Anson Burlingame and China's First Embassy to the United States, 1868. Journal of American-East Asian Relations; Mar2010, Vol. 17 Issue 1, p9-34, 26p.
  15. ^ Chin, Philip, The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Chinese American Forum; Jan2013, Vol. 28 Issue 3, p8-13, 6p
  16. ^ Foreign Affairs,Immigration in a Changing Economy: California's Experience./ Forbidden Workers: Illegal Chinese Immigrants and American Labor. May/Jun98, Vol. 77 Issue 3, p134-135, 2p
  17. ^ a b Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown. p. xiii.  
  18. ^ Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown. p. 4.  
  19. ^ a b
  20. ^ Perrett, B. (January 7, 2008), Sea Change, Aviation Week and Space Technology, Vol. 168, No. 1, p.57-61.
  21. ^ The Rise of China Ranked in the First Place of 21st Century News
  22. ^ Bowman, Laurel. "US Campaign Attack Ads Take Aim at China". VOA News. 
  23. ^ a b Chi, Frank (2010-11-08). "In campaign ads, China is fair game; Chinese-Americans are not". The Boston Globe. 
  24. ^ a b Lyden, Jacki (2010-10-27). "Critics Say Political Ads Hint Of Xenophobia".  
  25. ^ Yang, Jeff (2010-10-27). "Politicians Play The China Card". Tell Me More ( 
  26. ^ a b Smith, Ben (2010-10-22). "Behind The Chinese Professor". 
  27. ^ Fallows, James (2010-10-21). "The Phenomenal Chinese Professor Ad". 
  28. ^ Ian Sample. "US scientists boycott Nasa conference over China ban".  
  29. ^ Seitz, Virginia (11 September 2011), "Memorandum Opinion for the General Counsel, Office of Science and Technology Policy", Office of Legal Counsel 35, retrieved 23 May 2012 
  30. ^  
  31. ^ "NASA chief to visit China". AFP. Retrieved 5 October 2013. 

See also

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