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opening trade with china

Opening Trade with China



China had once been the most advanced empire in the world. However, years of civil war had weakened the empire. In addition, China had failed to industrialize as other nations had in the 1800s. As a result, it was unable to fight off industrial nations that wanted to reap profits from its vast resources and markets.

In the late 1800s, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and Japan carved spheres of influence in China. These countries established settlements in China and claimed exclusive rights on trade. The United States did not have a sphere of influence.

Sphere of influence- an area where foreign nations claim special rights and economic privileges.


How does this cartoonist portray China’s response to spheres of influence? Why do you think this was?


American leaders (President William McKinley) feared that the Europeans and Japanese would try to bar the United States from trading in China. In 1899, therefore, Secretary of State John Hay sent a letter to all of the nations that has spheres of influence in China. He urged them to follow an Open Door Policyin China. Under the policy, any nation could trade in the spheres of others… and all would benefit economically!


The nations reluctantly accepted the Open Door Policy.

As a result, the United States was able to trade freely with the Chinese without interference from the foreign powers in China.


In short, Hay was simply trying to protect the prospects of American businessmen and investors.

Watch the video below: Why did US businesses want the Open Door Policy to be accepted by all groups?

Did China support this idea or did they want to keep the Spheres of Influence?

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No nation formally agreed to Hay’s policy


March 20, 1900 Secretary of State John Hay announces that the foreign powers with an interest in China have accepted his Open Door Policy. All the Western nations agree to trade with China on an equal basis. Hay’s purpose is to prevent US competitors from dividing up China for themselves.


Who does this cartoonist say has control over China after the Open Door Policy? Why is this ironic? What did the Open Door Policy state?


Many Chinese opposed foreign influences in their country. Some belonged to a secret society called the Righteous Fists of Harmony, or Boxers. The Boxers wanted to rid China of all “foreign devils.”

In 1900, the Boxers rebelled. They attacked and killed more than 200 foreigners. The United States and other nations formed an international army to combat the Boxers. Armed with modern weapons, the international army fought its way into Beijing and crushed the rebellion


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August 1900. An international army of US, British, French, Japanese, and Russian troops reaches Peking, where it frees foreign diplomats and Chinese Christians trapped there since June 20. The Boxer Rebellion unofficially ends.

As a result, the United States became much more influential on world affairs.