China has nearly 5000 years of history. The U.S. is less than 250 years old. The U.S.-China relationship has evolved from no-contact to rivalry states in the last two century. How did this happen? This paper traces the evolution of the U.S.-China relationship from time ago to eighteenth to nineteenth century, WW I period, WW II Period, and post WW II to current century (in four parts) in order to understand how and why the two great nations have become rivalries and whether they are calculated rivalry?!
The Impact of WW I
Although WW I (7-28-1914 to 11-11-1918) broke out in Eastern Europe triggered by the assassination of Austro-Hungary heir by a Bosnian Serv Yugoslav, but due to the complex military alliances between nations, (Unfortunately, the U.S. and the former Soviet Union had maintained this practice in forming military alliances), the war eventually was extended to a world scale not only involving Eastern European countries but also Britain, France, Russia, the U.S., Japan even China. China joined in on the victors’ side. The U.S. remained neutral but was a big material supplier to the allied powers doing a good business. When the leader of Central Powers, Germany, sunk one U.S. merchant ship by submarine and urged Mexico to initiate war against the U.S., the U.S. declared war against the Central Powers on 4-6-1917. The U.S. did not engage troops until mid 1918. (a smart move) The war ended on November 11, 1918; the Paris Peace Conference was held in next two years to settle the war by developing peace treaties. Thirty two countries participated, China, as a new Republic, was a victor hoping to get many unequal treaties she was forced to sign from 1842-1910 annulled, but the West Powers including the U.S. refused, instead awarded the Chinese territories occupied by Germany to Japan. (Another lesson on international injustice learned by the Chinese) Thousands of Chinese students from more than ten colleges protested at the Embassy District in Beijing, eventually China refused to sign the Paris Treaty, but to no effect.
This part of history is bitterly remembered by the Chinese people, especially the intellectuals. Today, when the Western countries still use Hong Kong and Taiwan (subjects left from colonial unequal treaties) to agitate China, one can only expect emotional outbreak from the Chinese people because no one understands that part of history better. Thus, it is so funny to hear the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. Mike Pompeo, saying that we are not against the Chinese people, we are against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) (One wonders what had Mr. Pompeo studied history at Westpoint particularly on the Taiwan issue?). As all Chinese remember, China was a victim of the Western Powers for over a century, it was the CCP that had succeeded in rebuilding China and gave Chinese people dignity traveling today around the world receiving greetings. China was forced to lose Hong Kong, Taiwan, Outer Mongolia, Korea Peninsula, nearly Tibet under those unequal and unfair treaties. Today, Japan, Germany, even France and Britain do understand to some extent how the past history is weighing on the Chinese minds, but the U.S., especially the current State Department, seems to cling to the colonial mirage, still trying to break up China and maintaining the legacy of the unequal treaties created by colonialism.
U.S. - China Relations during WW II
China not only did not get a fair treatment at the Paris Peace Conference, she was continuously being bullied by the Western Powers and Japan. (So many movies about the Shanghai Foreign Power Jurisdiction Zones vividly exhibited racial discrimination and how being treated as second-class citizens in your own country feel like) The new Republic was trying to rebuild and reunite the nation, but unfortunately, the external forces were more suppressing than helpful. Russia’s revolutions (February and October 1917) toppled the monarchy and established a rigid communist regime. Some Chinese wanted to follow and learn from the Russian revolution experience, some of the Chinese wanted to follow and learn from the American revolution experience and yet some wanted to learn from the Japanese ‘Meiji’ reform (Copying the West and militarizing). China was truly in chaos and shattered in pieces. The Japanese had established the ‘Manchuria’ with an ambition to use it to conquer the entire China, the Soviet had designed to strengthen the Chinese Communist movement to control and make China as a part of Soviet Union. The U.S. backed the KMT party, at the time KMT was nominally the legitimate government for the entire China but in reality it only had a weak control over the South East China. The public U.S. position was honorable (sort of like Monroe Doctrine for South America in play), that is, she supports the legitimate government and urges other countries not to interfere with China’s governance. Of course, words with no force only fall on deaf ears of both Japan and Russia.
Japan continued with her aggression and encroached in the North East part of China using Korea peninsula and Manchuria as the base. Eventually Japan not wanting to see a developing China, instigated a war against China (known as Luguoqiao incidence in 1937, another sneaky Japanese military attack), hence breaking out a long Sino-Japanese war for eight years (1937-1945). The Chinese people gave all they got to fight the modernized and well equipped but ruthless Japanese imperial army. The casualty was severe, over 35 million Chinese and 1.3 million Japanese soldiers died. The cruelty of Japanese army was well documented especially by the Nanjing Massacre where 300,000 Chinese civilians were slaughtered after the city was captured by the Japanese. When China accepted Japan’s surrender in 1945 and forgave Japan asking neither reparation nor penalty, Chinese children were told that forgiveness will bring real peace. The Japanese did suffer from the atomic bomb, however, when Japanese prime ministers went to Yasukuni shrine to worship their war criminals and deny their war- crimes such as the Nanjing Massacre, many Chinese were angered. When the Chinese (Koreans and all Asians for this matter) discovered that the Japanese school textbooks white wash the WW II history, their emotions boiled and wondered why a nation could not accept historical facts? The U.S. to this day is mute about Japan’s war crimes in China such as the bio-weapon experiments on Chinese citizens and prisoners. This silence fuels several conspiracy theories about why the U.S. pardoned the Japanese War Emperor and received all war records from Japan including the infamous Japanese 731 military unit’s bio-warfare evidence. While the U.S. continued with bio-weapon research today and used it in the Vietnam War, one would not be surprised that her accusation of China being the culprit of corona virus
and being responsible for pandemic damage of the world infuriates all Chinese people.