Saturday, January 7, 2023: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Room 306
Yanqiu Zheng, Social Science Research Council
Black Gold and White Gold: Weaving a Global Network through the Chinese–American Tea Trade, 1815–42
Dan Du, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Ko Kunhua at Harvard, 1879–82: Receptions, Teaching, and Interactions with New England Elites in the Age of Chinese Exclusion
Shuhua Fan, The University of Scranton
Lost Chance? Revisiting CCP’s Policy toward the United States on the Eve of the PRC’s Founding
Tao Wang, Iowa State University
Popular Nationalism, Social Media, and the US–China Trade War: A Case Study of Weibo, 2018–20
Mao Lin, Georgia Southern University
Comment: Guolin Yi, Providence College
This panel examines the changing perceptions and multifaceted Sino-American encounters from the early 1800s to the present. Dan Du explores how collaboration between Chinese and American traders in the tea trade and Asia’s money market helped trigger the Opium War (1839-1842). Shuhua Fan uses the experience of Ko Kunhua, teacher of the first Harvard Chinese class, to examine the interactions between Chinese and New England elites in the age of Chinese exclusion. Tao Wang explores the CCP’s handling of several specific issues to reveal the convolution of its US-policy making on the eve of the founding of the PRC. Mao Lin analyzes how Chinese popular nationalism has evolved over time, which has in turn shaped China’s response to the current trade war. Using primary and secondary sources, this panel reveals collaboration, conflict, and other features in the multi-layered China-US encounters on diplomatic, commercial, and cultural/educational fronts, contributing to expanding the literature on Sino-American relations.
- “Black Gold and White Gold: Weaving a Global Network through the Chinese-American Tea Trade (1815-1842)”, Dan Du, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
The research explores how the collaboration between Chinese and American traders in the tea trade and Asia’s money market helped to trigger the First Opium War (1839-1842). The United States was the second largest importer of tea from China in the nineteenth century. To purchase Chinese tea, U.S. traders became the major suppliers of silver from South America to China. However, the rise of opium smuggling between India and China from the late 1820s gave Americans a new way of raising funds: they sold bills of exchange in Asia. A bill of exchange, resembling the feiqian or “flying cash” in Tang China, was a paper device that enabled the remittance of money to different locations without physical transfers of cash. British-Indian merchants’ demand soared for bills of exchange to remit their proceeds from the opium sales in China back to India and Britain. With the endorsement of prominent Chinese merchants, American traders had sold millions of dollars’ worth of bills—generated in the trans-Atlantic cotton trade or issued by the Bank of the United States—in Asia and dramatically reduced their shipments of silver to China. The structural change in the Chinese-American tea trade inflated the American economy and aggravated the silver drain on China. Contributing to the Panic of 1837 in the United States, Chinese merchants’ bankruptcies in Canton, and the Qing government’s crackdown on opium, these developments provided another steppingstone for the First Opium War in 1839.
- Shuhua Fan, University of Scranton
This paper uses the experience of Ko Kunhua, teacher of the first Harvard Chinese class (1879-1882), to explore the interactions between Chinese scholars and New England elites in the age of Chinese exclusion. Selected by Francis Knight, U.S. merchant and consul in China, and invited by Harvard, Ko Kunhua, accompanied by his wife, five children, servants and interpreter, arrived at New York City and Cambridge in late August 1879 to carry out a three-year term of teaching at Harvard. How did New England media report on Ko and his family’s presence in America? How was the Ko party received by the NYC mayor and the Harvard community? How did Ko conduct his teaching at Harvard? How did Ko interact with New England elites, including his American friends at Harvard and Yale, Harvard alumni at the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, public librarians, and his medical doctors in Boston? What was Ko’s position on China’s recall of the boys from the Chinese Educational Mission and on America’s Chinese exclusion?
Using rich primary sources and secondary works, this paper aims to answer the above questions. The paper argues that Ko made great efforts to adapt to American life while keeping Confucian traditions and his own identity and adopt a unique style to teach the Chinese class and spread Chinese culture in the age of Chinese exclusion. It fills a gap in the study of Chinese scholars in America in the age of Chinese exclusion, thus expanding the literature on nineteenth century China-U.S. relations.
- “Lost Chance? — Revisiting CCP’s Policy toward the United States on the Eve of the PRC’s Founding”, Tao Wang, Iowa State University (Co-authored with Niu Jun)
Abstract: Was there a chance for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the United States to reach an accommodation when the People’s Republic of China was established? If so, when, why, and how did they forsake this opportunity? Previous works on the CCP’s policymaking often approach this topic from the perspective of ideology and focus on such factors as the influence of the Cold War, Sino-Soviet relations, and Mao’s revolutionary theory. This approach sometimes overlooks some other factors affecting China’s policy making, and tends to give a static analysis of the role ideology played throughout this period.
Recent declassification of new archives—especially several document collections published by local archives in China—has offered an opportunity to delve into China’s policymaking in this period. Based on these new sources, this article explores the Communist leaders’ handling of several specific issues to reveal the convolution of their U.S. policymaking. It argues that far from predetermined and consistent, China’s policy toward the U.S. underwent constant adjustments. CCP leaders remained uncertain about relations with the United States most of the time. And the final decision to give up efforts for a working relationship with the U.S. was contingent on circumstances, including CCP’s domestic agenda, U.S. attitude, and the Soviet influence.
- “Popular Nationalism, Social Media, and the US-China Trade War: A Case Study of Weibo (2018-2020)”, Mao Lin, Georgia Southern University
The United States and the People’s Republic of China have been waging what the Chinese social media called “an epic trade war in human history” since early 2018. This ongoing trade war has attracted unprecedented attention from all types of Chinese media. While the Chinese government tries to maintain a tight control of public opinion, it cannot always shape the narrative of the trade war based on official policies. The paper examines how popular nationalism has evolved over time and shaped China’s response to the trade war. During the early months of the trade war, China’s response was largely defensive. The Chinese public opinion claimed China as an innocent victim of the trade war, initiated by a reckless Trump administration. Many, especially those in social media, were also optimistic, believing that the trade war would be over soon once the U.S. government came to it senses. After the American government-imposed sanctions on Huawei, a popular Chinese high-tech company, the public opinion shifted to an offensive mode. Many now argued that America was not looking for fair trade policies but trying to block China’s rise as a global power. Furthermore, the Chinese popular nationalism started to argue that China’s model of development was superior to America’s liberal democracy. Other issues such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, and the South China Sea further confounded the bilateral relationship and led to the rise of popular nationalism.