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The Beginnings of China’s Emigration to America

In the 19th century, the United States began experiencing its first substantial waves of immigrants. By the 1840’s, throngs of Irish, German, Dutch, and other nationalities were greatly assisting American westward expansion through their rapidly growing settlements. The California Gold Rush of 1849 helped to bring about the arrival of another ethnic group, the Chinese There were many occurrences that lead to the beginning and the continuation of Chinese immigration to the US. Historians commonly mark the beginnings of Chinese immigration to the US during the Gold Rush period. By 1882, 300,000 Chinese emigrated to the US. Currenly, there are over three million Chinese living in the US.

To fully understand why the Chinese came in such great numbers, one must study the state of affairs in China during this phase of emigration to the US. Before the Gold Rush, in 1842 the Chinese suffered a humiliating defeat to the English at the First Opium War (1839-42). This conflict came to be when the ruling Qing Dynasty elected to ban the trade of the highly addicting drug, opium. However, Great Britain was making large profits from the trade, and they were determined to protect their financial interests in China. The Qing’s navy was badly undermanned and folded early in the war. Their army was poorly armed and trained. With the signing of the Treaty of Nanking, all hostilities between the two nations ceased. The British had succeeded in saving their unbridled flow of opium into Qing China.

The terrible defeat suffered at the First Opium War damaged the already unpopular Qing Dynasty. Civil unrest broke out in vast areas of China, and the Qing regime was ruthless in regards to putting down demonstrations against its power. All this violence resulted in an extremely unstable environment for many Chinese. Both the California Gold Rush and the defeat at the First Opium War are causes of Sino emigration during the 1840’s.

The discovery of gold in Western North America, fortunately for the Chinese  was at an accessible area for boats filled with people looking for better lives. Unlike their European counterparts, the Chinese mainly sailed to America via its western coast.

Chinese immigration into the US continued during the 1850’s as China descended deeper towards civil war. Furthermore, Great Britain, while taking advantage of the weakened Qing regime, asked for a revision in the Treaty of Nanking. The English demanded the establishment of a permanent embassy in Peking, which at the time was a closed city. This idea angered the Qing Emperor, Xianfeng, provoking the Second Opium War (1856-60). China suffered yet another crushing defeat to the British and their allies, weakening the Qing Dynasty even further.

As the Qing Dynasty continued to crumple, emigration to the US and elsewhere increased. After the California Gold Rush ran its course, Chinese emigration was fueled by three major events:

1. The defeat to Japan in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95)
2. The Boxer Rebellion (1900)
3. The fall of the Qing Dynasty (1912)

Continued chaos in China lasted until 1949 when Mao Zedong’s communist party seized power of the country. The first of three waves of Chinese immigration into America is marked between the years of 1849 and 1949.

In the 19th century, the United States began experiencing its first substantial waves of immigrants. By the 1840’s, throngs of Irish, German, Dutch, and other nationalities were greatly assisting American westward expansion through their rapidly growing settlements. The California Gold Rush of 1849 helped to bring about the arrival of another ethnic group, the Chinese There were many occurrences that lead to the beginning and the continuation of Chinese immigration to the US. Historians commonly mark the beginnings of Chinese immigration to the US during the Gold Rush period. By 1882, 300,000 Chinese emigrated to the US. Currenly, there are over three million Chinese living in the US.

To fully understand why the Chinese came in such great numbers, one must study the state of affairs in China during this phase of emigration to the US. Before the Gold Rush, in 1842 the Chinese suffered a humiliating defeat to the English at the First Opium War (1839-42). This conflict came to be when the ruling Qing Dynasty elected to ban the trade of the highly addicting drug, opium. However, Great Britain was making large profits from the trade, and they were determined to protect their financial interests in China. The Qing’s navy was badly undermanned and folded early in the war. Their army was poorly armed and trained. With the signing of the Treaty of Nanking, all hostilities between the two nations ceased. The British had succeeded in saving their unbridled flow of opium into Qing China.

The terrible defeat suffered at the First Opium War damaged the already unpopular Qing Dynasty. Civil unrest broke out in vast areas of China, and the Qing regime was ruthless in regards to putting down demonstrations against its power. All this violence resulted in an extremely unstable environment for many Chinese. Both the California Gold Rush and the defeat at the First Opium War are causes of Sino emigration during the 1840’s.

The discovery of gold in Western North America, fortunately for the Chinese  was at an accessible area for boats filled with people looking for better lives. Unlike their European counterparts, the Chinese mainly sailed to America via its western coast.

Chinese immigration into the US continued during the 1850’s as China descended deeper towards civil war. Furthermore, Great Britain, while taking advantage of the weakened Qing regime, asked for a revision in the Treaty of Nanking. The English demanded the establishment of a permanent embassy in Peking, which at the time was a closed city. This idea angered the Qing Emperor, Xianfeng, provoking the Second Opium War (1856-60). China suffered yet another crushing defeat to the British and their allies, weakening the Qing Dynasty even further.

As the Qing Dynasty continued to crumple, emigration to the US and elsewhere increased. After the California Gold Rush ran its course, Chinese emigration was fueled by three major events:   1. The defeat to Japan in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95)2. The Boxer Rebellion (1900)3. The fall of the Qing Dynasty (1912)

Continued chaos in China lasted until 1949 when Mao Zedong’s communist party seized power of the country. The first of three waves of Chinese immigration into America is marked between the years of 1849 and 1949.

30 Responses to “The Beginnings of China’s Emigration to America”

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