Americans look to China with fascination and fear, unsure whether the rising Asian power is friend or foe but certain it will play a crucial role in America’s future. This is nothing new, Gordon Chang says. For centuries, Americans have been convinced of China’s importance to their own national destiny. Fateful Ties draws on literature, art, biography, popular culture, and politics to trace America’s long and varied preoccupation with China.
China has held a special place in the American imagination from colonial times, when Jamestown settlers pursued a passage to the Pacific and Asia. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Americans plied a profitable trade in Chinese wares, sought Chinese laborers to build the West, and prized China’s art and decor. China was revered for its ancient culture but also drew Christian missionaries intent on saving souls in a heathen land. Its vast markets beckoned expansionists, even as its migrants were seen as a “yellow peril” that prompted the earliest immigration restrictions. A staunch ally during World War II, China was a dangerous adversary in the Cold War that followed. In the post-Mao era, Americans again embraced China as a land of inexhaustible opportunity, playing a central role in its economic rise.
Through portraits of entrepreneurs, missionaries, academics, artists, diplomats, and activists, Chang demonstrates how ideas about China have long been embedded in America’s conception of itself and its own fate. Fateful Ties provides valuable perspective on this complex international and intercultural relationship as America navigates an uncertain new era.
A rich narrative populated by often-familiar characters and events seen through the parallax perspective of their thoughts on, or relationship to, China.
Chang’s interest lies in the preconceptions and fond assumptions about China that would lead, at times, to far-reaching policies and actions by the U.S.
Gordon Chang, in Fateful Ties, fully acknowledges the U.S. preoccupation with China… Well aware of the risks inherent in the relationship, Chang casts a wide net as he focuses on the role cultural, educational, business, and political connections play in the relationship… Chang’s work deserves a broad audience and will more [than] likely stand the test of time.
[A] thought-provoking history of our 400-year preoccupation with China.
Whether discussing mutually beneficial trade and discourse or souring relations leading to conflict, Chang argues that ties between [China and the United States] are not predestined but that the futures of both nations are nonetheless deeply intertwined.
Chang analyzes the past 300 years of Sino-American relations, as the world’s most populous nation is poised to regain economic supremacy. It’s a succinct, sharply focused analysis, and Chang underlines America’s status as a fledgling nation while China was an ancient empire.
Chang’s elegant analysis of America's long cultural obsession with China spans such diverse issues as the nation’s early mania for tea and porcelain through the outpouring of ‘yellow peril’ literature in both the late-nineteenth and again in the early-twenty-first centuries. His many insights add a much needed depth and scope to understanding this often troubled but always important relationship.
Fateful Ties is a brilliant narrative of America’s obsession with China from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Chang’s eloquently written history takes this country’s ongoing mythmaking about China seriously and subjects it to a richly detailed critical analysis. An essential book for anyone interested in going behind the ‘rise of China’ headlines.
- 336 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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