Combining biography with foreign-policy analysis, David L. Anderson provides a fresh interpretation of Sino-American relations in the nineteenth century. The book focuses on the eight Americans who occupied the chief U.S. diplomatic post in China from 1861 to 1898 and personally shaped American policy toward China in the forty years before Secretary of State John Hay's Open Door Notes. Their policies, as Anderson explains, were as varied as the eight individuals, and yet at the same time were characteristically American—expressing both idealistic altruism and imperialistic self-interest. Ultimately, John Hay merged the altruism and the self-interest in the Open Door Notes of 1899 and 1900, which influenced much of America's twentieth-century conduct in Asia. Anderson reemphasizes Hay's role in bridging the differences that have plagued U.S. policy in China.
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