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Gordon H. Chang

Gordon H. Chang

Professor of American History
Olive H. Palmer Professor in Humanities
Senior Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
United States
Ph.D., Stanford University
B.A., Princeton University

I am interested in several different areas of history, including the historical connections between race and ethnicity in America, on the one hand, and foreign relations, on the other, and trans-Pacific relations in their diplomatic as well as their cultural and social dimensions. I have written and continue to publish in the areas of U.S. diplomacy, America-China relations, the Chinese diaspora, Asian American history, and global history. My most recent books have examined the history of Chinese railroad workers in America in the 19th century.

I continue to work with undergraduates, master’s students, and doctoral students.

Selected Publications & Projects

Gordon H. Chang
From across the sea, they came by the thousands, escaping war and poverty in southern China to seek their fortunes in America. Converging on the...
Gordon H. Chang
Shelley Fisher Fishkin
The completion of the transcontinental railroad in May 1869 is usually told as a story of national triumph and a key moment for American Manifest...
Gordon H. Chang
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...


Selected Journals & Book Chapters

Gordon H. Chang
“China and the Pursuit of America’s Destiny: Nineteenth-Century Imagining and Why Immigration Restriction Took So Long,” Journal of Asian American...
Gordon H. Chang
“Chinese Art Comes to America: Zhang Shuqi and the Diplomacy of Art,” in Cynthia Mills, ed., East West Interchanges in America Art: ‘A Long and...
Gordon H. Chang
"Whose ‘Barbarism’? Whose ‘Treachery’?: Race and Civilization in the Unknown United-States-Korea War of 1871,” Journal of American History...
Gordon H. Chang
He Di
"Absence of War in the United States-China Confrontation over Quemoy and Matsu, 1954-55: Contingency, Luck, Deterrence?," with He Di, American...

More Information

Fateful Ties: The History of America’s Preoccupation with China

by Gordon H. Chang

Forthcoming (2015)

Harvard University Press

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.