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Gordon H. Chang

Headshot of Gordon H. Chang

Gordon H. Chang

Professor of American History
Olive H. Palmer Professor in Humanities
Director, Center for East Asian Studies
United States
Ph.D., Stanford University
B.A., Princeton University

I am interested in two areas of American life that are often considered separately. The historical connections between race and ethnicity in America, on the one hand, and foreign relations, on the other are in fact profound. I explore these interconnections in my teaching and scholarship. My particular area of focus is trans-Pacific relations, the inter-connections between East Asia and America.I am interested in political, social, and cultural interactions from the earliest days of America to the present.My current research project concerns the recovery and interpretation of the experiences of Chinese railroad workers in North America. Please go to for more information.

Selected Publications & Projects

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...
Gordon H. Chang
Between 1865 and 1869, thousands of Chinese migrants toiled at a grueling pace and in perilous working conditions to help construct America’s First...
Gordon H. Chang
Mark Johnson , Paul Karlstrom, (Editors)
Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970, ed. with Mark Johnson and Paul Karlstrom, and Foreword and essay (Stanford University Press, 2008)


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.