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China and the Pursuit of America’s Destiny: Nineteenth-Century Imagining and Why Immigration Restriction Took So Long

Front Cover of Journal of Asian American Studies 15:2
Journal of Asian American Studies
Jun 2012

“China and the Pursuit of America’s Destiny: Nineteenth-Century Imagining and Why Immigration Restriction Took So Long,” Journal of Asian American Studies, 15:2 (2012), 145-169

Traditional accounts of the exclusion of Chinese from America emphasize the racial, economic, cultural, and political hostility of whites and suggest that exclusion was an inexorable process. This essay, instead, asks why did exclusion legislation actually take a relatively long time to pass through Congress? The question helps re-cast our view of 19th century Chinese immigration and leads us to appreciate the sentiment that welcomed the arrival of Chinese as part of the broader project of linking America with China for trade, evangelical, and other purposes. The arrival of Chinese in America, in the eyes of important Americans, was part and parcel of the country's grand destiny.