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The ‘Open Door’ policy was introduced by President McKinley as he was an imperialist who believed China had opportunity for free trade which would benefit American greatly. Americans were convinced that there was a large market in China that could help the American economy out of depression and bring about economic change, and therefore saw the Far East as a vital area for the expansion of American trade. By Open Door trade being introduced, this expansion could be achieved.
America knew that there was European interference in China and did not want to come into conflict with this, so by introducing free trade, American trade would benefit and therefore would not come into contact with European powers as everyone was entitled to trade. McKinley believed that by keeping the Great Powers of the world in balance; with no one power being more powerful than any other, peace would be maintained, and therefore because of this reduction in international competition, this added to why McKinley wanted an Open Door policy to be adopted.
The American government assumed that if the policy was to be introduced, China and Japan theoretically should stay happy. If the policy was to be introduced, China would be happy as they would be free from the over-powerful influence of the rivalling Japan and Russia, and therefore McKinley would also be able to protect American interests in China. McKinley believed that Japan would stay happy as he knew that they also were looking to expand their markets, and a free trade market would allow them to do this.
Another reason why this principle was adopted was due to Alfred Thayer Mahan’s influences in political decisions. Mahan was a close friend of then President, Theodore Roosevelt, and therefore Roosevelt accepted Mahan’s arguments that by investing in China, USA could build naval bases and therefore America would have a more ‘forward’ foreign policy based on modern sea power. By enlarging the US Navy, America would look more powerful to other countries with a large sea power that would be able to defend against attacks from other powers, especially European powers, and would be able to join the list of world powers.
In 1900 the ‘Boxer’ Rebellion led to great instability in China, and coming to aid to restore order was the American government, who gave the impression that it was their duty to impose this Open Door policy to protect China, as they had no choice but to ‘help’. The USA (along with foreign governments) worked to send an international force into China which eventually dealt with the Boxers. As a result of this, the Open Door Policy was applied to the whole of China, as America made out that they needed to be protected as they were defenceless; however in reality China was effectively colonised.
The Open Door Policy was introduced as both McKinley and Roosevelt wanted America to become a superpower and knew that by imposing a foreign policy and therefore by expanding trading ground and naval bases, this could be achieved. China had a large market, which was fundamental for this and by imposing ‘free trade’ everyone would theoretically be happy. Also by expanding naval bases, America gained modern sea power and would help in becoming a world power like other countries.
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