Imperial Crossroads: Britain and the United States in the Far East, 1853-1945
With the remarkable rise of China as a global economic and military superpower, challenging the world leadership of the United States, the question of imperial transition has once again come to the fore. Yet the peaceful transition of power from Great Britain to the United States in the early twentieth century has by and large escaped analysis. It is still widely regarded as a rare exception in the history of hegemonic shifts. The purpose of this talk is not only to challenge the prevalent myth of the so-called “special relationship” between Great Britain and the United States built largely upon the common Anglo-Saxon heritage, but more importantly, to call attention to their prolonged struggle for supremacy in the Far East, starting from the Perry Expedition to the conclusion of the Pacific War. The “Scramble for China” has been extensively studied from various perspectives. But little scholarly attention appears to have been paid to Anglo-American “competitive cooperation”, to borrow David Reynold’s phrase, in the region. While much of the previous research on great power rivalry in East Asia has concentrated on Britain’s deepening strategic conundrum, the expansion of the Japanese Empire first into the Korean peninsula, then Manchuria, and finally the Chinese mainland, or the violent replacement of the traditional regional order by the Westphalian state system, this talk aims to retell the story through the prism of the Anglo-American hegemonic transition.