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Open Door Policy

Open Door Policy

The Open Door Policy was first implemented by the US to open up new and better trading possibilities between western nations and China.
Dhritiman Basu
The Open Door Policy is a treaty which was formulated by the American Secretary to State, John Hay, in 1899, and was an important part of American history. The treaty proposed that all nations would have equal rights to access Chinese ports for trade and business purposes. This was informed to all the first-world countries like Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and Russia. It received mixed response from the aforementioned countries but was later assumed to be the next big step to tie trading relationships with the oriental world.

Previously, China was governed by a monarchy. The First Opium War took place in 1842, which was fought between Great Britain and China, with the intention of securing trading benefits and usurping the Chinese throne. The aftermath of the war was the proposal of Treaty of Nanking, which was considered biased and unequal by China. It led to the opening of five trading ports and the surrender of Hong Kong to Great Britain. This war marked the end of Chinese detachment from foreign issues and disputed participation in various historic global events. Later, in 1899, the American Secretary of State, John Hay, proposed the Open Door Policy by forwarding the blueprints to United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Russia, France and Germany. The leaders of all these countries assembled and finalized the treaty on the grounds of exploring new opportunities with China and gaining higher profits. It stated the following points:
  • There shall be no intervention with any other treaty or port or issues regarding other nations.
  • China would have the authority to levy duties on all merchandise imported to or exported from its own territories. The normal Chinese tariff shall be applicable to all the freighted goods.
  • China would not be authorized to charge additional taxes or dues on ships and vessels belonging to foreign countries than what they would be charging their own vessels.
However, these conditions started extending to other aspects as concession within China for railroad, mining and loan rights, though it didn't deviate much from its main goal. The port of Kiao-chau was declared a free port for supporting the Chinese Government for establishing a center for taxation and custom on freighted goods. This idea was initially proposed by the German Majesty which was met with great appreciation and acceptance by all. It helped the Chinese government to draw greater profits from taxes and also keep a check on the imports and exports. Though the US role in sanctioning and advocating the treaty seemed to be a measure on liberalizing the Chinese economy and trading values, the harsh truth was that John Hay wanted to widen the prospects of the American investors and tradesmen by securing a spot in the Chinese economy. The US didn't share healthy ties with China and it was certain that if countries like Great Britain somehow managed to bring down the ruling dynasty, then the complete territory would become its possession. Furthermore, it might be divided among its allied countries and the US would remain completely oblivious from the scene.

This policy started to decay after the onset of local opposition and the war between Russia and Japan in 1904. Eventually, the policy ceased to exist after the Japanese seizure of Manchuria and the advent of Communism in China in 1945.

This policy was aimed at improving relationships between the east and the west. On the contrary, it elicited quite a massive uproar amongst the natives. The Chinese were not happy with the foreign trespassing and open trade, which was consequently brought down because of the conflicting principles and thereby, the preceding events. However, its demise marked the inception of Communist era in China and the rest is history.