From the mid-19th century to the early Cold War, the United States has a long history with China, and that interaction has t always been positive or productive. This brief history of foreign intervention in China, viewed through the experiences of the United States Marines, examines how the occupying powers dealt with a fellow sovereign nation. In many cases this involved the partition or outright absorption of Chinese territory through naked aggression. Clark contends that, considering the past two centuries, the Chinese have good reason to distrust all foreigners, and he urges the pursuit of a badly needed rapprochement. This is, however, also the story of the evolution of the Marine Corps as a separate service. Although an occupying force, the Marines did make considerable efforts to earn the friendship of the Chinese people. Always on the brink of extinction due to budgetary cuts and the enmity of the army and navy, the Marines managed to perform an onerous and difficult duty in a foreign land. With a resurgent China constantly testing the United States, a fellow Pacific Rim nation, every policymaker should be well aware of the often difficult history that we share and the mistakes that have been made in the past.
GEORGE B. CLARK served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1944 to 1947, the U.S. Army from 1950 to 1952, and spent several years in the reserves for both services. Now retired, he was formerly Director of Research Administration and Research Technology Transfer at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. His other publications include Devil Dogs: Fighting Marines of World War I (1999).