© Zak Keith, 2009
Last updated: August 2015
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While the slavery of Africans and the genocide of Native Americans are familiar topics to many, what the Chinese in America endured remains an unfamiliar subject to most. Severe acts of racism and discrimination—pogroms, massacres, mass expulsions and near-genocidal policies—were perpetrated against the Chinese, but the facts surrounding this Chinese chapter in American history are largely neglected or suppressed, and certainly not taught in standard school text books. Official mentions of the topic, if any, are anemic at best and tend to emphasize the concessions granted to the Chinese or the few reparative steps taken by the US government, which, as a rule, came as too-little-too-late for many Chinese Americans.
There has been no intentional negative focus in the creation of this article. A factual rundown of all major historical events affecting the Chinese in America will readily show that most landmark developments—from the founding days of the USA to recent decades—simply were detrimental for them. The American treatment of its own ethnic-Chinese population (among others) and the ethno-specific targeting of this particular group of fellow immigrants leaves a lot to be desired.
To be fair, not everything bad that happened to the Chinese in America should be construed as being solely due to ethnic persecution. During the Great Depression, San Francisco Chinatown residents perpetuated and capitalized on negative stereotypes, such as staging “spontaneous” knife fights between “opium-crazed” triad members for passing guided-tour groups to attract visitors. Particularly in the 1960s, there were situations created by the Chinese community, such as underground sweat-shop operations and human trafficking, that brought on justifiable police raids and ensuing investigations. Yet, similar activities by other groups, such as the Italian-American mafia, have not resulted in any wholesale ethnic discrimination that was written into law, as in the case of the Chinese.
When Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her bus seat to a white man in 1955, it sparked civil disobedience, boycotts and a mass movement against racial segregation. Yet, when civil rights finally gained a foothold for African Americans and a new tide of racial-sensibilities began to be the default, they would come much later for the Chinese:
When did the Chinese arrive in America? If the accounts of the Chinese Buddhist monk Hui Shen , who visited a land he called Fusang, are anything to go by, then in 450 AD, the Chinese traveled along what can only be the West Coast of America, southward from present-day British Columbia, to Baja California. If you believe in the theories of Gavin Menzies as posited in his book, 1421, or Henriette Mertz’ Perl Ink (1953), or the findings of Col. Barclay Kennon (who served on the US North Pacific Surveying Expedition in 1871), or Charles Godfrey Leland (1824-1903), or Sinologist Karl Friedrich Neumann (1793-1870), the Chinese have been in the Americas for centuries, perhaps even millennia, long before the first European settlers arrived. There is also genetic evidence to support this.*
According to European records, the Chinese came to the Americas from the onset, alongside some of the first European explorers, traders and settlers:
While the Chinese generally fared better than Native Americans and African slaves, a gray-zone distinction was made in many American states to tentatively class the Chinese as fellow-immigrants with very limited rights.
The questions that beg to be asked are:
Why were the Chinese—who were arguably just as “entitled” as the Europeans were to the New World, and who could be argued to have had just as manifest a destiny as the “whites,” if not more—subjected to such a high level of persecution? Does their belonging to a minority group explain everything? What conclusions could be drawn from events in the timeline below?
The Manchurian Qing Dynasty comes to power in China after deposing the Ming. Ming loyalists and disfavored classes flee to coastal areas such as the Pearl River Delta in Canton, which becomes a hotbed of anti-Qing activity. In constant fusion with foreign traders for the next 200 years, a new rebellious middle-class of innovative and entrepreneurial merchants (all racketeers as far as the Qing government is concerned) arises. It is from Toishan, in this region, that the majority of Chinese immigrants to America will come. 
Historical records indicate the presence of Chinese “sugar masters” living in Hawaii and Chinese peddlers and sailors in New York.
California introduces a Foreign Miners’ Tax which is imposed exclusively on Chinese miners, who are frequently made to pay the taxes more than once.
Millions of innocents in regions such as Canton, China, suffer immense hardships when the Qing government brutally crushes uprisings such as the Taiping Rebellion. Large numbers opt to emigrate in order to support their families. Most settle in the surrounding countries of Asia, while some 25,000 head for America within the next year.
A Caucasian writer describes the sounds of orchestras at Chinese mining camps as the “wailings of a thousand lovelorn cats, the screams, gobblings, braying and barkings of as many peacocks, turkeys, donkeys, and dogs.”
More than 20,000 Chinese arrive in San Francisco. Two Chinese miners discover a giant 240 lb. nugget of gold, arousing bitter jealousy among white miners. The Californian Committee on Mines and Mining declares the presence of the Chinese “a great moral and social evil—a disgusting scab upon the fair face of society—a putrefying sore upon the body politic—in short, a nuisance.”
There are 27,000 Chinese in California. Governor John Bigler urges the creation of special taxes on the “coolies” to stop the “tide of Asiatic immigration.” The California legislature enacts the Commutation Tax law to discourage the Chinese from coming to the US, and the Foreign Miners License Law, a monthly fee payable in gold dust, to penalize the Chinese already living in California. The fee is arbitrarily increased in the years that follow. Corrupt tax collectors assault Chinese miners in order to extort extra taxes.
California Governor John Bigler further calls for an exclusionary law to bar Chinese immigration altogether.
With the ethnic Chinese population having no possibility of legal redress, white miners act with impunity, systematically expelling Chinese miners from their sites. Chinese miners resort to prospecting abandoned claims. Their willingness to work together helps some of them find gold, despite the fact that these sites were considered exhausted of gold.
The Chinese community living on DuPont Street (Chinatown) in San Francisco are made to pay, on average, 2½ times the rent that white tenants pay.
The San Francisco Daily Alta California describes the Chinese as: “morally a far worse class to have among us than the Negro. They are idolatrous on their religion—in their disposition cunning and deceited [sic], and in their habits libidous and offensive [...] they are not of that kin that Americans can ever associate or sympathize with. They are not our people and never will be, though they remain here forever [...] They do not mix with our people and it is undesirable that they should, for nothing but degradation can result to us from the contact [...] It is of no advantage to us to have them here. They can never become like us.”
With immunity granted by the Supreme Court to any and all perpetrators, White-on-Chinese crimes increase. Mexican bandit Joaquin Murrieta descends on Chinese mining camps and kills 19 Chinese miners after robbing them of their gold. The Chinese place a bounty on his head and he is killed.
The Washington Territorial Legislature passes a law denying anyone of Chinese descent the right to vote.
The Gold Hill premiers, becoming possibly the first Chinese newspaper published in America.
Some 13,000 Chinese arrive in North America. 
Mariposa County miners give the Chinese 10 days to vacate the area, or face 39 lashes and eviction by force of arms.
In El Dorado County, white miners torch Chinese camps, destroy their equipment and turn away new arrivals of Chinese miners.
The US signs a series of treaties known as the Treaties of Tienjin, forcing China to open its ports and grant concessions of land in China. (While it is often noted that the United States did not control any settlements in China, they shared British land grants and were invited to take land in Shanghai. The US turned the offer down only because the land was thought to be disadvantageous.) 
All Chinese children are barred from attending public schools in San Francisco. 
Chinese children are barred from San Francisco schools.
The Oregon Constitution declares that no “Chinaman” is allowed to own land in Oregon.
Chinese communities rally together and form the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.
To stem the demand for contracts arranged through immigration/labor agents, American citizens in American vessels are prohibited from participating in the “coolie trade.” California passes an act to protect “free white labor” from competition by Chinese “coolie labor” and to discourage Chinese immigration in the state of California.
California passes the Anti-Coolie Act—in reality a legalized “police tax” protection racket. Work permits are charged at $2.50 a month (a significant sum at the time) for workers over the age of 18 of the “Mongolian Race.”
Territorial Law in Washington State bans the Chinese from testifying in court against whites.
In March, the Central Pacific employs 50 Chinese workers to work between Auburn and Clipper Gap, to break a strike by white workers. Initially believing the Chinese to be far too delicate for the tough work, their superintendent refuses to have them, but his superior insists on hiring them with the argument that the race of people who built the Great Wall can surely build a railroad. The Chinese workers, who are paid less, turn out to be far more efficient than their Caucasian counterparts. Leland Stanford temporarily changes his opinion about the Chinese to that of a positive one in order to promote a drive to employ more Chinese workers.
On May 22, 50 Chinese on their way to Idaho City are killed by Native Americans.
On June 2, the Humboldt Register reports: “A drove of Chinamen on their way to Montana was attacked, just over the line, in the Queen’s river country, and 40 are reported killed.”
Railroad work intensifies, with Chinese workers working round-the-clock shifts. Nitroglycerin is brought in to speed up the rock-blasting progress, and the Chinese are the only ones willing to handle the unstable explosive. Emulating methods used in ancient China to build fortresses along the Yangtze River, they dangle on reed baskets suspended by ropes hung over cliff edges, position explosive charges and detonate fuses before signaling to be pulled to safety. An unknown number of Chinese workers die in accidents that follow (while records were kept for the number of animals lost, records of Chinese casualties were never kept).
Epidemics that sweep through the work camps rarely affect Chinese workers, who employ their own cooks, eat balanced diets and wash up nightly with hot water.
Delighted with the performance of Chinese workers, railroad executives advocate the immigration of an additional 500,000 Chinese to California to ease the labor shortage: “It would be all the better for us and the State if there should half a million come over in 1868.”
Some 2,000 Chinese railroad workers, tired of being whipped as slaves (despite the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863), organize a peaceful and orderly strike, walking off their jobs in the Sierras. They politely present a list of demands to their employers. The Central Pacific cuts off their food supply, effectively starving them back to work, since they are denied any transportation to leave the area.
The Central Pacific labor force is two-thirds (2/3) Chinese, who are made to work much harder while being paid far less than their Caucasian counterparts.
Collis P. Huntington, owner of Central Pacific, refuses to arm Chinese workers so they can defend themselves against attacks by Native Americans: “A Winchester is worth $12, a Chinese none.”
Fights between Irish and Chinese railroad work crews break out. The Irish are surprised at the fighting abilities of the Chinese, who are smaller in size. Later, a mystery blast in the Chinese camp wounds several. Days later, another mysterious blast kills several Irish workers, after which there is an instant truce and total cessation of hostilities.
The Transcontinental Railroad is completed. About one in ten Chinese workers died building the railroads—1,756 miles of track were laid at the cost of 1.7 Chinese deaths per mile—leaving about 12,000 Chinese still employed at this point.
On May 10, hundreds of railroad men gather to have their picture taken at a ceremony in Promontory Point in Utah, to witness Stanford laying the final “golden” spike. However, the Chinese, who comprised the majority of the work force, are excluded from the ceremonies entirely (see ceremonial photograph). In a subsequent oil painting rendition of the memorable event, only two Chinese men are depicted, crouching; every single participant in the picture is subsequently numbered and named, while the two Chinese workers are nameless and faceless.
The Reese River Reveille, an Austin, Nevada newspaper publishes unfounded rumors of an outbreak of smallpox in the Chinese quarter, stating, “There is no class in the city that would spread the fell disease so rapidly and widely as the Chinese, for its members do the principal part of the washing [laundry] for our citizens.”
Realizing that their employers have no intentions of paying the salaries owed to them, former Chinese railroad workers in Texas launch a class-action suit.
More than 12,000 former Chinese railroad workers settle in the California Delta to help with levee construction, draining swamps by using sluice and pump technology taken from Asia. They also take up farming, cannery work and other menial chores that Caucasians will not do. Nearly every river town in the California Delta features a Chinatown.
An identifiable “Chinatown” quarter springs up in Los Angeles, on Calle de Los Negros—The Street of the Dark Hued Ones—a short alley of 50 feet wide and one block long, between El Pueblo Plaza and Old Arcadia Street. About 200 mostly male Chinese work mainly as laundrymen, market gardeners, agricultural and ranch workers, as well as road builders. Despite the heavy discrimination, disproportionately high rents and extra taxes levied on them, the Chinese achieve a dominant economic position in the Los Angeles laundry and produce industries. The Los Angeles Chinatown flourishes, expanding eastward from the Plaza across Alameda Street, eventually attaining a population of over 3,000.
One June 30, the bones of 1,200 Chinese workers (some 20,000 lbs.’ worth) who died building the railroads are shipped to China for burial.
California enacts law barring the entry of Chinese women on the grounds that they will serve as prostitutes. The Chinese male population is faced with a lack of suitable women to marry due to shunning and de facto anti-miscegenation laws.
The Overland Monthly publishes a poem titled, The Heathen Chinee, which becomes the country’s most popular and reprinted poem. It is set to music and Brent Harte and Mark Twain collaborate to bring The Heathen Chinee to the stage, under the title, Ah Sin. The play provokes laughter at the Chinese as being bizarre in terms of their physiognomy, language, food and their custom of wearing queues.
The Chinese, who are made to pay extraordinarily high rents and special taxes at several times the rates of whites ban together in small living spaces. San Francisco passes the Cubic Air Ordinance, requiring at least 500 cubic feet of air space per inhabitant. It is solely and rigorously applied on the tight arrangements in Chinese living quarters. Hundreds of Chinese are routinely arrested in the middle of the night and huddled into small jail cells, ironically contravening the ordinance. Many refuse to pay the fines imposed, effectively staging jailhouse sit-ins.
In response to the jailhouse sit-ins, San Francisco enacts the Queue Ordinance specifically to target the Chinese custom of wearing queues. It requires that all prisoners in San Francisco jails have their hair cut to no more than one inch long. Chinese throughout the city are summarily arrested on miscellaneous trumped-up charges and their hair is cut off while in the jails, in accordance with the law.
Tuscarora is home to the largest Chinese community in Nevada’s hitherto history. About 4,000 former railroad workers settle there and work as miners.
All ethnic Chinese are barred from owning real estate or business licenses in California.
Los Angeles & Independence Railroad hires 67 Chinese workers.
The Supreme Order of Caucasians is formed in Sacramento, California, with the primary purpose of running the Chinese out of the US. It quickly grows to 64 chapters (called “camps”) statewide, with approximately 5,000 members.
Chinese vegetable vendors are forced to acquire special licenses to operate.
Anti-Chinese riots break out in Chico, California.
In San Francisco, several thousand people rally at City Hall to protest the drastic wage cuts by railroad companies. A crowd of 500 people gather to burn down Chinatown, but do not succeed in destroying all of it when they are stopped by a volunteer force comprising 30 mounted patrol officers and volunteers.
The Greenback Labor Party, represented by delegates from 28 states, meets in Toledo, Ohio. Platforms advocate, among other things, the imposition of limitations on Chinese immigration.
The California Constitutional Convention calls for the restriction of citizenship for the native-born and foreign-born of Mongolian blood [sic]; it further calls for the prohibition of corporations from employing Chinese laborers.
Chinese vegetable vendors go on strike when Los Angeles passes yet another ordinance aimed at the Chinese.
California adopts a new constitution forbidding the use of any and all Chinese labor.
California state legislature passes law requiring all towns and cities to move all Chinese beyond city limits, but a US circuit court subsequently declares the law unconstitutional.
The Northern Pacific has about 15,000 Chinese workers on their payroll.
San Francisco passes an ordinance targeting Chinese laundries in wooden buildings. At this time, about 95% of the city’s 320 laundry operations are conducted in wooden buildings and approximately two-thirds are owned by Chinese persons. (This ordinance is subsequently overturned, when the application of the law is proven to be discriminatory; refer to 1886: Yick Wo v. Hopkins below.)
California civil code section 69 prohibits the issuing of licenses for marriages between whites and Mongolians, Negroes and persons of mixed blood.
The Chinese Exclusion Act is amended, with a clarification that it applies to any and all ethnic Chinese, regardless of their country of origin or citizenship (effectively banning the Chinese diaspora from entering the US).
Restrictions are increased on the Chinese already in the US and those seeking reentry. Wives are barred from entry/reentry; anti-miscegenation laws (against mixed marriages and fraternization) are enacted.
The vast majority of the nearly 100,000 Chinese immigrants reside within the American West, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington Territory. Most are bachelor males and their numbers dwindle drastically in the next four decades as the population ages.
Near Newcastle, Washington, a mob of whites burn down the barracks of 36 Chinese coal miners.
Throughout the Puget Sound area, Chinese workers are subjected to violence and driven out of communities in cities and towns such as Tacoma, Seattle, Newcastle and Issaquah (then known as Squak). Near Newcastle, Washington, a mob of whites burn down the barracks of 36 Chinese coal miners. In Tacoma, protestors announce that all Chinese in the city must leave by November. In early November, a mob of whites, led by the Tacoma Mayor Jacob Robert Weisbach and backed by the Tacoma Police, move into Chinatown and marches the Chinese to a railroad station where they are forced to board a train to Portland.
Congress bans “contract labor”—a ban that, in practice, is used mainly against the employment of Chinese immigrants, as whites continue to be contracted without problem.
Neighboring Canada enacts a Head Tax, forcing Chinese immigrants to pay a fee of $50 (a substantial amount at that time) to enter the country.
In the winter, mobs drive Chinese workers out of small towns and workplaces throughout Oregon territory.
Large numbers of Chinese begin exiting the US to avoid persecution.
San Francisco builds segregated Oriental School in response to Mamie Tape case of the preceding year, in which Joseph and Mary Tape sued the San Francisco school board over the enrolment of their Chinese daughter, Mamie, in a public school.
In the Seattle Riot, a mob rounds up Chinese residents and immigrant workers. Virtually every Chinese resident is forcibly ejected from the city. As a diplomatic settlement, the US government pays the Chinese government for these offenses, but not the actual Chinese victims themselves.
In Oregon, mobs continue to drive out the Chinese, many of whom make their way to Portland, where they settle in the city’s Chinatown. The Chinese are generally tolerated in Portland due to close the city’s commercial shipping ties to China.
Parts of the Los Angeles Chinese quarter are burned by white arsonists.
The Los Angeles Trade & Labor Council and the Knights of Labor move to boycott Chinese goods and Chinese labor in Los Angeles.
Hawaii bars Chinese immigration.
Large numbers of Chinese continue to exit the US to avoid persecution.
Oregon governor Sylvester Pennoyer, a leading force in anti-Chinese agitation, demands the expulsion of Portland’s Chinese population.
Large numbers of Chinese voluntarily leave the US to avoid persecution.
Following the anti-Chinese riots of 1885-1886, the Chinese government concludes that the American government is unable to protect Chinese living in America. Sino-American negotiations commence and the Americans seize on the opportunity to pass the Scott Act, signed by President Cleveland, permanently banning the immigration or return (reentry) of Chinese laborers into the US. The House unanimously passes the bill, which is met by only slight resistance in the Senate. Spontaneous mass demonstrations break out in California to celebrate the new law. Some 20,000 Chinese who had left the US temporarily for a home visit to China are refused reentry. The Supreme Court upholds the Scott Act.
The Geary Act is amended to impose harsh restrictions on Chinese businessmen entering the US.
Several towns in southern California attempt to expel the Chinese.
In the Gresham-Yang Treaty reverses some aspects of the Scott Act of 1888: China agrees to halt the emigration of its citizens to the US in return for the readmission of those back in China on a visit.
A Japanese man applies for US citizenship, but is refused by US circuit courts on the grounds that he is neither white nor black.
The silent movie, Chinese Laundry Scene, features a Chinese character eluding an Irish cop.
A US court sets the precedent for denying US-born Chinese reentry and citizenship on grounds of their ethnicity. In United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the Gresham-Yang Treaty of 1894 is reversed. Wong, a Chinese born in San Francisco, who had previously been granted a reentry permit in 1890 “upon the sole ground that he was a native-born citizen of the United States” finds himself detained at the Port of San Francisco by the Collector of Customs in 1895 when he returns from yet another visit to China. This time, he is denied entry on the grounds that “although born in the city and county of San Francisco, state of California, United States of America,” he is “not a citizen thereof” by virtue of his mother and father “being Chinese persons and subjects of the emperor of China,” “and the said Wong Kim Ark being also a Chinese person.”
The Boxer Rebellion, a grassroots movement in China aimed at the removal of the Qing rulers, targets foreigners and missionaries for interfering with and weakening China. Although the Chinese in America are overwhelmingly vocal about their opposition to these actions, virtually all Chinese who leave the US during this period of unrest are denied re-entry.
Hawaii is annexed into the US. All people of Chinese blood resident on the islands—including descendants of the very first Chinese settlers who arrived alongside the Europeans, whose families have been farming and building the infrastructure for generations—are required to obtain and carry certificates of residence on their persons at all times.
Neighboring Canada raises the Head Tax on Chinese immigrants from $50 to $100 (a substantial amount of money at that time).
The Chinese male population (comprising 95% of the entire Chinese population in the US) falls to some 85,000—a decline of roughly 20% in 10 years. The aging, mostly male Chinese population continues to dwindle rapidly due to a combination of anti-Chinese immigration laws, the denial of spouses from reentry into the US, anti-Chinese naturalization laws and anti-miscegenation laws.
Police and immigration officials raid Boston’s Chinatown premises without search warrants and arrest some 250 Chinese who do have their registration certificates on their persons at the time.
The Geary Act is amended, extended indefinitely—all Chinese are barred from entry and naturalization for the foreseeable future.
Section 60 of the California Civil Code is amended to forbid marriage between whites and “Mongolians.”
Anti-Asian riot breaks in neighboring Vancouver, Canada.
A major earthquake in San Francisco destroys all municipal records, including immigration records. Some Chinese immigrants seize on the opportunity to claim they are US citizens and thus entitled to bring their wives and children to America.
A total of 28 states prohibit forms of interracial marriage. Arizona, California, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Utah extend their prohibitions to include people of Asian descent.
The residents of Los Angeles’ Old Chinatown are threatened with relocation. Six acres of Chinatown property are sold for $310,000 to Southern Pacific Track Ways. Unable to own their own property, the Chinese residents are unable to acquire the property for themselves and are left without recourse.
The Asiatic Barred Zone Act (also known as the Immigration Act of 1917) is passed in Congress, to exclude immigrants from South or Southeast Asia.
Chinese student immigration in the US is halted through the enactment of strict requirements for the show of funds.
In Terrace v. Thompson, the US Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of state Alien land Acts barring all ethnic Chinese from owning land or obtaining business licenses (regardless of whether they were born in the US).
In Porterfield v. Webb, the constitutionality of California’s Alien Land Act is upheld.
Idaho, Montana and Oregon pass Alien Land Acts.
Webb v. O’Brien rules that sharecropping is illegal on the grounds that is a ruse that allows Asians to possess and use land.
Frick v. Webb forbids aliens ineligible for citizenship (such as Asians) from owning stocks in corporations formed for farming.
No Chinese female is permitted to enter the US for the next six years.
In Cheung Sumchee v. Nagle, the Supreme Court relaxes the 1924 Immigration Act somewhat, ruling that it does not apply to merchants’ wives or their children.
Chinese wives are allowed to enter the US on the condition that their marriage occurred prior to May 26, 1924. As a consequence of this restriction, only a total of some 60 Chinese women are permitted to enter the US in the next 10 years.
The California Supreme Court upholds a decision approving land condemnations and the construction of the new Union Station at the site of Los Angeles’ historic Chinatown. Its Chinese residents are left with no recourse, because they have never been allowed to own any of the properties in Chinatown. They are evicted and forced to start over elsewhere with little or no compensation. Chinatown is razed to the ground.
Franklin D. Roosevelt launches the New Deal to bring the country out of depression. Many Chinese refuse to participate in aid programs, scorning them as charity. Records show that in San Francisco, the percentage of Chinese receiving government aid in 1935 is far less than that of the general US population.
Japan launches a full-scale invasion of China, taking control of major cities and regions. In what comes to be known as the Rape of Nanking, the Japanese imperial army rapes and slaughters hundreds of thousands of civilians. Although the killings are mostly done by katana (Japanese sword), the death toll exceeds that of the two atomic bombs that would later be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The Japanese wage gas and biological warfare on the Chinese populace in breach of the Hague Conventions and Japan’s Unit 731 begins conducting experiments on civilians. Despite the grisly reports in major newspapers streaming in from foreign correspondents and the numerous newsreels shown in theaters, the war in China means little to most Americans.
On December 7, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor.
The US Justice Dept. rounds up and interns some 110,000 ethnic Japanese, the majority of whom were born in the US. The premier newsweekly, Time, publishes a fallacious racial article titled, How to Tell Your Friends from the Japs, but later concedes that there is no infallible method, not even genetically, of telling the Chinese and Japanese apart. Chinese Americans resort to carrying identity cards issued by a Chinese consul general and wearing badges declaring, “I am Chinese.”
Some 20,000 Chinese Americans volunteer to serve in the military, representing about 20% of the US Chinese population. In New York City, 40% of the Chinese population is drafted. (The figure is 8.6% for the general US population.) The Chinese are only partially integrated into the armed forces, neither being fully accepted nor fully segregated. Despite the persecution they endure, many become decorated war heroes, although often only posthumously recognized as such (sometimes six decades after the fact, as in the case of Gordon P. Chung-Hoon).
Chinese seaman, Poon Lim, sets the world record for surviving 133 days alone in the South Atlantic on an 8-by-8-foot raft, after the British merchant ship on which he was serving as second steward is sunk by a German submarine. After months at sea, a freighter passes nearby, but on approaching and realizing he is Chinese, the (Caucasian) crew ignores his calls for help and moves on. He is spotted by a German U-boat performing gunnery drills in the area, but its crew also chooses not to rescue him. He hits landfall at the mouth of a Brazilian river and spends four months in hospital until he is repatriated to the UK. Fully recovered, he decides to emigrate to the US to join the Navy, but is denied entry due to the Chinese Exclusion Act. However, due to his fame, Senator Warren Magnuson grants him a special dispensation. The US Navy subsequently deems him “unfit to be a sailor” on account of his having flat feet (despite the fact that this is a prevalent genetic trait in Asians and Africans, and it is merely a structural issue and not one of dysfunction).
In 1943 alone, an estimated 10,000,000 Chinese civilians are killed by Japanese forces. Although the US and China are officially allies, Chinese refugees and asylum requests are denied in accordance with the Immigration Act of 1924, which bars all ethnic Chinese from immigration (due to their ineligibility for naturalization).
The Magnuson Act is passed on December 17, allowing Chinese immigration for the first time since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Although many consider it to be a positive development, the act is particularly unfair and restrictive, limiting Chinese immigration to an annual quota of 105 new entry visas. The quota is supposedly determined by the Immigration Act of 1924, which sets the level of immigration from qualifying countries at 2% of the number of people who were already living in the United States in 1890 of that nationality. However, the arrived-at figure of 105 per annum granted to the Chinese is disproportionately low—the correct figure should be 2,150 per annum, in accordance with official census figures, which place the population of Chinese living in the USA in 1890 at 107,488 persons. (Refer to Comparison of Asian Populations during the Exclusion Years.) A small number of Chinese immigrants already residing in the US become naturalized citizens, marking the first time since the Naturalization Act of 1790 that any Asians are permitted to be naturalized. However, the Magnuson Act provides for the continuation of the ban against the ownership of property and businesses by ethnic Chinese. In many states, Chinese Americans (including US citizens) are denied property-ownership rights until the Magnuson Act is fully repealed in 1965.
The US passes the War Brides Act, allowing the spouses and children of US armed-forces personnel admission into the US. The admission list includes 722 Chinese dependents. Nearly 6,000 Chinese Americans serving in the military seize the opportunity to return from China with brides before the expiration of the act in 1949, partly contributing to an increase of the US Chinese population to some 117,000 by the end of the decade.
In Namba v. McCourt, the Oregon Supreme Court inactivates (but reserves the right to re-activate) its Alien Land Law.
North Korea invades South Korea. General MacArthur leads a United Nations “Peace-Keeping Force” in Korea. His troops push the North Koreans out of the South and across Korea’s northern border into China. In October, Chinese soldiers cross the Yalu River into North Korea in response to North Korea’s request for aid. MacArthur proposes the use of at least 30 atomic bombs on China to create “a belt of radioactive cobalt” with “an active life of between 60 and 120 years” in order to wipe out communism “once and for all.”
Remittances to mainland China and the British colony of Hong Kong are prohibited when the People’s Republic of China enters the Korean War. Violators are fined up to $10,000 and given 10-year prison sentences.
Joseph McCarthy, an obscure junior senator from Wisconsin, begins attracting national attention by fanning the flames of anti-Communist hysteria. Employing scare tactics, smear campaigns, unsubstantiated allegations and falsified dossiers, he creates the impression that widespread security risks exist in the federal government.
President Truman proclaims a national emergency due to the Korean War, granting himself extraordinary powers to govern without reference to normal Constitutional processes—a state of national emergency is yet to be terminated by Congress.
In response to McCarthy, the FBI, in search of Communist sympathizers, taps phone lines, opens the mail of Chinese Americans and has agents shadow some of them on the streets; they question Chinese children in playgrounds.
The Justice Dept. charges Eugene Moy, the managing director of China Daily News, an American Newspaper, with an obscure and previously unused law issued in 1917, for calling for the recognition of the People’s Republic of China as a state. Moy dies soon after release from prison.
The FBI interrogates Tan Yumin, a subscriber to the China Daily News. He dies under mysterious circumstances: either having been pushed or having jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, his body is lost for days.
The California Supreme Court overturns Alien Land Act laws in Fujii v. State of California.
Senator Joseph McCarthy uses his chairmanship of the relatively unimportant Committee on Government Operations to elevate its Subcommittee on Investigations into an official Red-baiting platform. He begins chairing the infamous Senate loyalty hearings.
The Displaced Person Acts (1948 and 1950) expire, after only 15,000 Chinese (a relatively small number of the total US Chinese population) have been granted rights to live in the US.
An appeal by the defendants of US v. China Daily News is denied. The editor of the China Daily News and the three laundrymen are sentenced to jail for facilitating and sending money to their families in China.
The US Senate votes overwhelmingly to censure Senator McCarthy for his abusive behavior as a committee chairman. He is charged with “conduct contrary to Senatorial tradition.” His political influence disappears.
Everett Drumwright, US consul in Hong Kong, makes an unsubstantiated claim in his Foreign Service report that virtually all Chinese in America—all the way back to the days of the California gold rush—were/are illegal aliens capable of all manner of criminal activity, such as narcotics trafficking, currency counterfeiting, illegally collecting social security and veteran’s benefits, issuing fake passports, and spying for China. He further reports the infiltration of the US by a network of Chinese sleepers who were awaiting orders to sabotage and destroy America. As a result of this report, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover subscribes to the notion that the Chinese American community is teeming with spies from China. The entire Chinese American community is placed under investigation and scrutiny. The FBI knocks on the doors of nearly every Chinese household in the US, and Chinese Americans are subjected to interrogations and wiretapping. Thousands are detained and many are deported. For those who remain, many have their careers and/or businesses ruined through post-McCarthy-era paranoia.
Following Everett Drumwright’s report of the preceding year, US Attorney Lloyd Burke subpoenas 40 major Chinese American associations, demanding a full accounting of income, membership and photographs within 24 hours. Chinatowns on both coasts are raided frequently and Chinese business are disrupted at a loss of $100,000 a week. A federal judge eventually rules in favor of the Chinese, calling the subpoena attack a “mass inquisition.”
The movie, Pearl Harbor, tells the little-known story of Doolittle and his daring April 1942 raid on Tokyo. Omitted is the part about the 250,000 Chinese civilians killed in retaliation for aiding the handful of American aircrews who deliberately crash-landed in China, assuming correctly that the Chinese populace would help lead them to safety. While the ending credits detail the aftermath and impact of the raid, the quarter of a million Chinese who unwittingly died or willingly sacrificed themselves in support of the military operation are not so much as given an honorable mention.
A survey conducted by Yankelovich Partners reveals a potentially volatile mix of racial prejudice and political prejudice. One in four Americans harbor “negative attitudes” toward Chinese Americans: they find it inconceivable to vote for an Asian American as President of the United States and would disapprove of a family member marrying someone of Asian descent. The study indicates that considerable bias and negative stereotyping by a significant portion of the US population undermines equal opportunities and rights for Asian Americans. One in three (32%) Americans believe Chinese Americans are more loyal to China than the US, one in three (34%) Americans feel they have excessive influence in US high technology and nearly one out of two (46%) Americans fear that Chinese Americans will leak secret information to China. (These unparalleled negative figures are a point of concern for the ADL. In comparison, the negativity rate is 15% toward the idea of an African American presidential candidate, 14% for a female candidate and 11% for a Jewish candidate.)
Miley Cyrus and her friends pull at their faces to make a slant-eye pose for a picture, which is subsequently posted online. The Chinese government immediately bars Cyrus from entering China and bans all broadcasts of her TV show and movies, as well as merchandise sales. China's foreign minister issues the following statement: “Miss Cyrus has made it clear she is no friend of China or anyone of East-Asian descent. We have no interest in further polluting our children’s minds with her American ignorance.” 
US-born basketball superstar Jeremy Lin is openly stereotyped, patronized and called names in the mainstream media: “two-inch penis,” “fortune cookie,” “yellow mamba,” “kung fu grip,” “chink in the armor,” “FOB” and “from Taiwan.”
The US House of Representatives passes a resolution expressing regret for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which denied Chinese-Americans basic freedoms because of their race.
In July, the Los Angeles band, Day Above Ground, releases a music video titled, Asian Girlz, with highly sexist and racist lyrics. In response to the outrage that follows, the band defends it as a satirical work and argues that they are misunderstood and not at all racist on the basis of the band’s positive discriminatory attitude and Asian-girl fetishism — each band member “worships” and dates Asian girls.
ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live airs a segment with a skit featuring children suggesting the US kill all Chinese people to resolve its $1.3 trillion trade imbalance with China.
Although the Alien Land Laws in many states have been repealed, challenges to legislation restricting alien land ownership have generally failed. US Courts continue to uphold the right of state legislatures to restrict alien rights to property, meaning that although most of these restrictions have been repealed, they can be reinstituted at any time. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, these issues are being revisited primarily by the federal government rather than individual states.
American textbooks continue to list WWII casualties at “40 million killed,” completely sidelining the roles and sacrifices of Asians. In China alone, which was officially an Allied nation during WWII, there were 35 million deaths.
The mass media continue to project contradictory images that either dehumanize or demonize the Chinese, with the implicit message that they represent either a servile class to be exploited, or an enemy force to be destroyed. This has created and continues to create identity issues for generations of American-born Chinese: a sense of being different, or alien, in their own country; of being subjected to greater scrutiny and judged by higher standards than the general populace.
Asians currently constitute nearly 5% of the US population—one out of every twenty US citizens is of Asian descent, many of whom are fully acculturated “Americans.” Yet, “Asian” continues to be equated with “foreign,” and associated with a range of negative stereotypes.
Studies continue to indicate that Asians in the West are plagued with Perpetual Foreigner Syndrome—regarded as inherently inassimilable. Fallacious utterances such as “there were some Asian faces among the Americans” can still be heard, betraying the lingering concept of Manifest Destiny—the assumption is that by default, “Americans” are Caucasians or at most, black, while Asians, and not forgetting Native Americans, remain outside the equation.