History of Laws Restricting Chinese Immigration in the United States

“The Opium Wars (1839-42, 1856-60) of the mid-nineteenth century between Great Britain and China left China in debt. Floods and drought contributed to an exodus of peasants from their farms, and many left the country to find work.” During the 1850s, a large amount of Chinese immigrants had begun immigrating to the United States to work as a cheap labor in the gold mines, garment factories, building railroads, and taking agriculture jobs. Thus, the local plantation owners were seeking cheaper labor forces, which created a tension between white labors and exotic labors.

In 1882, the United States government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was the first significant law restricting immigration of a certain group into the United States. “Many Americans on the West Coast attributed declining wages and economic ills to Chinese workers. Although the Chinese composed only 0.002 percent of the nation’s population, Congress passed the exclusion act to placate worker demands and assuage prevalent concerns about maintaining white racial purity.”

In 1892, the Geary Act was passed to extend the ban on Chinese immigration for additional ten years and in 1902, the Chinese immigration was made permanently illegal until 1943 with the passage of the Magnuson Act. Due to the effectiveness of legislation, the Chinese immigrants population dramatically declined.

Note from Caroline: while the Magnuson Act allowed a small number of Chinese immigrants into the country with restricted rights, race-based restriction of immigration was not outlawed until 1952, and restriction based on nationality was not outlawed until the Hart-Celler Act in 1965, which we heard about last week. It’s also worth noting that immigration from other Asian countries was strictly controlled as well, and Asian immigrants and their American-born children in general faced substantial discrimination. (In fact, at the time the Magnuson Act was signed into law during World War II, most of the U.S.’s Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans were detained in internment camps.) 


“U.S. Immigration Timeline.” History.com Editors, 21 Dec. 2018, https://www.history.com/topics/immigration/immigration-united-states-timeline. Accessed 1 Mar. 2020

“Chinese Exclusion Act.” History.com Staff, 24 Aug. 2018, https://www.history.com/topics/immigration/chinese-exclusion-act-1882. Accessed 1 Mar. 2020.

The History of Fuzhou

Fuzhou was built over 2200 years starting in 202 B.C. by the king of Yue kingdom. The city was not named Fuzhou until 725 A.D. and was named because of its region close to the mountains. The ancient Chinese believe mountains to be a sign of luck so the name can be broken down to understand it’s meaning- “fu” meaning luck and “zhou” meaning region. It is now the capital of southeastern China where it sits on the bank of the large Min River, very close to the East China Sea.

There were many changes established by different forms of power as dynasties rose and fell. During the Yuan Dynasty, the Fujian Administrative Institution was set up. About a century later, Zhu Yujin proclaimed himself emperor and settled in Fuzhou when he decided to change the name of the region from Fuzhou to Fujing. The Quig Dynasty in the 17th and into the 20th century officially set Fuzhou as the provincial capital.

Fuzhou prospered in the 16th century up to the 19th century as it was an important port for trade of tea. Western culture was introduced to the port in 1866 as it became a site for experimentation with technology and the Fuzhou Navy Yard was established. An arsenal was built under French guidance and a school opened that became the center of study for Western languages and technical studies.

It wasn’t until 1946 when Fuzhou was an official city. Fuzhou has continued to grow more recently since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Fuzhou was liberated and became the capital of Fujian Province of China in 1949 as well. The city now makes many more exports now including industrial chemicals, processed food products, timber, electronics, paper, and other textiles. In 1984, the P.R.C. designated Fuzhou as one of China’s ‘open cities’ to invite foreign investments. It is not currently a popular tourist city, but offers beautiful scenes of mountains and rivers, historic temples, and relaxing gardens.