Tae Jin Park

Date of Graduation


Document Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Jack L. Hammersmith

Committee Member

Elizabeth A. Fones-Wolf

Committee Member

A. Michal McMahon

Committee Member

Jason C. Parker

Committee Member

Hong N. Kim


The “China Lobby,” a common term applied to groups and individuals aggressively seeking America’s political commitments to and financial aid for Chiang Kai-shek’s Guomindang (GMD) regime in China, came into popular use in the 1950's, especially as it fit into the highly volatile context of the Cold War. A closer investigation of this lobby, however, reveals that it originated not in the postwar turmoil of Cold War politics but a decade earlier in the equally difficult debate over the proper role of the United States during the “China Incident” of the late 1930's. Pro-Chinese lobbying and propaganda activities in America began in the 1930's as efforts to persuade Washington to render its long-term commitment to China, then a semi-colony struggling against the Japanese empire. Yet, the U.S. State Department maintained a policy that discouraged America’s long-term political commitment or substantial financial aid to China. What cannot be overlooked was the Roosevelt administration’s diverse and often secretive way of conducting foreign policy. It preferred to deal with China behind the scenes, given the prominent isolationist sentiments and anxieties Americans held on U.S.-Japanese relations. Thus, although the State Department was unwilling to approve official aid to China, negotiations over U.S. aid to China were conducted largely through “non-regular” channels of diplomacy until 1941. These ad hoc channels of diplomacy took hold during the “China Incident” of 1937-1941 when Washington found it difficult to support China openly against Japan and yet agreed to finance China’s war against Japan through subsidiary agencies of the Treasury Department and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. At the same time, Washington allowed private American aid to flow to China on humanitarian grounds. This private support was accompanied by unofficial propaganda efforts that characterized China’s cause in terms of the struggle for a “New China.” Accordingly, lobbyists or publicists rather than the diplomats themselves played a major role in promoting Sino-American relations during that period. Yet, apart from the original intentions of the Roosevelt administration, these policies contributed directly to the formation of the China Lobby in America by 1941. In other words, the China Lobby grew as an offshoot of Roosevelt’s secret and often unconventional diplomacy that sought to keep China fighting Japan by supporting such low-risk measures as financial trade and propaganda rather than through open diplomatic commitment or political alliance. Tracing the influences on the U.S. government by individuals and organizations that in fact, if not in name, comprised a “China Lobby” in the prewar years, this study seeks to reveal that it was at least as powerful as the later one but, due to a Cold War emphasis on the “loss” of China in 1949, was never as well understood.

Included in

Asian History Commons