The Chinese in the American West

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The America West was idolised and coveted by many people globally mainly because of the purported opportunities that existed. As a result, ambitious and impoverished Europeans from different parts crossed the Atlantic in search of the possibilities of the West. The Chinese were of no exception. Their numbers to the American West increased tremendously after the gold rush. (Brinkley 384) states that by 1880, the number of Chinese who had settled in the United States was approximately 200000.

The arrival of the Chinese was greeted by a warm welcome from the native tribe-the white Americans. However, this welcome was short-lived as the hosts realised that the Chinese were ambitious and industrious. These qualities led to the hostility from the American who now considered the Chinese as rivals.

The main economic pillars of the West were mining, ranching and commercial farming. In mining, the Chinese were able to work under minimum supervision and low pay. They hence became the primary source of labour for their effectiveness. However, legislative policies such as that enacted in California saw the exclusion and discrimination of the Chinese in the mining sector (Castles and Miller 148). With the decline of opportunities in this front, the Chinese opted to seek refuge in agricultural jobs. Others that resided in the Western towns opted to engage in laundry services, which were easy to start and run.

The protest from the local natives over the intrusion by the Chinese grew over time. By the mid-1880’s, political parties lobbying against the Chinese came to be. These include the Workingman’s Party of California and the Democratic party which consisted of white residents (Brinley 384). As the political pressure grew, the Congress passed and enacted the ‘Chinese Exclusion Act’. This Act provided the do’s and don’ts of the Chinese. As such, Chinese immigration was banned for ten years, with those already in the West barred from becoming citizens through naturalisation. This saw the success of the Chinese decline over time, with their population also falling by more than 40%.


It is evident that the Chinese were able to create a niche for themselves in the American West. The reason for this was mainly their organised yet industrious nature. As such whatever they touched turned into ‘gold’. Consequently, the local Anglo-Americans were unpleased by this and ended up revolting against the Chinese in what is economically referred to as Xenophobia. This saw a decline in the numbers as well as the prosperity of the Chinese in the West.

Works Cited

Brinkley, Alan. The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History of the American People, Volume I. Vol. 11. McGraw-Hill, 2015.

Castles, Stephen, Hein De Haas, and Mark J. Miller. The age of migration: International population movements in the modern world. Macmillan International Higher Education, 2013.

November 13, 2023

History World

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American History China

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