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Context of 'December 17, 1943: Congress Repeals Chinese Exclusion Act, Paves Way for Chinese to Become Citizens'

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A handbill celebrating the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. The phrase at the bottom reads: “Hip! Hurrah! The white man is on top.”A handbill celebrating the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. The phrase at the bottom reads: “Hip! Hurrah! The white man is on top.” [Source: Monthly Review]The US Congress denies Chinese-Americans the right to vote or be citizens by passing the Chinese Exclusion Act. Historian William Wei will later write that the Exclusion Act was driven by decades of racism against Chinese immigrants, with the express goal of “driv[ing] them out of the country. This hostility hindered efforts by the Chinese to become American. It forced them to flee to the Chinatowns on the coasts, where they found safety and support. In these ghettos, they managed to eke out a meager existence, but were isolated from the rest of the population, making it difficult if not impossible to assimilate into mainstream society. To add insult to injury, Chinese were criticized for their alleged unassimilability.” The Exclusion Act is the first such legislation in US history to name a specific group of people “as undesirable for immigration to the United States,” and “marked a fateful departure from the traditional American policy of unrestricted immigration.” [Harper's Weekly, 1999; American Civil Liberties Union, 2012] The Exclusion Act will be repealed over 60 years later (see December 17, 1943).

Entity Tags: US Congress, William Wei, Chinese Exclusion Act

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The Magnuson Act, also known as the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943, repeals the Chinese Exclusion Act signed into law in 1882 (see 1882). The act is passed in part to “give face” to the US’s World War II ally, China. Congress agrees to repeal the Exclusion Act and sets a quota of Chinese immigrants who may come to the US annually. It also grants those immigrants the right to become citizens via naturalization. [Library of the University of Washington, Bothell, 12/17/1943 pdf file; Harper's Weekly, 1999; University of Delaware, 2006 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943, US Congress, Chinese Exclusion Act

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

President Bush misstates US foreign policy when he says that the US will do “whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself” in the event of attack by China. Since the Reagan administration, the US government has conducted what it calls a “One-China” policy, agreeing with the Chinese position that Taiwan is a breakaway province of China yet attempting to walk a fine line between the two contentious nations through tacit recognition of the island nation, and regular arms and economic aid packages. Taiwan insists it is a separate nation, while China regards Taiwan as a renegade province that is part of China proper. The US also announces a major arms sales package for Taiwan. The Chinese continue to detain a US surveillance plane downed in a midair collision with a Chinese fighter jet (see March 31, 2001), another source of strain between the US and China. Publicly, White House officials such as press secretary Ari Fleischer say that Bush’s comments about defending Taiwan from Chinese attack are consistent with US policy, but privately, officials scramble to mollify outraged Chinese government officials. [United Press International, 4/26/2001; International Herald Tribune, 4/30/2001] Later in the day, Bush hedges his earlier comments, saying that his statement does not reflect a change in official US policies towards China and Taiwan. “Our nation will help Taiwan defend itself,” Bush says “At the same time, we support the one-China policy, and we expect the dispute to be resolved peacefully.” Bush says any declaration of Taiwanese independence “is not part of the one-China policy.” A senior administration official explains that Bush’s comments are merely an attempt to “try to get the words straight…to reaffirm existing US policy.… No change was intended” and Bush simply “didn’t present the whole thought.” [CNN, 4/25/2001] Bush’s comment reflects the position of administration neoconservatives such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who want the US to recognize Taiwan as an independent nation and pledge to defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression. At the same time, the United States has also said it has commitments to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, and it has been implicit but never stated the United States would help Taiwan defend itself. Bush said repeatedly during the 2000 presidential campaign that he intended to redefine the US’s position towards Taiwan. [CNN, 4/25/2001]

Entity Tags: Paul Wolfowitz, Ari Fleischer, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The British Royal Court of Appeal rules that the Chagossians were tricked, starved, and even terrorized from their homes by the British government 30 years ago (see July 27, 1971-May 26, 1973), and can return to their homes immediately. The islanders had previously won a ruling in 2006, however foreign secretary Margaret Beckett had appealed that ruling (see May 11, 2006). Explaining the court’s decision, Lord Justice Sedley says that “while a natural or man-made disaster could warrant the temporary, perhaps even indefinite, removal of a population for its own safety and so rank as an act of governance, the permanent exclusion of an entire population from its homeland for reasons unconnected with their collective well-being cannot have that character and accordingly cannot be lawfully accomplished by use of the prerogative power of governance.” The British Foreign Office says it is “disappointed” with the decision and says it may file an appeal with the House of Lords. [Guardian, 5/23/2007]

Entity Tags: Chagossians, Stephen Sedley

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Diego Garcia (1770-2004)

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