This paper studies the activities of American enterprises, technology, and related business organizations and engineering groups in China from the outbreak of World War i to the Pacific War and explains how these activities helped establish connections between China and the world. It borrows the concept of “networks” from Professor Sherman Cochran’s extraordinary book titled Encountering Chinese Networks, but broadens the scope of the term to include activity at the level of management and competition, as well as placing Sino-American relations in transnational perspective. Using a multi-archival approach to examine China’s major attempts at internationalization, this article focuses on the cases of the American Asiatic Association, the American Chamber of Commerce of China, and the Association of Chinese and American Engineers to show how these networks played important roles in the development of Chinese-American relations. It also discusses the issues of standardization, “scientific management,” and professionalism of entrepreneurs and engineers in influencing network making.
In 1931, Japan occupied Manchuria and seemed intent on conquering China. Because Japan was devoid of petroleum, planners turned to exploration in the Western Pacific. In China, mobilization for a military invasion and preparations for economic survival made control of petroleum supplies more urgent than ever. As Irvine H. Anderson reminds us in The Standard-Vacuum Oil Company and United States East Asian Policy, 1933-1941, Standard-Vacuum, Shell, and the Anglo-American diplomatic corps accelerated their close cooperation especially after Japan created monopolies of the economies of Manchuria and North China, which violated the traditional principles of American Open Door Policy. However, the American de facto embargo policy and the Japanese resolve to seize the necessary supplies in the Dutch Indies made it inevitable that American companies would become involved in the formulation and execution of American policy both before and after Pearl Harbor. Building on Anderson’s extraordinary research, this article focuses on the petroleum problem in China and the American response, especially of the State Department and Foreign Service officers, during 1937-45.