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The China MystiquePearl S. Buck, Anna May Wong, Mayling Soong, and the Transformation of American Orientalism$
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Karen Leong

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780520244221

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520244221.001.0001

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Transforming American National Identity—The China Mystique

Transforming American National Identity—The China Mystique

(p.155) Chapter 5 Transforming American National Identity—The China Mystique
The China Mystique

Karen J. Leong

University of California Press

Orientalism assumes that the cultures of the West and Orient are completely different. American orientalism from the turn of the century through the 1920s projects similarly distorted images of Chinese as primitive, slavish, exotic, manipulative, and amoral, while American nationalism views its own population as modern, free, civilized, and trustworthy. Regardless of ideological borders, people moved back and forth between the two nations. As the family histories of Pearl Buck, Anna May Wong, and Mayling Soong indicate, interaction between the United States and China has always relied on individuals—missionaries, immigrants, and diplomats—to connect the two cultures. The formation of American mission boards, restrictive U.S. immigration laws, and U.S. treaties with China to supervise their movement institutionalized assumptions that informed American orientalism and nationalism.

Keywords:   United States, China, culture, orientalism, difference

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