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Walter LaFeber : American Missionaries in China
Walter LaFeber US officials thought that American missionaries were very important for American interests, not just for missionary interest, but overall American interest in China. And the reason was that, for example, once American missionaries were able to get into interior provinces of China, it opened these provinces up to American business people, and consequently American diplomatic officials on the scene nicely call the American missionaries the pioneers for American trade and business, because once they opened up an area, then the other Americans could come along behind and sell goods. The American missionaries did something else. They essentially exemplified an American lifestyle. They used American products. They were people who believed that American products were the best products. And so along with their faith, they brought in American industrial goods and farm products. And, as a result the American missionaries became really front people for American exporters and American businessmen. The Chinese did not miss this. When the Chinese looked at American missionaries, or other foreign missionaries, they essentially saw them not just as people who were crusading with a faith, but who were trying to sell goods and to Westernize their particular society. And, as a consequence it is not, I think, surprising that the Chinese revolutionaries, particularly the Boxers, would target the missionaries because they saw in missionaries not only Christians, which they had doubts about, but also they saw in the missionaries the whole cutting edge for an American lifestyle and an American product that they believed was essentially undermining the Chinese village, the Chinese traditions, and Chinese control over their own territory.

On the one hand, as the American minister to China says, "They're the pioneers for American trade and commerce." On the other, they are the moral cutting edge of -- of the American mission in China. They are the American -- the side of American diplomacy that is moral, that is uplifting, that wants to Christianize China and make it a better nation. McKinley is very close to the missionaries. He is greatly concerned about the missionaries. He's a devout Christian himself and he believes that the missionaries have a legitimate role in China and it goes beyond simply acting as commercial agents. It is really to propagate the faith in China and to make the Chinese a better people by converting them.

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