Open Door
   A free trade principle promoted by the United States following Japan’s victory in the Sino-Japanese War and motivated by a concern to contain the establishment of exclusive spheres of influence by the Great Powers in China. In September 1899, Secretary of State John Hay directed a series of circular diplomatic notes toward Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia. The first note called on the powers to regard China as an open international market yet to pledge noninterference with commerce within existing spheres of influence. It also sought the retention of tariff duties collected by the Chinese government on goods at all treaty ports and the application of the duty without discrimination as to the country of origin. Lastly, it called for all nations to be treated equally in terms of harbor fees and railway duties.
   Most of the other powers announced their willingness to make a declaration of agreement - the British government noted its “pleasure,” the Russian its “happiness” - but compliance was another matter. Above all, the Open Door Notes testified to an increased American engagement in international affairs generally, along with a special interest, following the acquisition of the Philippines in the Spanish-American War, in the affairs of the Western Pacific. At the time the United States had no capacity to enforce Open Door principles, and the other powers, save Italy, had no intention of being bound by them. American interest in the region nonetheless asserted itself again five years later with Theodore Roosevelt ’s mediation of a peace in the Russo-Japanese War.
   See also <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Brands, H. W. Bound to Empire: The United States and the Philippines . New York: Oxford University Press, 1992;
    May, Ernest. Imperial Democracy: The Emergence of America as a Great Power . Chicago: Imprint, 1991.
   CARL CAVANAGH HODGE

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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