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A Brief History of the US in the INDOPACIFIC Region: Part 1

November 8, 2021 | INDOPACOM

The INDOPACIFIC region of the globe is a an extremely important and divisive topic for many industries in the United States. INDOPACIFIC refers to countries that are primarily located in or border the Pacific Ocean, including China, India, Japan, Australia, North Korea, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, and many other countries and smaller island nations. It is one of the most diverse regions of the world, with over 30 nations home to more than 50% of the world’s population, with over 3,000 languages spoken, and two of the three largest economies in the world. The history of the involvement of the United States in the region is long and complex, but helps to set the stage to understand current U.S. policy and strategic endeavors.

The United States began its expansion of influence into the Pacific in the early 1880s, primarily to increase commerce. China had access to many luxury items, including tea, porcelain, and silk that were very desirable to U.S. consumers. The Treaty of Wangxia was signed with China in 1844 to establish formal ties and boost those existing trade networks. But for ships to get to and from China, they also needed additional ports to stop at to resupply as they traveled to and from mainland China. So, throughout the 1800s, the US established consulates in Japan, Samoa, the Marshall Islands, and Hawaii to help facilitate trade in the Pacific. In 1867, the United States purchased Alaska, and in 1898, the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands.

Expansion in the Pacific during this time was not always peaceful. The Spanish-American War took place in 1898 as a dispute over Cuba and other Spanish possessions in Asia. At the end of the war, Spain ceded its colony of the Philippines and Guam to the United States. But from 1899-1902, the Philippine-American War was a result of the change over to the US establishing colonial rule in the Philippines.

This all led to the Open Door policy of 1899. Created by the United States, this policy established a set of principles to promote equal trade with China among other countries competing in the region. These competing spheres of influence in China directly resulted in the Boxer Rebellion, which would have lasting impacts on China and the other influencers in the region.

Next Up: The United States Impact on the Development of the Philippines.



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