American Catholics thought little of China until distressing news reports began to appear in U.S. newspapers during the Sino-Western conflicts of the Boxer Uprising (1898–1900). By the turn of the century, the Catholic Church in the U.S. was awakened not only to China as America’s new adversary, but the Far East as a potential mission field. After this initial interaction, Sino-American Catholic exchange underwent three periods of transition, each one in turn transforming American Catholic identity and American Catholic assessments of China. First, American Catholics viewed themselves as more enlightened than the Chinese; they thus sought through missionary work to bring a more civilized Christian light to “darkened,” pagan China. Secondly, American missionaries in China were swept into the maelstrom of political transition as China entered an era of revolution from the 1920s through the 1940s. And thirdly, as an American Catholic transformation of “backward China” appeared untenable after the expulsion of foreign missionaries by the Communists in the early 1950s, China’s Catholic Church grew more independent and Americans grew largely apathetic to the situation of Chinese Catholics. This final stage is also marked by the growth of independent Chinese Catholic communities in the U.S. as the Chinese Catholic diaspora began efforts to recreate a familiar Chinese Catholic culture in America.


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