The Yellow Peril (also Yellow Terror and Yellow Spectre) was a racist color-metaphor that is conceptually integral to the xenophobic theory of colonialism; that the peoples of East Asia are a danger to the Western World. As a psycho-cultural vision of the menacing East, the Yellow Peril was more racial than national, a fear derived, not from concern with a specific source of danger, from any one country or people, but from a vaguely ominous, existential fear of the vast, faceless, nameless horde of yellow people opposite the Western world. As a form of xenophobia, the Yellow Terror represents the white race's fear of the rising tide of colored people from The Orient.
Culturally, the Yellow Peril is represented in “the core imagery of apes, lesser men, primitives, children, madmen, and beings who possessed special powers”, which are cultural representations of non-white people that originated in the Græco-Persian Wars (499–449 BC), between Ancient Greece and the Persian Empire; centuries later, the Western imperialist expansion then included East Asians to the phrase Yellow Peril.
In 1895, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany invented the phrase Yellow Peril, in effort to interest the other European empires in the perils they faced in their invasions of China. To that end, the Kaiser of Germany used the Japanese military victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05) to evoke racialist fear among the white peoples of Western Europe, by misrepresenting Imperial Japan as an ally of China, who jointly would overrun the Western world.
The sinologist Leung Wing Fai explained the fantastic origins of the phrase and the underlying racialist concepts: “The phrase Yellow Peril (sometimes Yellow Terror or Yellow Spectre) — coined by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, in the 1890s, after a dream in which he saw the Buddha riding a dragon, and threatening to invade Europe — blends Western anxieties about sex, racist fears of the alien Other, and the Spenglerian belief that the West will become outnumbered and enslaved by the East”.
The American historian Gina Marchetti defined the psycho-cultural perception of a menace from the peoples of Asia as “rooted in medieval fears of Genghis Khan and the Mongolian invasions of Europe, the Yellow Peril combines racist terror of alien cultures, sexual anxieties, and the belief that the West will be overpowered and enveloped, by the irresistible, dark, occult forces of the East”; thus, in 20th-century geopolitics, the Western-world perceptions of Japanese imperial militarism then included ethnic-Japanese citizens of the U.S. to the term Yellow Peril.
The cultural stereotype of the Yellow Peril originated in the late 19th century, when Chinese workers — men and women of different skin-color, physiognomy, language, culture — legally immigrated to the U.S., Australia, New Zealand. and Canada, and inadvertently provoked a racist backlash against them, for agreeing to work for lower wages, than the respective white populations. In 1870, the French Orientalist and historian Ernest Renan had warned of Eastern danger to the West; yet, Renan meant Imperial Russia (1721–1917), a country that Western Europe perceived as more Asian than European.
In 1870s California, despite the Burlingame Treaty (1868), which allowed legal immigration from China, working-class white people demanded that the U.S government cease the immigration of “filthy yellow hordes” of Chinese people who took jobs from native-born white-Americans during an economic depression. In that xenophobic vein, Horace Greeley, editor of the New-York Tribune newspaper, wrote a racist editorial opinion supporting the exclusion:
The Chinese are uncivilized, unclean, and filthy beyond all conception, without any of the higher domestic or social relations; lustful and sensual in their dispositions; every female is a prostitute of the basest order”.
In Los Angeles, xenophobia of the Yellow Peril culminated with the Chinese Massacre of 1871, in which a mob of 500 racist white men went to Chinatown (the Chinese ghetto) and lynched some 20 Chinese people. Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, Denis Kearney, the Irish-born leader of the Workingmen's Party of California was “a demagogue of extraordinary power” who concluded his speeches — against the press, capitalists, politicians, and Chinese workers — with the epilogue: “. . . and whatever happens, the Chinese must go!” By 1882, popular political pressure to cease the immigration of Chinese workers led to the U.S. Congress legislating the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882).
In September 1895, the phrase Yellow Peril (Gelbe Gefahr) was coined by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany to justify European imperialism in China. Advised by the diplomat Max von Brandt, the Kaiser perceived Imperial Germany as having colonial interests in China. On 23 April 1895, the Triple Intervention, by the German Empire, the French Third Republic, and Imperial Russia, to the Treaty of Shimonoseki, was meant to force Imperial Japan to surrender their colonial enterprise in China to the Europeans; that inter-empire quarrel was an underlying cause of the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05). To justify the imperialism of the Triple Intervention, the Kaiser resorted to racialism and decried the none-existent dangers that the “yellow race” posed to the white peoples of Western Europe. With the phrase Yellow Peril, the Kaiser of Germany gave concrete form to white-European racism against the peoples of Asia; the cultural representations communicated by the phrase were common currency in the Western worldview since 1870.
To justify European cultural hegemony by way of colonialism, the Kaiser used an allegorical lithograph to make his point to other monarchs; the work, Völker Europas, wahrt eure heiligsten Güter (Peoples of Europe, Guard Your Most Sacred Possessions), by Hermann Knackfuss, allegorically depicts Germany leading collective Europe, “prehistoric warrior-goddesses being led by the Archangel Michael against the ‘yellow peril’ from the East”, represented by the Gautama Buddha. Knackfuss's lithograph was inspired by a dream of Kaiser Wilhelm, which he believed prophesied the imminent Eur–Asian race war that would decide global hegemony in the 20th century.
With the Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1881), the Qing dynasty (1644–1912) recovered disputed territory from Russia, the eastern part of the Ili River basin ( Zhetysu), occupied for a decade, by way of the Dungan Revolt (1862–77). In that time, the mass communications media of the West misrepresented China as a rising military power, because they were modernizing their country; the ideology of the imperial powers used the Yellow Peril to evoke racist fears that China eventually would attack and conquer Western colonies such as Australia.
In 1900, the anti-colonial Boxer Rebellion (August 1899 – September 1901) reinforced the racist stereotypes inherent to the West’s Yellow Peril conception of Asian people. The Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists (the Boxers) was a xenophobic martial-arts organization who blamed the problems of China on the presence of Western colonies in China proper. The Boxers sought to save China by killing every Western colonist and every Chinese Christian — Westernized Chinese people. In early summer of 1900, Prince Zaiyi allowed the Boxers into Beijing, to kill the Western colonists and the Chinese Christians, and to lay siege to the foreign legations. Ronglu, Qing Commander-in-Chief, and Yikuang, Prince Qing, opposed the Boxers and forced them out of the capital after several days of fighting.
Most of the victims of the Boxer Rebellion were Chinese people, but the massacres of thousands of Chinese Christians were of little interest to the Western world, whose public opinion demanded Asian blood to avenge the Western colonists killed in Beijing, by rebellious Chinese natives. Great Britain, the U.S., Imperial Japan, France, Imperial Russia, Imperial Germany, Austria–Hungary, and Italy formed the Eight-Nation Alliance, to send an international military-force to end the Siege of the International Legations in Beijing.
News of Boxer atrocities against the persons of white Western colonists stirred deep racial hatred in the West, and the European nations mis-perceived the Boxer Rebellion as a race war against the white race, rather than as an anti-colonial revolt by Chinese natives. Decades afterwards, the atrocity stories from the time of the Boxer Rebellion were used by Yellow Peril proponents to create the racist stereotype that Chinese people possess an innate, murderous hatred of Westerners — defined as “Boxersim”. In 1905, In the article “A Righteous Fist”, The Economist magazine warned: “The history of the Boxer movement contains abundant warnings as to the necessity of an attitude of constant vigilance, on the part of the European Powers, when there are any symptoms that a wave of nationalism is about to sweep over the Celestial Empire.” Moreover, in the Western world, Boxerism had become an atavistic response to assertive Asian nationalism — in 1967, during the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guard attacked the British Embassy and beat the diplomats present; to the home country, that incident of political violence was explained as an outbreak of Boxerism, an innate characteristic of the Chinese people.
In Russia, the press used the term Yellow Peril as synonym for depicting anti-colonial Boxer Rebellion in racial and religious terms, as a conflict between “White Holy Russia” and “Yellow Pagan China”, and quoted racialist support from the Sinophobic poems of the philosopher Vladimir Solovyov. Moreover, Prince Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy published articles decrying the Chinese Yellow Peril, and urged Imperial Russia and other European nations to jointly partition China, and so end the cultural threat of the Yellow Peril to Europe. On 3 July 1900, the Russian response to the Boxer Rebellion was expelling the Chinese community of Blagoveshchensk, causing the deaths of 5000 Chinese people in and at the Amur River, killed by the Tsarist police, the Cossack cavalry, and local vigilantes, during the 4–8 July period.
On 27 July 1900, Kaiser Wilhelm presented the Hunnenrede (Hun speech), a racist speech to the Imperial German soldiers departing Europe to suppress the Boxer Rebellion in China, exhorting the soldiers to act like “Huns” and commit atrocities against Chinese civilians:
When you come before the enemy, you must defeat him, pardon will not be given, prisoners will not be taken! Whoever falls into your hands will fall to your sword! Just as a thousand years ago the Huns, under their King Attila, made a name for themselves with their ferocity, which tradition still recalls; so may the name of Germany become known in China in such a way that no Chinaman will ever dare look a German in the eye, even with a squint!
Fearful of the public-image harm the Hun Speech would cause to Imperial Germany, the Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt), published an edited version of the speech, without the inflammatory racism and the exhortation to military barbarism. Moreover, annoyed at being censored by the Foreign Office, the Kaiser published the original text of his martial speech, which “evoked images of a Crusade and considered the current crisis [the Boxer Rebellion] to amount to a war between Occident and Orient”; yet that “elaborate accompanying music, and the new ideology of the Yellow Peril stood in no relation to the actual possibilities and results” of geopolitical policy based upon racialist misperceptions of the Asian Other.
The Kaiser ordered Field Marshal Alfred von Waldersee to behave barbarously, because the Chinese were, “by nature, cowardly, like a dog, but also deceitful.” Kaiser Wilhelm’s best friend at the time, Prince Philip von Euenburg wrote to a friend that the Kaiser wanted to raze Beijing, and kill the populace to avenge the murder of Baron Clemens von Ketteler, Imperial Germany’s minister to China. Only the Eight-Nation Alliance’s refusal of barbarism, to resolve the Siege of the Legations, saved the people of Beijing from annihilation, as recommended by Imperial Germany. In August 1900, an international military-force of Russian, Japanese, British, French, and American soldiers captured Beijing, before the Imperial German forces arrived to the city.
Nonetheless, the forces of the Eight-Nation Alliance sacked the city of Beijing; the magnitude of the killing and the looting, the arson and the rape indicated that, from Westerners, “there was a sense that the Chinese were less than human.” British soldiers threatened to kill a Chinese old man, unless he gave them his treasure; upon learning he had no treasure, a rifleman prepared to bayonet the old man to death. The rifleman was stopped by another soldier, a friend, who said to him: “No, not that way! I’m going to shoot him. I’ve always had a longing to see what sort of wound a dum-dum [bullet] will make, and, by Christ, I am going to try one on this blasted Chink!” After shooting the old Chinese man in the face, the soldier exclaimed: “Christ, the dum-dum has blown the back out of his bloody nut!”
The British admiral Roger Keyes recalled that: “Every Chinaman . . . was treated as a Boxer, by the Russian and French troops, and the slaughter of men, women, and children in retaliation was revolting”. The American colonist Luella Miner reported that “the conduct of the Russian soldiers is atrocious, the French are not much better, and the Japanese are looting and burning without mercy. Women and girls, by the hundreds, have committed suicide to escape a worse fate at the hands of Russian and Japanese brutes.” The British journalist George Lynch wrote “there are things that I must not write, and that may not be printed in England, which would seem to show that this Western civilization of ours is merely a veneer over savagery”.
When Field Marshal Waldersee arrived in China on 27 September 1900, after the Boxer Rebellion had been militarily defeated, he nonetheless launched 75 punitive expeditions into northern China seeking to kill the remnants of the Boxers’ organisation. The Imperial German soldiers killed more Chinese civilians than Boxers, because, by autumn of 1900, the Boxers had ceased being a threat, political or military. In Germany, on 19 November 1900, in the Reichstag, the German Social Democrat politician August Bebel criticized the imperial war against the Boxers:
No, this is no crusade, no holy war; it is a very ordinary war of conquest. . . . A campaign of revenge as barbaric as has never been seen in the last centuries, and not often at all in History . . . not even with the Huns, not even with the Vandals. . . . That is not a match for what the German and other troops of foreign powers, together with the Japanese troops, have done in China.
About the capture of Beijing by the Eight-Nation Alliance, an Australian colonist said: “The future of the Chinese is a fearful problem. Look at the frightful sights one sees in the streets of Peking. . . . See the filthy, tattered rags they wrap around them. Smell them as they pass. Hear of their nameless immorality. Witness their shameless indecency, and picture them among your own people — Ugh! It makes you shudder!”
Despite the Western military defeat of the Boxer Rebellion, the white racial-fear of Chinese nationalism was manifested as cultural fear — that the Chinese mean to invade and conquer the Western world. In using the Yellow Peril as politics, the fear-monger usually calls for the unity of the White Race against the Asian Other; in July 1900, the Völkisch movement intellectual Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the “Evangelist of Race”, gave his racialist perspective of the Boer War (1899 – 1902) in relation to the Boxer Rebellion: “One thing I can clearly see, that is that it is criminal for Englishmen and Dutchmen to go on murdering each other, for all sorts of sophisticated reasons, while the Great Yellow Danger overshadows us white men, and threatens destruction.”
In April 1895, in effort to advance the geopolitical interests of Imperial Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm in a letter to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia said: “It is clearly the great task of the future for Russia to cultivate the Asian continent, and defend Europe from the inroads of the Great Yellow Race”. In The Bloody White Baron (2009), the historian James Palmer explains the socio-cultural background of imperial Europe in the 19th century:
The 1890s had spawned in the West the spectre of the “Yellow Peril”, the rise to world dominance of the Asian peoples. The evidence cited was Asian population growth, immigration to the West (America and Australia in particular), and increased Chinese settlement along the Russian border. These demographic and political fears were accompanied by a vague and ominous dread of the mysterious powers supposedly possessed by the initiates of Eastern religions. There is a striking German picture of the 1890s, depicting the dream that inspired Kaiser Wilhelm II to coin the term “Yellow Peril”, that shows the union of these ideas. It depicts the nations of Europe, personified as heroic, but vulnerable female figures guarded by the Archangel Michael, gazing apprehensively towards a dark cloud of smoke in the East, in which rests an eerily calm Buddha, wreathed in flame . . .
Combined with this was a sense of the slow sinking of the Abendland, the "Evening Land" of the West. This would be put most powerfully, by thinkers such as Oswald Spengler in The Decline of the West (1918) and the Prussian philosopher Moeller van den Bruck, a Russian-speaker obsessed with the coming rise of the East. Both called for Germany to join the “young nations” of Asia — through the adoption of such supposedly Asiatic practices as collectivism, “inner barbarism”, and despotic leadership. The identification of Russia with Asia would eventually overwhelm such sympathies, instead leading to a more-or-less straightforward association of Germany with the values of “The West”, against the “Asiatic barbarism” of Russia. This was most obvious during the Nazi era, when virtually every piece of anti–Russian propaganda talked of the “Asiatic millions” or “Mongolian hordes”, which threatened to over-run Europe, but the identification of the Russians as Asian — and especially as Mongolian — continued well into the Cold War era.
In Germany, from the 1890s onwards into the 20th century, the Yellow Peril was an especially popular racial stereotype that colored German perceptions of Russia; viewed as either a half-Asian or entirely Asian nation. Folk memory of the Mongol conquests of Genghis Khan facilitated using the term Mongol as cultural synonym for the “Asian culture of cruelty and insatiable appetite for conquest”, and as such, that insult applied to all Asian people. The mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, especially personified “Asian inhumanity”Asian inhumanity as leader of the Orda, the Mongol horde. In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt wrote that because of folk memories of the Mongol invasion of Europe, churches in Eastern Europe still used the litany: "From the fury of the Mongols, good Lord deliver us". Such was the identification of Asians with cruelty that German authors influenced by the racial theories so popular in Germany at the time often explained the icy, relentless, cruel fanaticism of Vladimir Lenin as due to his "Mongol blood"-a reference to the fact that Lenin's great-grandmother was a Kalmyk.
Sometimes the fact that Genghis Khan had killed millions of people during his conquest of much of Eurasia was taken as a point of admiration. The insane, anti-Semitic fanatic General Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, also known as the "God of War" conquered Mongolia in 1921 with the aim of using it as a base for the conquest of the Soviet Union, after which he would "exterminate" all of the Jews and Communists in Russia. Ungern-Sternberg intended to revive the Mongol Empire as he believed that West was corrupt and degenerate, and needed to be destroyed by a pan-Asian army under his leadership. Ungern-Sternberg's army included Russian, Mongol, Buryat, Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese units, which he invaded the Soviet Union with later in 1921. The exceptionally sadistic Ungern-Sternberg regarded extreme violence as spiritually cleansing based on his understanding of Buddhism, and believed the world needed a bloodbath to undergo a spiritual regeneration. On 22 August 1939, Adolf Hitler during a meeting with his senior generals praised Genghis for having "had millions of women and children killed by his own will and with a gay heart", and told them that Genghis was to an example to be followed for the war that they were about unleash in Poland. More recently, there have been attempts to rebrand Genghis as a Chinese hero. James Palmer wrote a local Chinese Communist Party boss in Inner Mongolia had told him in 2003:"'Genghis was born in Mongolia, he said, 'but he was Chinese. He loved China, like we all love China'." Palmer sarcastically wrote in response: "Genghis loved the Chinese so much that he killed about ten million of them, and seriously considered burning every city in northern China to the ground to create a vast grassland for his horses".
The Yellow Peril painting, which Wilhelm was so proud of, was taken very seriously in Japan, and led to a marked decline in German-Japanese relations. During a visit to London, the Japanese statesmen Itō Hirobumi viewed the painting, and was heard remarking that this was an extremely important sign of the Kaiser's malice towards Japan. In his turn, Wilhelm's anti-Asian phobia led him to strongly support Russia during the Russian-Japanese war of 1904-05 as he took the viewpoint that the war was just the beginning of the great "race war" that he had been predicting since 1895. Until the Triple Intervention and the Yellow Peril painting, Japanese public opinion had greatly admired Germany, and the Kaiser's actions were received with complete shock by the Japanese.
For their part, many Russians shared the fear of the Yellow Peril (zheltaia opasnost), with these fears being especially common amongst the Russian elite. Russian journalists often warned that the Chinese were a huge "yellow torrent" that threatened to crash over Siberia, while Nicholas II, who had a particular hatred of the Japanese, always referred to them in private as the "yellow monkeys". In the early years of the 20th century, Nicholas's "Eastern strategy" was based on the idea to protect Siberia from an "incoming wave" of Chinese immigrants, Russia would have to settle millions of Russians in the Far East. Starting around 1900, Prince Esper Ukhtomsky started to promote the doctrine of Russia's "special mission" in the Far East, namely that Russia had the "duty" to bring the most of the Far East under its rule, though Ukhtomsky justified this under the grounds that Russia was an Asian nation that needed to unify Asia against the "threat" of the West. A major worry for Russians officials were the large number of Chinese living in Siberia, whom were felt to be a threat to Russian rule there, and led to the Russians imposing various discriminatory laws against them. General Aleksey Kuropatkin, the Russian Minister of War and the leader of a clique at the Russian court committed to the idea of Russian expansion in Asia and portrayed the rising power of Japan in the early 20th century and Japanese imperialist ambitions in Manchuria and Korea (both of which Kuropatkin coveted for Russia) as the first step of the "Yellow Peril" that Russia had to stop. Kuropatkin often justified his imperialist plans for East Asia as part of Russia's "special mission" to stop the "Yellow Peril". During the Russian-Japanese war, which was fought mostly in Manchuria, Russian troops routinely looted and burned Chinese villages, raped the women and killed all who resisted or who were just in the way. The Russian justification for all this was that Chinese civilians, being Asian, must had been helping their fellow Asians Japanese inflict defeat on the Russians, and therefore deserved to be punished. Even after Russia's defeat at the hands of Japan, Kuropatkin remained committed to a forward policy in the Far East, albeit a less aggressive one than before 1904. Kuropatkin wrote in 1913 that "in the future, a major global war could flare up between the yellow race and the white...For this purpose, Russia must occupy north Manchuria and Mongolia...Only then will Mongolia be harmless". Kuropatkin's remarks about rendering Mongolia "harmless" partly reflected Russian folk memories of the Mongol conquest of Russia in the 13th century, and partly reflected his fear of the vast Chinese immigration into Inner Mongolia and Manchuria which was soon to give both regions a Han majority, which he viewed as "the first blow of the yellow race against the white".
Through very popular, the Yellow Peril theory was not universally accepted. The French writer Anatole France wrote that the Yellow Peril ideology was the sort of thing one would expect from the racist, hate-filled mind of the Kaiser, and inverting the entire premise of the Yellow Peril, argued in an essay that given the tendency of European nations to gobble up other people's countries in Asia and Africa that it was the "White Peril" that was the real threat to the rest of the world. Another critic was the British writer Demetrius Charles Boulger who in 1904 published an essay entitled "The Bogey of the Yellow Peril" argued that the entire Yellow Peril theory was just racist hysteria. Boulger wrote: "The prospect placed before the uninstructed reading public is a revival of the Hun and Mongol terrors, and the names of Attila and Genghis are set out in the largest type to create feelings of apprehension. The reader is assured in the most positive manner that this is the doing of the enterprising nation of Japan." Boulger wrote presciently that the real target of the Yellow Peril propaganda put out by the German government was not Japan or China, but Britain. Within Germany, the concept of the Yellow Peril was often in the words of the Japanese historian Iikura Akira the "subject of amusement" with cartoonists caricaturing the Yellow Peril painting as ridiculous and absurd. In December 1895 the German humorous magazine Der Wahre Jacob lampooned the Yellow Peril painting with a cartoon telling "Policemen of Europe" to defend their "dearest goods" (bags of gold); in the cartoon the Kaiser addresses a group of thugs wearing the uniforms of the various European police forces while pointing to the menace that threatens them all; a topless goddess of Liberty in the sky under whom millions of ordinary Europeans march in her wake, bringing freedom, peace, democracy, equality, prosperity and social reform. In May 1904, August Bebel, the leader of German Social Democrats declared in a speech that he hoped that Japan would defeat reactionary Russia as a Russian defeat might very well led to a revolution which would topple the Romanov monarchy, and bring socialism to Russia. From a completely different angle from Bebel, General Baron Colmar von der Goltz criticized the Yellow Peril. Goltz who commanded the German military mission in the Ottoman Empire between 1883-1895 in series of letters to his Ottoman protégés expressed much respect for Asian peoples, especially the Japanese writing in 1905:“The East is beginning to awake; once it is awakened, it will not go to sleep again”. Goltz believed that the European era of dominance would come to a close in the 20th century, pointing to the rise of new powers like the United States, Japan and eventually China. Stressing that these were his own views, not those of the German government, Goltz speculated how sometime in the future a war would begin between the “yellow race” of the Japanese, Chinese and Mongols against the “Anglo-Saxon” powers, the United States and Great Britain. Goltz argued that neither Germany nor the Ottoman Empire could remain indifferent to this war, and it was necessary that Germany learn to understand “the rising peoples of East Asia”. Goltz who was an intense Anglophobe who looked forward to the day when Germany went to war with Britain for world domination seemed to have envisioned a German-Japanese-Ottoman alliance against the British Empire.
Yellow Peril fears were often expressed in many Western nations, but Germany was unique in that from 1895 onwards, "defending" Europe from the alleged Yellow Peril was the official policy of the state, and supposedly everything the Reich did in foreign policy was driven by an idealistic desire to save the West. On 9 September 1904, Wilhelm wrote up a long memo to his diplomats warning that the Japanese would soon take control of China, and after that a "race war" would break out between the "white race" and the Asians with the additional warning that the Japanese Navy would soon assault Heligoland, Kiel and Kronstadt. In his Christmas message to his subjects in 1904, Wilhelm engaged in what his biographer John C. G. Röhl called his "madcap racist ideology" by stating that the Russian-Japanese war was a "racial question" that concerned all whites and warned that the Chinese and Japanese governments were deliberately "flooding" the West with immigrants to deprive whites of their jobs as a part of a plot to cause the economic collapse of the West. Wilhelm was sincere in his belief in the "Yellow Peril" and his passionate hatred of Asian peoples, who he routinely referred to variously as "yellow apes", "yellow ruffians", "yellow dogs" and "yellow devils", but there was an ulterior motive to his relentless promoting of the "Yellow Peril". The chief aim of German foreign policy under Wilhelm was winning Weltpolitik, where Germany would become the world's dominant power. Wilhelm and his circle had truly vast ambitions for the Reich desiring a "Napoleonic supremacy" in Europe, to annex the Yangtze river valley in China, to colonize much of Africa, to conquer Latin America, and even going so far to draw up plans for the invasion of the United States. To this achieve this, Germany had the Tirpitz Plan of building a powerful navy to challenge Britain; for the purposes of propaganda, it was convenient to claim the High Seas Fleet was meant to combat the Yellow Peril rather admitting its real purpose of challenging Britain. The German historian Ragnhild Fiebig-von Hase wrote about Weltpolitik and the Tirpitz plan that "...the ultimate aim of this strategy was to depose England as the leading sea power". In 1907, during a visit to Britain Wilhelm made what Röhl called the "absurd claim" that the Tirpitz plan was directed against the Japanese, saying: "I foresaw the danger of the Yellow Peril twenty years ago and that is why I built my fleet-just to be ready to lend a helping hand". The British were not fooled, and the Tirpitz plan led to the Anglo-German naval race of the early 20th century. Wilhelm believed the Yellow Peril fear would disrupt international relations, and would lead to a German-American alliance against Japan, which in turn would be converted into anti-British alliance. In addition, Wilhelm knew very well his cousin Nicholas II of Russia shared his anti-Asian prejudices, and believed that on the basis of anti-Asian racism he could at very least persuade Nicholas to abrogate the Franco-Russian Alliance of 1894, and form a German-Russian alliance that would be nominally anti-Asian, but in fact anti-British. The German historian Ragnhild Fiebig-von Hase wrote that: "Wilhelm II's deliberate use of the 'yellow peril' slogan was more than a personal idiosyncrasy and fitted into the general pattern of German foreign policy under his reign, i.e to encourage Russia's Far Eastern adventures and later to sow discord between the United States and Japan. Not the substance, but only the form of Wilhelm II's 'yellow peril' propaganda disturbed the official policy of the Wilhelmstrasse".
To this end, Wilhelm encouraged Nicholas in his forward policy in the Far East, writing in January 1904 a letter to the Czar stating that "Korea must and will be Russian". Nicholas had a deep hatred of Asians, and often used the derogatory anti-Semitic term zhyd ("Yid"-through "kike" might be a better translation) as a term for the Japanese; given the extent of Nicholas's obsessive anti-Semitism, this was a quite an insult from the Czar. Nicholas's three pet hates were the British, the Asians and the Jews, and he often made the remark that: "An Englishman is a zhid (Yid)". Nicholas who been wounded by an assassination attempt during a visit to Japan in 1891 liked to call the Japanese "yellow monkeys", and took it for granted that Russia had the right to conquer the entire Far East. Wilhelm often wrote to Nicholas to tell him that was "Europe's savior" against the "yellow peril", and in conquering East Asia the Russians were only doing the work of God. In his turn, Nicholas believing he had the support of the Reich proceeded with his forward policy in the Far East. Nicholas's plans to add Manchuria and Korea to his empire clashed with the Japanese plans to add Manchuria and Korea to their empire. Seeing their independence threatened by both Russia and Japan, many Koreans repeated the traditional lamentation that: "When two whales fight, the shrimp get crushed". Wilhelm hoped that the war with Japan would bring Nicholas's hatred of Asians to the boiling point, and on the basis of a common hatred of Asians would create an alliance between Germany and Russia. The French, who been Russia's closest allies since 1894, made it clear that they disapproved of Nicholas's forward policy in Asia with the French Premier Maurice Rouvier publicly declaring that the Franco-Russian alliance applied only to Europe, not Asia, and that France would remain neutral if Japan attacked Russia. In the eyes of the Wilhelmstrasse, the French attitude towards Russian expansionism in Asia created an excellent opening for Germany. In private, Wilhelm blasted Nicholas for "damaging the monarchial principle through his shilly-shallying", adding that the "yellow race" would at the gates of Moscow if the Russians continued to lose to the Japanese.
Better yet, Wilhelm believed that the Auswärtiges Amt could use the fear of the Yellow Peril to recreate the Triple Intervention of 1895 on a permanent basis to form an anti-British "continental bloc" of France, Germany and Russia. The "continental bloc" was intended to be the basis of making Germany the world's dominant power at the expense of Britain. Since Britain was supporting Japan against Russia, this had brought out Nicholas's Anglophobic streak, and it would was believed in Berlin that a German-Russian alliance would soon be formed. The plans for a "continental bloc" came to naught as Nicholas would not sign an alliance with Germany unless the French agreed to join. Through Nicholas did greatly appreciate German help during the war with Japan, the fact that the Germans demanded as the price of that help a commercial treaty in November 1904 that was highly unfavorable to Russia to a considerable extent undercut that goodwill, and led many Russian policy-makers to fear for Russia's future in the proposed German-dominated "continental bloc". Nicholas wrote to Wilhelm saying he only signed the treaty that was so unfavorable to his empire to express his thanks for the Germans who had been "real friends" as his country was battling Japan. Moreover, Nicholas disliked Wilhelm, stating after one summit that the Kaiser was "raving mad". Beyond that, Nicholas believed that he was honor-bound by the Franco-Russian alliance which had been signed by his father. The French government for their part made it clear that since the proposed "continental bloc" was really directed against Britain, not Japan that they would not join the bloc as that mean violating the recently signed Entente Cordiale of April 1904, which had settled all outstanding Anglo-French disputes. In November 1904 after the Dogger Bank incident brought Russia and Britain to the brink of war, Nicholas received a telegram from Wilhelm suggesting an anti-British "continental bloc" be formed, and Nicholas wrote back impulsively saying he agreed "that Germany, Russia and France should at once unite upon an agreement to abolish Anglo-Japanese arrogance and insolence". The proposed treaty was stillborn when the French Foreign Minister Théophile Delcassé declared that France would not join, and as Nicholas would not join unless the French did, the proposed treaty died.
In January 1905 there occurred the "Bloody Sunday" massacre in St. Petersburg when Russian soldiers shot down hundreds of peaceful demonstrators bringing a petition to Nicholas asking for social reforms. The massacre led to the Revolution of 1905 breaking out in Russia. With most of the Russian Army in Manchuria fighting the Japanese, Nicholas lost control of much of his empire, and his government did not fully regain control until April 1906. In March 1905, Germany launched the First Moroccan Crisis that brought Germany and France to the brink of war. The British historian Roderick McLean wrote that "The German strategy in the crisis was designed to convince the French that their new agreement with Britain was without value, by demonstrating that London could not save France from the threat of a German invasion." Once the French learned that the Entente Cordiale was worthless, it was expected in Berlin that the French would join the anti-British "continental bloc". By April 1905 with his empire going up in revolution and given the fact that Russians had lost every battle on land and sea to the Japanese, Nicholas was considering making peace. To keep Russia embroiled with Japan, Wilhelm sent his younger brother Prince Heinrich of Prussia to St. Petersburg bearing a message hinting that Germany might intervene in the war; the hope of German intervention encouraged Nicholas to continue the war. In May 1905, U.S President Theodore Roosevelt was especially offended by Wilhelm giving "Yellow Peril" speeches in Wilhelmshaven and Strasbourg, which Roosevelt believed (correctly) were intended to encourage the Russians to be intransigent in the peace talks that Roosevelt was attempting to organize to end the Russian-Japanese war, and thus to sabotage the peace progress. In a speech on 13 May 1905, Wilhelm called the Japanese "the scourge of God" (a term traditionally used for Attila the Hun in Germany) and stated that: "now that Russia has shown itself too weak to resist the Yellow Peril, the task of checking this peril may fall on Germany". Even more damagingly Wilhelm tried to deny to Roosevelt that he had given those speeches, writing that these were "lies" by the British press, something that helped to convince Roosevelt that the Kaiser was not to be trusted. On 3 June 1905, Wilhelm did a volte-face on the Russian-Japanese war, and urged Nicholas to make peace with the Japanese and accept Roosevelt's offer of mediation. As the revolution continued to engulf Russia, Wilhelm started to fear that Nicholas might be overthrown; and if that happened, Germany's own restive working class might be inspired to follow the Russian example; even the Kaiser's fear of the Yellow Peril paled to his fear of losing his throne. In Washington, Roosevelt was alarmed when his close friend, the French Ambassador Jean Jules Jusserand told him that the French cabinet was badly divided and many cabinet ministers were advocating giving in to Germany on the Moroccan crisis and joining the anti-Asian "continental bloc". Roosevelt especially feared the prospect that if France joined the "continental bloc", then the French might cede the French Caribbean islands to the Reich, thereby allowing German naval bases in the New World. Roosevelt told Jusserand that if France joined the "continental bloc" , than the United States would seize the French Caribbean island rather see them transferred to Germany.
On 24 July 1905, during a German-Russian summit Wilhelm was able to convince Nicholas-who as a result of losing the war with Japan and the revolution of 1905 was on the verge of a nervous breakdown-to sign the Treaty of Björkö that would have created a German-Russian alliance. During the Björkö summit, Wilhelm told Nicholas that since Italy and Austria were already allied to Germany that this was only the beginning as he expected France and all of the smaller European nations like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium to also join the "continental bloc". Wilhelm believed that with all of the European states united in a German-led "continental bloc" that was in theory anti-Asian, but in reality anti-British to be the basis of making the Reich the world's greatest power. On 30 August 1905, the Russian Foreign Minister Count Vladimir Lamsdorf first learned of the Björkö treaty, and informed the Emperor that it was completely incompatible with the Franco-Russian alliance; Nicholas could be allied to Germany or France, but not both at once. Nicholas attempted to square the circle by asking the French to join the Björkö alliance. In the summer of 1905 with Germany openly threatening to attack France, this was not the best time to ask the French to join an anti-British German-Russian "continental bloc". The French premier Maurice Rouvier told the Russian ambassador Aleksandr Nelidov when asked about joining the proposed "continental bloc" that French public opinion would never accept an alliance with Germany against Britain. The French rejection killed the Björkö treaty. The Russian government was heavily dependent upon French loans in order to function, especially after the war with Japan and the Revolution of 1905. The German money markets were not prepared to lend to Russians on anywhere the same scale as the French money markets, and thus for economic reasons Nicholas literally could not afford to lose the friendship of French banks. Beyond that, the Franco-Russian alliance was between two more or less equal states while in the proposed "continental bloc" Russia was clearly going to Germany's subordinate, something that Nicholas would never accept once it was explained to him just what exactly the "continental bloc" entailed. In September 1905 Wilhelm ordered the German naval attaché George Hebinghaus in Washington to deliver a copy of the Yellow Peril painting to Roosevelt together with a letter from the Kaiser warning about the "Yellow Peril", British treason against the "White Race" by supporting Japan and the "future fight for life and death between the White+Yellow". At that point, the German Ambassador Count Hermann Speck von Sternburg had to intervene to prevent Hebinghaus from delivering the letter and painting to Roosevelt, warning that the letter and painting were extremely likely to offend the President. Instead of pushing Britain and France apart as planned, the First Moroccan Crisis pushed the British and French closer together with Britain warning Germany that if the latter attacked France, Britain would go to war with the Reich. Across the Atlantic, Roosevelt-who viewed the "continental bloc as a threat to the U.S-quietly came out in the support of the French while at the same time working for a face-saving way for Germany to back down. The crisis ended with a diplomatic defeat for Germany with the Algeciras Conference of 1906 deciding in favor of France.
After the First Moroccan Crisis in 1905, where the United States sided with Britain and France against Germany, Wilhelm believed it was the unofficial alliance between the sea-powers of Britain and the U.S that was blocking Germany's claims of becoming a world power. As the Anglo-German naval race continued with ever greater speed in the first years of the 20th century, Berlin become convinced that the key to winning the race given the greater size of the British ship-building industry was an alliance with the United States as British shipyards could not possibly hope to win naval races with the United States and Germany simultaneously. Beyond that, an alliance of the United States and Germany could dominate the world. The rise of American-Japanese rivalry following Japan's victory over Russia in 1905 was seen as a possible opening for a German-American alliance. After the war, the Japanese who had occupied Korea in 1904 turned Korea into a protectorate (to be annexed in 1910) while gaining special rights in southern Manchuria. The Japanese made it clear that they were displeasured by what the Port of Portsmouth had given them, and wanted all of China to be in their exclusive sphere of influence. The United States by contrast was committed to the "open door" while upholding China's independence and territorial integrity. As a result, the once friendly relations between Washington and Tokyo became strained and hostile over China. The Japanese had taken enormous losses in the war with Russia, and the costs of the war had almost bankrupted them, which explains why the Japanese signed the compromise Treaty of Portsmouth as they were rapidly running out of both men and money. The Japanese public not being aware of these aspects of the war saw the Treaty of Portsmouth as a betrayal, believing that they had the right to annex Korea, Manchuria and Siberia. After the Portsmouth treaty was signed in September 1905, anti-American riots broke out in Japan with American flags being burned in the streets and mobs cursing Roosevelt as the man who allegedly cheated the Japanese out of their fruits of victory over Russia. The immediate source of tension however emerged when the Japanese demanded in 1906 that the San Francisco school board stop racial segregation in regards to the children of Japanese immigrants. As a result, a huge wave of anti-Japanese feelings and "Yellow Peril" fears had swept across the United States, and the crisis was only ended by the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907. President Roosevelt in a speech praised Japan as "one of the greatest of civilized nations" and asked that the San Francisco school board allow the Nisei to attend the same schools as whites. The white supremacist Senator Benjamin Tillman warned on the floor of the Senate that if "Mongolian" children went to the same school as whites, it would be the end of American civilization while Senator George C. Perkins demanded war with Japan rather seeing integrated schools. As the Japanese government used threatening language in the diplomatic notes protesting the exclusion of the Nisei from the schools, there was a "war scare" in the United States in 1906-07 about the possibility of a war with Japan. In a letter to Edward Grey Roosevelt wrote that the "race question" in California was "an immediate source of danger", and he was going to ask Congress for a bigger naval budget to allow the U.S. to fight a possible war with Japan. Britain and Japan had signed an alliance in 1902, so any anti-Japanese German-American alliance would almost certainly become an anti-British alliance as well. In the early years of the 20th century, Wilhelm continued to warn anyone who would listen about the Yellow Peril. In a 1907 letter to Nicholas II, Wilhelm wrote that British newspapers "had for the first time used the term Yellow Peril from my picture, which is coming true!" (emphasis in the original). In the same letter, Wilhelm claimed that 10, 000 Japanese soldiers had arrived in Mexico with the aim of seizing the Panama Canal, and that the Japanese "were going in for the whole of Asia, carefully preparing their blows, and against the White Race in General! Remember my picture, it's coming true!". Also in 1907, Wilhelm sent a message to U.S President Roosevelt, predicting the coming "race war", and offered to send German troops to protect the West Coast of the United States from the Japanese, who Wilhelm claimed would soon be invading the U.S; President Roosevelt politely refused the offer.
It took the German diplomats a long time to tell Wilhelm that Roosevelt was a Japanophile who was not impressed with Wilhelm's call for an alliance based on anti-Asian racism. In private, Roosevelt often expressed disgust with the Kaiser's speeches warning about the "Yellow Peril". In the same 1907 letter to Roosevelt offering to send German troops to protect the U.S from Japan, Wilhelm also advised Roosevelt to use the deployment as a chance to invade Canada, something that Wilhelm knew well would cause an Anglo-American war. Additionally, German diplomats tried to use the Yellow Peril fear to stir up American-Japanese antagonism via such tactics like bribing American journalists to print articles saying that Japan and Mexico had signed a secret anti-American alliance, a tactic that backfired badly when the U.S government discovered the source of the story. In July 1908 in an interview with the American journalist William Bayard Hale with the aim of influencing American opinion towards an alliance with the Reich, Wilhelm stated:
So I painted the Yellow Peril. I dare say the world smiled. The world does not smile now. The time for smiling has passed. Everybody understands what must come to pass between the East and the West, the yellow race and the white race. It is imbecile folly for us to close our eyes to the inevitable. We would be unworthy of our fathers if we are negligent of the sacred duty of preserving the civilization which they have achieved for us and the religion of God has given us. All the world understands that the greatest contest in the destiny of the world's population is at hand.
Wilhelm told Hale that Britain was a process of economic decline and racial degeneration; the British were seeking to destroy the rising power of Germany before their own power was eclipsed; as such the British had allied themselves with the Japanese, who in their turn would soon conquer China and lead all the masses of Asia against the "white race"; and the Germans and Americans had to join forces to stop the Anglo-Asian menace before it was too late. During the Hale interview, Wilhelm stated that "England is a traitor to the white man's cause". During the same interview, Wilhelm called the Japanese "devils" intent upon destroying "white civilization", and stated that China needed to colonized by the United States and Germany for its own good. The leader of this alleged conspiracy to destroy the white race was King Edward VII, whom the anti-Semitic Wilhelm darkly noted had many Jewish friends; according to Hale, Wilhelm was "very bitter" against his uncle and: "He seemed full of electricity and his eyes snapped when he spoke of England". Despite his dire warnings about the future "race war", the Kaiser ended his interview on a cheerful note, saying: "Oh! It will come out all right!...The future belongs to the white race; it does not belong to the yellow nor black nor olive-colored. It belongs to the blonde man and it belongs to Christianity and Protestantism. We are the only people who can save it".
The Hale interview with the Kaiser speaking of an "inevitable" war between Germany and Britain for masterly of the world was considered so explosive that it was not published at the time; President Roosevelt asked American newspapers not to publish it out of the fear it would cause an Anglo-German war. However, copies of the Hale interview did circulate secretly amongst the capitals of the world: in Tokyo, it created the "worse possible impression"; in St. Petersburg, Nicholas was angered about the remarks about Slavs failing the entire white race by being incapable of defeating the Japanese; in Beijing, the idea that China needed to be colonized gave much offense; in Washington, it left Roosevelt with strong doubts about Wilhelm's sanity; in London, it led to harder line being adopted against Germany; and in Paris, the French Premier Georges Clemenceau demanded in a speech that the Hale interview be published so the entire world could see what a "menace" the Kaiser was to world peace.
The German attempt to form an alliance with the United States based on a supposed shared fear of the Yellow Peril failed. The American government viewed industrialized Germany with its claims to Weltpolitik as a greater threat than semi-industrialized Japan with its claims to domination over China. Furthermore, the U.S government knew very well that the recent war with Russia had nearly bankrupted Japan (a major reason why the Japanese had signed the compromise Treaty of Portsmouth in 1905) and the Japanese simply did not have the money to start a new war with any other country in the near-future. Finally, before Wilhelm had started to warn of the Yellow Peril, he been warning of the amerikanische Gefhr (American peril) and continued to issue such warnings right up until 1902, claiming that the United States was out to take over the world, and the European states need to band together under German leadership to resist the alleged American threat. Given Wilhelm's prior anti-Americanism, American public opinion was hostile to the Reich in the first decade of the 20th century.
In October 1914, a group of 57 noted German professors signed an appeal to the "civilized people of the world", portraying Germany as the victim of Allied aggression and containing the following passage:
In the East the land is soaked with the blood of women and children butchered by the Russian hordes, and in the West our soldiers are being ripped apart by dumdum bullets. The nations with the least right to call themselves the defenders of European civilization are those which have allied themselves with Russians and Serbs and offer the world the degrading spectacle of inciting Mongols and Negroes to attack the white race.
The reference to "Mongols and Negroes" attacking the "white race" was to the various Asian peoples serving in the Imperial Russian Army and to Africans in the French Army. In 1915, when Japan presented the Twenty-One Demands to China, which would have virtually converted China into a Japanese protectorate (something that offended both Britain and the United States), Wilhelm did a volte-face, and sought to use the ensuring crisis to form a German-Japanese alliance, opening secret talks with the Japanese in Sweden. The Germans believed that the crisis caused by the 21 Demands would not only lead to Japan joining the Central Powers, but also neutralized any possibility of the U.S joining the war on the Allied side. The fact that German diplomats were holding secret talks on attempting to have Japan switch sides, the very nation whose diplomats demonized for the last 20 years as the Yellow Peril proved that the German use of the Yellow Peril fear had more to do with power-politics rather genuine conviction. The Zimmermann Telegram of 1917 was part of the same German effort to form an alliance with Japan against the Allies with the Mexican government being asked to join the war on the side of the Central Powers and to pass on a message requesting that Japan switch sides. The Canadian historian Holger Herwig called Wilhelm's use of the Yellow Peril as a diplomatic tool incredibly "childish" and "inept". Wilhelm changed his mind after his abdication in World War I, saying that he should not have bothered to warn Europe of the Yellow Peril, writing in 1923 that: "We shall be the leaders of the Orient against the Occident! I shall now have to alter my picture 'Peoples of Europe'. We belong on the other side! Once we have proved to the Germans that the French and English are not Whites at all, but Blacks...then they will set upon this rabble". He declared Germany as "face of the East against the West" instead of being in the west, and wished for the destruction of the western countries like Britain, France, and America, declaring the French to be "negroids", and stating his disgust at the racial equality Britain was allowing for blacks.
In the late 19th century, Australians were preoccupied by a desire for a "white" (European) society and the related fear of the yellow peril. Invasion novels depicting an Asian invasion of Australia's "empty north" became popular. In his 1887 novel White or Yellow? : A Story of the Race War of A.D.1908, the union leader and radical journalist William Lane imagines that a "vast horde" of Chinese have arrived in Australia, "over-run everything" and "monopolized a score of important industries" in the north. White or Yellow first appeared in a serialized form in Lane's newspaper The Boomerang, before being published as a novel. Reflecting his left-wing, Australian-nationalist politics, Lane depicted a future history in which wealthy British capitalists, motivated only by greed, start the mass importation of Chinese labor into Australia with no thought for its effect on the common people, leading to a bloody "race war", in which killing the Chinese "horde" is presented as a justified response on the part of white Australians.
Sexual fears about Asian men were often expressed in the invasion novels as the Chinese invaders seduce and/or rape white Australian women with the aid of opium. Sleeping with and/or being raped by the Chinese was portrayed as "a fate worse than death". Some of the fiercest opposition to Chinese immigration came from Australian union leaders, who depicted the Chinese as not only an economic threat to the ability of white Australians to make a decent living, but also as a moral threat to Christian civilization, especially with regards to sex. In a series of speeches in the 1890s, Rose Summerfield, a feminist and union activist, warned of the unnatural "lust" of Chinese men who, according to her, were always looking upon white Australian women with "lewd eyes".
In 1901, the new Australian federal government adopted the White Australia policy. Australia's official World War One historian Charles Bean defined the intentions of the policy as "a vehement effort to maintain a high Western standard of economy, society and culture (necessitating at that stage, however it might be camouflaged, the rigid exclusion of Oriental peoples)." An early Australian film, Australia Calls, released in 1913, depicts an invasion by "Mongolians" who are defeated by guerrilla resistance from ordinary Australians.
At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, the Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes was one of the most vocal opponents of a Japanese proposal that a racial equality clause be included in the Covenant of the League of Nations. Hughes argued that such a clause would open the door to Asian immigration to Australia.
From 1904 to 1910, the Unionist Government of the U.K. authorised the immigration to South Africa of approximately 63,000 Chinese labourers to work the gold mines. After 1910, most such Chinese miners were repatriated to China, because of the great, social opposition to them from the white South Africans; much like the anti–Chinese racism in the U.S. in that era.
The mass immigration of indentured Chinese labourers to mine South African gold, for wages lower than the native white men would accept, contributed to the electoral deposition of the financially conservative Unionist Government 1895–1905 that governed South Africa, after the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).
On the 26 March 1904, ; approximately 80,000 people attended the social-protest demonstration against the use of Chinese labourers in the Transvaal was held, in Hyde Park, London, to publicize the exploitation of Chinese South Africans. The Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress then passed a resolution declaring:
That this meeting, consisting of all classes of citizens of London, emphatically protests against the action of the Government in granting permission to import into South Africa indentured Chinese labour under conditions of slavery, and calls upon them to protect this new colony from the greed of capitalists and the Empire from degradation.
In the event, despite the racial violence between white South-African miners and Chinese miners, the Unionist Government achieved the economic recovery of South Africa, after the Anglo–Boer War, by making the gold mines of the Witwatersrand Basin the most productive in the world.
In the 18th century, the Chinese were favourably viewed in Britain as a civilized, sophisticated people worthy of admiration and respect, but, in the course of imperial expansion throughout the 19th century, the British perspective became hostile, and the Chinese were misrepresented as an inherently depraved and corrupt people. Among the few exceptions to such racism, was William Ewart Gladstone, who, in May 1890, criticized anti–Chinese immigration laws in Australia, saying that the Chinese were being penalized for their proven virtues, such as a hard-work ethic, instead of their supposed vices, such as gambling and smoking opium. Likewise, King Edward VII, who, in 1904, during an Anglo–German summit meeting with Kaiser Wilhelm II, heard him, with the Russo–Japanese war in mind, complain about the Yellow Peril as: “the greatest peril menacing . . . Christendom and European civilisation. If the Russians went on giving ground, the yellow race would, in twenty years time, be in Moscow and Posen”. Kaiser Wilhelm criticized his British guests for supporting Japan against Russia, suggesting that the British were committing “race treason”, by supporting Japan. In response, King Edward said that he “could not see it. The Japanese were an intelligent, brave and chivalrous nation, quite as civilised as the Europeans, from whom they only differed by the pigmentation of their skin”.
The first British usage of the phrase Yellow Peril was in the Daily News (21 July 1900), in a report that described the Boxer Rebellion as “the yellow peril in its most serious form”. Nonetheless, in Britain, Sinophobia — fear of the Chinese people — did not include racism against all Asians. During the Russo–Japanese War, France and Germany supported Russia, while Britain supported Japan. British military observers displayed pro–Japanese bias against their traditional enemy Russia. The reports of one British observer, Captain William Pakenham “tended to depict Russia as his enemy, not just Japan’s.”
In The Yellow Peril: Dr Fu Manchu & the Rise of Chinaphobia (2014), the historian Julia Lovell said:
In the early decades of the 20th century, Britain buzzed with Sinophobia. Respectable middle-class magazines, tabloids and comics, alike, spread stories of ruthless Chinese ambitions to destroy the West. The Chinese master-criminal (with his “crafty yellow face twisted by a thin-lipped grin”, dreaming of world domination) had become a staple of children’s publications. In 1911, “The Chinese in England: A Growing National Problem” (an article distributed around the Home Office) warned of “a vast and convulsive Armageddon to determine who is to be the master of the world, the white or yellow man”. After the First World War, cinemas, theatres, novels and newspapers broadcast visions of the “Yellow Peril” machinating to corrupt white society. In March 1929, the chargé d’affaires at London’s Chinese legation complained that no fewer than five plays, showing in the West End, depicted Chinese people in “a vicious and objectionable form”.
In the British popular imagination, the Limehouse district of London — the Chinatown of Great Britain — was a centre of depravity, vice, sexual prostitution, opium smoking, and gambling. British newspapers warned of the dangers of miscegenation; that British women marrying Chinese men was proof of the Asian racial threat posed to Britain; and also warned that Triad gangsters kidnapped British women into White slavery, in Western popular culture, “a fate worse than death”. In 1914, when the First World War began, the Defence of the Realm Act was amended to include opium smoking as a grounds for deportation, applied as a pretext for expelling the inhabitants of London’s Chinatown, from Britain proper. That Britons’ anti–Chinese moral panic was caused by the social reality that British women had acquired economic independence with war-effort jobs, and would engage in premarital sexual affairs, a cultural threat to Protestant Christian patriarchy that offended Britain’s conservative society. Such racist fears of the Yellow Peril were European cultural prejudices projected onto to the Chinese community of Britain, for allegedly corrupting British women into premarital libertinism.
In the U.S., Yellow Peril xenophobia led to the racist laws of the Page Act of 1875 and of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was expanded by the Geary Act of 1892. The Chinese Exclusion Act replaced the Burlingame Treaty of 1868, which encouraged Chinese immigration to the U.S., provided that “citizens of the United States in China, of every religious persuasion, and Chinese subjects, in the United States, shall enjoy entire liberty of conscience and shall be exempt from all disability or persecution, on account of their religious faith or worship, in either country” and granted privileges to citizens of each country residing in the other, withholding only the right of naturalization.
In California, the Chinese Massacre of 1871, was the racist pogrom, in Los Angeles, which marked the beginning of much racial violence against the Chinese in the Western United States, the American West, where some 200 Chinese people were lynched during the1870s and 1880s. In 1880, in Denver, the local pogrom featured the looting, destruction, and burning of the local Chinatown, and the lynching of a Chinese man. In the American West, the cultural commonplace of lynching Chinese people gave rise to the American English phrase “Having a Chinaman’s chance”, meaning no chance at all. On 2 September 1885, in Wyoming, the Rock Springs massacre featured white miners killing 28 Chinese miners, whom they perceived as an economic threat, in evicting the Chinese community from the town.
The Rock Springs pogrom facilitated a wave of anti-Chinese violence throughout the West, in autumn and winter of 1885. On 11 September 1885, in the Washington Territory, there occurred the Attack on Squak Valley Chinese laborers, 1885 in which were killed three Chinese workers. On 24 October 1885, the Chinatown of Seattle was party destroyed by arson; and the Tacoma riot of 1885 evicted the Chinese community from the town. On 6–9 February 1886, in Seattle, the local chapter of the Knights of Labor organized and executed the Seattle riot of 1886, by which the white town-folk evicted 200 Chinese people from the town. In 1887, in Oregon, some 34 Chinese gold miners were ambushed, robbed, and killed in the Hells Canyon Massacre. About being Chinese in 19th-century U.S., in the essay “A Chinese View of the Statue of Liberty” (1885), Sauum Song Bo said that:
Seeing that the heading is an appeal to American citizens, to their love of country and liberty, I feel my countrymen, and myself, are honored in being thus appealed to, as citizens in the cause of liberty. But the word liberty makes me think of the fact that this country is a land of liberty for men of all nations, except the Chinese. I consider it an insult to us Chinese to call on us to contribute towards building, in this land, a pedestal for a statue of liberty. That statue represents Liberty holding a torch, which lights the passage of those of all nations who come into this country. But are Chinese allowed to come? As for the Chinese who are here, are they allowed to enjoy liberty as men of all other nationalities enjoy it? Are they allowed to go about everywhere free from insults, abuse, assaults, wrongs and injuries from which men of other nationalities are free?
The Immigration Act of 1917 then created an "Asian Barred Zone" under nativist influence. The Cable Act of 1922 guaranteed independent female citizenship only to women who were married to "alien[s] eligible to naturalization". At the time of the law's passage, Asian aliens were not considered to be racially eligible for U.S. citizenship. As such, the Cable Act only partially reversed previous policies, granting independent female citizenship only to women who married non-Asians. The Cable Act effectively revoked the U.S. citizenship of any woman who married an Asian alien. The National Origins Quota of 1924 also included a reference aimed against Japanese citizens, who were ineligible for naturalization and could not either be accepted on U.S. territory. In 1922, a Japanese citizen attempted to demonstrate that the Japanese were members of the "white race", and, as such, eligible for naturalization. This was denied by the Supreme Court in Takao Ozawa v. United States, who judged that Japanese were not members of the "Caucasian race".
The 1921 Emergency Quota Act, and then the Immigration Act of 1924, restricted immigration according to national origins. While the Emergency Quota Act used the census of 1910, xenophobic fears in the WASP community lead to the adoption of the 1890 census, more favorable to White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) population, for the uses of the Immigration Act of 1924, which responded to rising immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, as well as Asia. One of the goal of this National Origins Formula, established in 1929, was explicitly to keep the status quo distribution of ethnicity, by allocating quotas in proportion to the actual population. The idea was that immigration would not be allowed to change the "national character". Total annual immigration was capped at 150,000. Asians were excluded but residents of nations in the Americas were not restricted, thus making official the racial discrimination in immigration laws. This system was repealed with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
The racialist proponents of the Yellow Peril portrayed the U.S. as a clean and healthy body politic threatened by Asian immigrants, who were misrepresented as a disease foreign to the U.S.Template:Rp=237 Champions of the Yellow Peril concept often used the language of body penetration and of diseases to express their fears of Asian-Americans.Template:Rp=237-238 Yellow Peril was also the title of a popular book by an influential U.S. religious figure, G. G. Rupert, who published The Yellow Peril; or, Orient vs. Occident in 1911. Based on the phrase "the kings from the East" in the Christian scriptural verse Revelation 16:12, Rupert, who believed in the doctrine of British Israelism, claimed that China, India, Japan, and Korea were attacking England and the United States, but that Jesus Christ would stop them. Rupert believed that all the "colored races" would eventually unite under the leadership of Russia, producing a final apocalyptic confrontation.
In 1920, the Harvard historian Lothrop Stoddard published the book The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy, which warned that the non-white peoples would band together under the leadership of either China and/or Japan to destroy the West, and that this process had already started with the Japanese victory over Russia in 1905. Typical of the yellow peril rhetoric was Stoddard's use of the water image of a rising tide flooding everything. The phrase "yellow peril" was common in the U.S. newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst. In the early 1930s the Hearst newspapers waged a sustained campaign of vilification against an American Communist activist Elaine Black, who was denounced as the "Tiger Woman" for her open sexual relationship with a fellow Communist activist Karl Yoneda. Black and Yoneda would have married in 1931, but the California law at the time outlawed inter-racial marriage, so it was until 1935 when they moved to Seattle did Black and Yoneda finally marry. The campaign against Black had less to do with anything she was doing in particular and more to do with Hearst's calculation that the news that a white woman was having a sexual relationship with an Asian man would stir up outrage in his readers and increase the sales of his papers.
During the 1930s, there had appeared within certain circles in the United States an opposition to the popular Yellow Peril stereotypes, which was exemplified by popularity of the Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto novels and films. There was also the China Lobby of businessmen, intellectuals and Protestant missionaries who idolized Chiang Kai-shek as China's Christian savior (Chiang had converted to Methodism in 1927), and who pressured the neutral United States to aid China after the Japanese invasion began in 1937. Media coverage of the Sino-Japanese war tended to favor China. After Japan attacked the U.S in 1941 and China formally become an American ally, some within the American media began to criticize the various discriminatory laws against the Chinese and Chinese-Americans. Moreover, it was widely believed that once Japan was defeated that China would emerge as a major economic power under the leadership of Chiang (who made clear his disapproval of the anti-Chinese laws), and that American businesses would be shut out of the fabled "China market" that was anticipated after the war if the anti-Chinese laws continued to be on the books. In 1943, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was repealed by Congress, but since the National Origins Act of 1924 was still in effect, the repeal was only a symbolic step.
According to the American science fiction writer William F. Wu, "pulp magazines in the 1930s had a lot of yellow peril characters loosely based on Fu Manchu" and that although "most were of Chinese descent", the geopolitics at the time led a "growing number of people to see Japan as a threat" as well. In his 1982 book The Yellow Peril: Chinese Americans in American fiction, 1850-1940, Wu theorizes that the fear of Asians dates back to Mongol invasion in the Middle Ages during the Mongol Empire. "The Europeans believed that Mongols were invading en masse, but actually, they were just on horseback and riding really fast," he writes. Most Europeans had never seen an Asian before, and the harsh contrast in language and physical appearance probably caused more skepticism than transcontinental immigrants did. "I think the way they looked had a lot to do with the paranoia," Wu says.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Yellow Peril was a significant part of the policies promoted by Richard Seddon, a populist prime minister of New Zealand, who compared Chinese people to monkeys. In 1879, during his first political speech, Seddon declared that New Zealand did not wish her shores to be “deluged with Asiatic Tartars. I would sooner address white men than these Chinese. You can’t talk to them, you can’t reason with them. All you can get from them is ‘No savvy’.”
Moreover, in 1905, in the city of Wellington, the fanatical white supremacist, Lionel Terry, murdered Joe Kum Yung, and old Chinese man, in order to protest against Asian immigration to New Zealand. Laws promulgated to limit Chinese immigration included a substantial poll tax, introduced in 1881 and lowered in 1937, after Imperial Japan’s invasion and occupation of China. In 1944, the poll tax was abolished, and the New Zealand government formally apologised to the Chinese populace of New Zealand.
After the 1908 Young Turk Revolution, the Committee of Union and Progress achieved a dominant political position, later reinforced after the 1913 Raid on the Sublime Porte. The Unionists greatly admired Japan for modernizing while retaining its "Eastern spiritual essence" , and proclaimed their intention into making the Ottoman Empire into the "Japan of the Near East". In an inversion of Western paranoia about the "Yellow Peril", the Young Turks often fantasised about creating an alliance with Japan that would unite all the peoples of "the East" to wage war against and wipe out the much hated Western nations that dominated the world, a "Yellow wave" that would wash away European civilization for good. For the Young Turks, the term yellow (which was in fact a derogatory Western term for East Asians, based upon their perceived skin color) stood for the "Eastern gold", the innate moral superiority of Eastern peoples over the corrupt West.
Starting in the 1890s, the péril jaune (yellow peril) was often invoked in France, with unfavorable comparisons between drawn between low French birth rates and high Asian birth rates. According, the fear was raised that eventually the Asians would "flood" France, and that the only way to prevent the Asian "flooding" of France was to raise the French birth rate to have enough manpower to fight off the coming Asian "flood". During the Russian-Japanese war of 1904-05, the French media was overwhelming on the side of France's ally Russia. The Russians were portrayed in the French press as heroically fighting for the entire "white race" against the péril jaune of the Japanese "barbarians". In May 1904, the French journalist René Pinon wrote:
The "yellow peril" has entered already into the imagination of the people, just as represented in the famous drawing of the Emperor Wilhelm II: in a settling of conflagration and carnage, Japanese and Chinese hordes spread out over all Europe, crushing under their feet the ruins of our capital cities and destroying our civilizations, grown anemic due to the enjoyment of luxuries and corrupted by the vanity of spirit. Hence, little by little there emerges the idea that even if a day must come (and that day does not seem near) the European peoples will cease to be their own enemies and even economic rivals, there will be a struggle ahead to face and there will rise a new peril, the yellow man. The civilized world has always organized itself before and against a common adversary: for the Roman world, it was the barbarian; for the Christian world, it was Islam; for the world of tomorrow, it may well be the yellow man. And so we have the reappearance of this necessary concept, without which peoples do not know themselves, just as the "Me" only takes conscience of itself in opposition to the "non-Me": the enemy.
Despite their professed claims that French civilization was a universal civilizing force, right from the beginning in 1859 the French ruled their colony of Vietnam with an iron hand with the Vietnamese being seen as something less human, and therefore not deserving of human rights. During the Indochina war of 1945-54, the French often justified the war as part of the struggle to defend the West against the péril jaune of the Vietnamese Communists, who were always portrayed as mere puppets of the Chinese Communists in their drive to conquer the world. Even before the war, many of the French had seen the Vietnamese as not quite human, and during la sale guerre ("the dirty war") against the Viet Minh, French forces routinely committed war crimes such as extrajudicial executions, torture, needless destruction of property and mistreatment of POWs. During the war, the French press described the Viet Minh variously as "innombrables masses jaunes" ("innumerable yellow hordes"), "vagues hurlantes" ("roaring waves") and "masses fanatisées" ("fanatical hordes").
According to the French writer Gisèle Luce Bousquet, the concept of the péril jaune, which had traditionally colored French attitudes towards Asians, especially the Vietnamese is still in effect today, albeit in more subtle ways than in the past. Franco-Vietnamese are resented for being perceived academic over-achievers who are taking away good-paying jobs from the "native French", and for allegedly "taking over" entire fields such as computer science. In January 2015, a French magazine Fluide Glacial published on its cover a cartoon of a sad Frenchman pulling a rickshaw carrying a Chinese man dressed in the style of 19th century French colonial officials with a barely dressed French blonde in tow in a Chinese-occupied Paris under the title "Yellow Peril Is it already too late?". Yan Lindingre, the editor of Fluide Glacial stated in response to criticism that the cover was satirical, and was intended to mock the Yellow Peril fears held by many of the French that Chinese economic growth will destroy the French way of life, and that France will in the future be subjected to China. In a newspaper co-op, Lindingre responded to attacks by the Chinese press by writing: “I have just ordered an extra billion copies printed and will send them to you via a chartered flight. This will help us balance our trade deficit and give you a good laugh.”
During the Mexican Revolution, the Chinese communities in Mexico who were usually working there as miners were subjected to abuse from all various factions fighting for the control of Mexico in the revolution. The most notable act of anti-Chinese violence was the Torreón massacre of May 11–15, 1911 when over 300 Chinese were shot down in cold blood by rebel forces commanded by General Francisco "Pancho" Villa. The Torreón massacre was the most extreme act of anti-Asian violence in Mexico, but not the only one. In 1913, when Tamosopo was taken by the Constitutional Army, all of the buildings owned by Chinese immigrants were sacked and burned down. The British historian Alan Knight noted that all sides tended to single out the Chinese for "especially harsh treatment". During and after the revolution, Chinese Mexicans were widely disliked because of their supposed tendency to steal jobs from Mexicans. In Mexican anti-Chinese propaganda, the Chinese were painted as without hygiene, and responsible for vices such as opium smoking and gambling. They were blamed for spreading diseases, degenerating La Raza (the Mexican "race"), corrupting morals, inciting civil unrest and generally undermining Mexico’s social and political makeup. Their lack of assimilation was also attacked. Another accusation was that Chinese men (and almost all Chinese immigrants in Mexico were men) had been stealing employment and Mexican women from Mexican men who had gone off to fight in the Revolution or in World War I. In the 1930s, nearly 70% of the country Chinese and Chinese-Mexican population was deported or otherwise expelled out of the country in a programme of bureaucratic ethnic cleansing.
Japan and Ethiopia, both being non-white powers in a world dominated by white powers had enjoyed a strong friendship from early years of the 20th century. During the run-up to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, initially the Japanese gave diplomatic support to Ethiopia. In response, Benito Mussolini had the Italian press waged a vitriolic Yellow Peril campaign against Japan, accusing the Japanese of attempting to create a "yellow-black alliance" by uniting all of the peoples of Asia and Africa against the whites. Mussolini himself gave an interview in January 1935 warning darkly of the Japanese "Yellow Peril" and the dangers of an Asian-African alliance against Europe. In the summer of 1935, there were frequent anti-Japanese demonstrations in Italian cities organized by the Fascist Party. The anti-Japanese campaign in Italy stopped as suddenly as it started when the Japanese government promised not to support Ethiopia in exchange for Italian recognition of Manchukuo.
In recent years, there has been very strong anti-Chinese feelings in Turkey owing to allegations of human rights abuses against the Muslim Turkic Uighur people in China's Xinjiang province. At one anti-Chinese demonstration in Istanbul, a South Korean tourist was threatened with violence even she protested that “I am not Chinese, I am Korean”. In response, Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the extreme right-wing Nationalist Movement Party stated: “How does one distinguish between Chinese and Koreans? Both have slanted eyes.”.
At the core of the Yellow Peril ideology was the sexual fear of Asians, who according to the Yellow Peril theory had an unnatural and perverse sexuality that was a mortal threat to white civilization. The intense horror shown by Yellow Peril proponents towards interracial sex was because the prospect of interracial sex meant the prospect of interracial children, which in turn meant the prospect of the annihilation of whitenesss itself; the much dreaded miscegenation. The fear of Asian sexuality sometimes took the form of the insatiable, lascivious, but dominating "dragon lady", who was a tempting, if degrading object of desire for white men. In this regard, one source commented that it is striking how often Asian women were portrayed in Western films as scheming prostitutes, forever seeking to use their sexuality to ensnare and enslave white men. Perhaps the best known example of the Dragon Lady stereotype was the character of Ling Woo on the TV show Ally McBeal, portrayed as a deeply unpleasant, dominating woman with unusual sexual abilities provided by her Chinese heritage that no white woman could hope to match. Gina Marchetti wrote in the Western imagination, Asia was associated with “…material opulence, moral laxity, sensuality, cultural decadence and exotic beauty, this seductiveness implies a peculiar spiritual danger and often a hidden threat to the Westerner…The fear springs from a desire or belief that Asia will entice, hypnotize, entrap and suffocate the Western traveler, who will masochistically give up his own identity to be engulfed by what Freudians might describe as a metaphoric womb-tomb”.
A particularly extreme response to the Yellow Peril paranoia was put forward by the Austrian Baron Christian von Ehrenfels, who in a series of papers published between 1902-10 argued that the world was faced with a Social Darwinian struggle between different races, in which the Yellow Peril was winning. Ehrenfels argued the "white race" was being hindered by the institution of monogamy as it allowed for a genetically superior white man to father children by only one woman, and that the "yellow race" had a great advantage in polygamy as it allowed for genetically superior Asian men to father children by many women. In his essays in 1907-1908, Ehrenfels wrote that the Chinese lacked "all potentialities...determination, initiative, productivity, invention and organizational talent". While the Chinese were now a listless mass of allegedly mindless Asians, Ehrenfels wrote that Japan was "a first-rate military power", and should the Japanese conquer the Chinese, the Japanese would engage in selective breeding to create a race of "healthy, sly, cunning coolies, virtuosos of reproduction" in China. Once that happened, Ehrenfels warned that a vast Sino-Japanese army would set to conquer the world consisting of genetically superior soldiers whom the Western powers would be unable to stop. To solve this perceived problem, Ehrenfels argued for radical social changes where the state would take control of sexuality. Ehrenfels called for a new social order where white men would be allowed to father children only if they proved themselves genetically fit social "winners", and for instituting polygamy for these men. Women by contrast would be allowed only one husband at time. All women would be consigned to live in communal barracks where they would help each other raise children, and would be assigned a husband by the state, who would visit only for the purposes of sex. The number of wives any man could have would be determined by how successful he was, hence ensuring that the most successful men would pass on their genes to the most children. Furthermore, in Ehrenfels's proposed new society, romantic love would be done away with, and relations between men and women would be only sexual. To end the "Yellow Peril" once and for all, Ehrenfels suggested that the "white nations" brand together to conquer all the Asian nations before it was too late, and create a new world racial order with a hereditary, racially determined "caste system". In Ehrenfels's vision, whites would serve as the oligarchic "Aryan" military and intellectual castes and the Asians and blacks as the slave castes supporting the whites. At first, Ehrenfels believed this new society would only happen in the far-future, writing that "the Aryan will only respond to the imperative of sexual reform when the waves of the Mongolian tide are lapping around his neck". After Japan's victory over Russia in 1905, Ehrenfels wrote : "the absolute necessity of a radical sexual reform for the continued existence of the western races of man...has been raised from the level of discussion to the level of a scientifically proven fact".
Along the same lines, the American historian Edward Ross Dickinson noted that for Baron Christian von Ehrenfels, the fear of the Yellow Peril was always expressed in water imagery; noting how Ehrenfels warned of a "flood" of Chinese coming to the West, that the Chinese were a "torrent of mud" in which Europe was drowning in, that the Japanese were a "polluting liquid", and that Europeans would not respond to this menace until the "waves" of Asians were up to their neck. The German historian Klaus Theweleit wrote that the same threatening water imagery was frequently used in the writings of Freikorps men during the interwar period, but only the threats were the Jews and the Communists (usually the same thing in these writings) rather than the Asians which threatened to subsume German men. Theweleit wrote that right-wing German men who had served in the Freikorps during the interwar period were obsessed with proving their masculinity by establishing their "hardness", and that the water imagery reflected their fear of women, the erotic, love, intimacy, and of dependence, all things that threatened to make them less than manly. Dickinson argued that men like Ehrenfels felt the same sexual anxieties about their masculinity as did the writers examined by Theweleit, but only he projected these anxieties onto the "Yellow Peril" rather than "Judeo-Bolshevism" .
More commonly Yellow Peril sexual fears were that of the Asian men corrupting white women via seduction and/or rape. The American culture critic Gary Hoppenstand wrote:
The threat of rape, the rape of white society dominated the yellow formula. The British or American hero, during the course of his battle against the yellow peril, overcome numerous traps and obstacles in order to save his civilization, and the primary symbol of that civilization: white women. Stories featuring the Yellow Peril were arguments for white purity. Certainly, the potential union of the Oriental and white implied at best, a form of beastly sodomy and at worse, a Satanic marriage. The Yellow Peril stereotype easily become incorporated into Christian mythology, and the Oriental assumed the role of the devil or demon. The Oriental rape of white woman signified a spiritual damnation for the women, and at the larger level, white society.
In the 1915 film The Cheat, the wealthy Japanese gentleman Hishuru Tori (Sessue Hayakawa) is portrayed as a sexual predator and a sexual sadist who menaces an American housewife Edith Hardy (Fannie Ward). Tori who is portrayed as superficially Westernized is revealed as a would be rapist, which reflects his true Asian identity. Tori is shown to be: "...brutal and cultivated, wealthy and base, cultured and barbaric, Tori embodies the contradictory qualities Americans associate with Japan". Initially, Tori is shown as "asexual" within the upper crust society of Long Island, but once Tori takes Hardy into his private study decorated with Japanese artwork, he is shown as having a "...brooding, implicitly sadistic sexuality...". At times, before he tries to rape her, the film hints that Hardy is in fact on some level attracted to Tori, an aspect that was heightened by the fact that Tori was played by Hayakawa (who was considered to be a sex symbol at the time), something that would have made him be seen as threat to the existing racial and sexual order by most white men in 1915.
Even more typical of such portrayals was the Chinese warlord General Henry Chang (Warner Oland) in the 1932 film Shanghai Express, who is presented as being not only as Eurasian, but as having a menacing asexuality that places him outside of the conventionally defined world of Western sexuality and racial order, making him as dangerous to the Western characters who he has taken hostage as much as the fact that he is a vicious warlord. Though Chang is Eurasian, he takes pride in his Chinese heritage while rejecting his American heritage, which confirms his Eastern identity. War-torn China, circa 1931 is presented as a "hell", which a diverse group of Westerners must travel through on a nightmarish train trip from Beijing to Shanghai, which takes a turn for the worse when the train is hijacked by Chang and his men. The film strongly hints that Chang is bisexual, who not only wants to rape the heroine Shanghai Lily (Marlene Dietrich), but also the hero Captain Donald "Doc" Harvey (Clive Brook). When the German opium smuggler Erich Baum (Gustav von Seyffertitz) insults Chang, the result is a scene where the warlord commits a symbolic rape, as the sadistic Chang clearly takes sexual pleasure in branding Baum with a red-hot poker. After he is branded, the once proud Baum becomes notably cowed and submissive towards Chang who in a certain sense now "owes" him, which reflected the ultimate Yellow Peril fear of Westerners becoming the slaves of the East and its perverted sexuality. Later on, Chang does actually rape Hui Fei (Anna May Wong). Gina Marchetti suggests that Chang's desire to blind Harvey is not only meant literally, but is also a metaphor for castration, which even under the more permissive Production code in effect in 1932 would have been a taboo subject. In a marked contrast to Chang's twisted sexuality and his "almost effeminate polish" , the British Army Captain Harvey is a resolutely heterosexual, ruggedly tough soldier with a deep romantic streak who more than amply proved his manliness in the trenches of World War I, presenting a model of Western masculinity and strength. At several times, the film hints that Shanghai Lily and Hui Fei are more than best friends, and are in fact engaged in a lesbian relationship, so when the film ends with Lily choosing Harvey as her lover, this serves as a testament to his manly Western sex appeal, which "redeems" her from her life as a prostitute. At the same time that Shanghai Express embraces Yellow Peril stereotypes through the character of Chang, it also to some extent undermines them through the character of Hui, who is shown crying inconsolably after being raped by Chang, which gives her a certain humanity and allows the audience to sympathize with her. Hui is a courtesan who is looked down upon by all Western characters except for her best friend Lily on the account of her race and profession, but she is shown as possessing dignity and a willingness to stand up for herself. Several scenes seemed to suggest that Shanghai Lily and Hui are more attracted to one another then either are to Captain Harvey, through this may be suggesting Hui's sexuality is not quite normal (most people in 1932 would considered bi-sexuality to be unnatural). The same criticism might be applied to Lily, but the film ends with Lily embracing heterosexual love by kissing Harvey while Hui walks off into the distance alone, sadder as a result of losing her best friend to Harvey and because she was raped, but otherwise unchanged. Finally, it is Hui who saves Harvey in the climax from being blinded/raped/castrated at the hands of Chang by killing Chang; Hui explains the killing as her way of regaining the self-respect that Chang had taken away from her.
The East Asia studies professor Tim Thompson argued that the key factor behind the Yellow Peril was that of Asians have an all-consuming, devouring sexuality that threatens to destroy the West by enslaving its people. Thompson argued that the “perfect example” of such fear could be found in a 2007 graphic pornographic horror short story “The Fall: With A Whimper” by a Canadian horror writer published under the pseudonym Tantric Legion. In the story, intelligent, hermaphrodite parasitical worms arrive in China from outer space, which are described as “sexual parasites” about 1 feet long and 3 inches in diameter in the story.This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard The phallic-shaped worms in quasi-rape scenes penetrate into human bodies by forcing their way into vaginas and anuses, and then take over the minds of their victims.This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard The story concerns a pretty young schoolteacher in Jiuquan named Mei. An utterly terrified Mei spends the first half of the story attempting to avoid being infected, and after she herself is infected, sets out to infect the rest of humanity.This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard Once infected, “Mei host” as she now calls herself considers herself to be a "good slave" whose only longing is to do the bidding of her “masters” as she affectionately calls the worms that control her mind and body, and whose "one fervent wish" is to create a “glorious new civilization”, where all humanity will be blessed by a “shared consciousness”.This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard The worms also transform the bodies of their victims, and Mei now endowed with “swollen breasts and a constant state of sexual arousal”, has no trouble seducing people, who she then infects.This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard That the author regards Mei's transformation from a demure schoolteacher into a sex-crazed zombie as a positive change might reflect some issues on his part with Asian women.This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard At the climax of the story, Mei seduces and infects the leader of China.This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard Having sex with Party Secretary Chen, "Mei host" releases some of the worms within her body, which crawl out of her vagina, and while the hapless Chen is held in place by a smiling Mei, the worms proceed to force their way into his body via his rectum.This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard Mei happily thinks that Chen's mind will be "subsumed" just as her mind was "subsumed".This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard Once in control in China, millions of infected Chinese are sent out to infect the rest of humanity. The story ends with thousands of infected Chinese, all eerily silent and controlled by an inhuman collective intelligence, boarding planes at airports all over China to achieve the goal of subjecting humanity.This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard The infected Chinese are compared to insects, whose attacks on other countries are described as a "swarming".This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard The story invokes much of the imagery associated with the Yellow Peril theory, albeit in a much more sexualized and literalized way than traditionally was the case "via a thin sci-fi plot device".This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard The Yellow Peril theory often invoked images of flooding, invasion, swarming and body penetration, and of vast, mindless insect-like Asian masses controlled by a sinister intelligence.This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard The story not only invokes the flood and bodily penetration imagery associated with the Yellow Peril theory, but also the classic Yellow Peril stereotype of the Chinese as a vast, inhuman horde with no real individual personalities overwhelming the rest of humanity.This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard Because the worms are hermaphrodites, the story invokes the Yellow Peril fear of ambiguous sexuality as well. In this case the Chinese literally are a foreign body within the world as their bodies and minds are controlled by extraterrestrial worms.
Another variant of concerns about Asian sexuality were expressed in romances between Western "white knights" and the Eastern "Lotus Blossom" characters. The “Lotus Blossom” characters were usually portrayed favorably enough, but the point of such characters are that they need the love of a white man to rescue them from their deeply flawed cultures. In the romances between the Western "White Knight" and Eastern "Lotus Blossom", the Asian heroine was portrayed favorably as an ultra-feminine model of female beauty and grace, but she almost always needed to be saved from her own people by a white man, reaffirming the moral superiority of the West. In the 1960 film The World of Suzie Wong, the Hong Kong prostitute Suzie Wong (Nancy Kwan) is shown as a lost soul who is saved by the love of the American painter Robert Lomax (William Holden). Unlike Lomax's unpleasant, career-minded British girlfriend Kay O'Neill (Sylvia Syms), Wong is shown as more submissive and feminine than O'Neill, and who only works as a prostitute because of appalling poverty, which the film suggests is the natural condition of Asia. Hong Kong's economic take-off into an "Asian Tiger Economy" was only just beginning in 1959 when the film was shot. The contrast between Wong and O'Neill seems to be saying that if Western women want a man like Lomax, then they should emulate the passive Wong rather than the controlling O'Neill. Wong is so submissive and masochistic that in one sequence she “…proudly displays signs of a beating to her fellow hookers and uses it as evidence that her man loves her.” Lomax needs Wong as his muse as her eroticism gives him the necessary inspiration to become the great painter he always wanted to be. Wong is an illiterate orphan who was the victim of childhood sexual abuse and is regularly abused by her mostly Chinese customers. That Lomax is portrayed as more enlightened and caring than both the male Chinese and the British characters suggests the moral superiority of the United States not only over Hong Kong society, but also over the decaying British Empire, implying that the Americans will be better custodians of Asia than the British ever were. When a British sailor tries to rape Wong, the chivalrous Lomax comes to the rescue and gives the would be rapist a good beating; all the while a number of Chinese men sat by listless, completely indifferent to the prospect of Wong being raped. Wong had a child by an unseen Chinese man whom she had a relationship with and who has abandoned her and their son, thereby emphasizing the casually cruel, uncaring nature of Hong Kong society. In contrast to the casual brutality that Chinese and British characters show towards Wong, the sensitive artist Lomax loves the "child-woman" Wong and saves her by giving her a new identity as his idealized, docile woman, whom he treats in a very paternal fashion. For almost the entire film, Wong wears a Chinese Cheongsam dress, but when she appears in Western clothing, Lomax rips off her dress, and tells her only to wear a cheongsam, emphasizing that Lomax is only prepared to accept Wong if she conforms to what his ideas about what a proper Asian woman should be like.
In the 1989 opera Miss Saigon, Vietnam is portrayed as a mysterious, exotic, sensuous place yet full of incomprehensible savagery and incredible “filth”. The opening chorus of the first song The Heat's on Saigon begins with the lines: "The heat's on Saigon The girls are hotter 'n hell Tonight one of these slits will be Miss Saigon God the tension is high Not to mention the smell". The prostitute heroine Kim is portrayed as the “Lotus Blossom” archetype, the innocent but sexually available, frail, mysterious, demure and submissive Asian beauty whose life is defined by her love for a white man, in this case the American Marine Chris Scott. The fact that every single Vietnamese female character in Miss Saigon is a prostitute, all but one of whom are "Dragon Ladies" who parade their bodies in string bikinis confirms the popular Western stereotype of Asian women as being ultra-sexualized. The second act of the play, set in Thailand, portrays Thai women as all engaging in prostitution, which further reinforces the stereotype. Kim is the only woman at the Dreamland brothel who does not walk around all the time in a string bikini. The passivity and moral purity of Kim, who is utterly faithful towards Chris despite the fact that he abandoned her and their son in Vietnam and married an American women Ellen seems to be suggesting that the proper place of an Asian woman is to be subservient towards a white man. Despite her profession as a prostitute, the 17-year-old Kim is portrayed as a virginal innocent, in need of Chris's protection from the cruel world of Saigon. One of the songs Chris sings about Kim is addressed both to her and Vietnam, suggesting that Kim is Vietnam. The idealized and passive character of Kim, who is portrayed as being the true Vietnam stands in marked contrast to the male Vietnamese characters. Thuy, the Viet Cong man who wants to marry Kim is portrayed as violent, jealous, cruel and possessive and whose interest in Kim is purely exploitative as opposed to Chris’s love. The character of the vicious, sleazy pimp Tran Van Dinh aka the Engineer is a Eurasian man whose sexuality is “…simply incomprehensible, illegible, indeterminate, even as it is spectacularly displayed”. The American East Asia studies professor Karen Shimakawa described the Engineer as "...simultaneously lascivious, sexually exploitative, pansexual and desexualized". The Engineer had a French father and a Vietnamese mother, but throughout the opera it is always his “orientalness” that he displays. Shimakawa wrote “…the Engineer embodies an uncategorizable yet spectacular perversity-a condition that, the logic of the play suggests, is hereditary: it is the direct result of his racially and nationally mixed beginnings in prostitution and sexual debauchery”. Chris's best friend, the aptly named John is an African-American man who is an enthusiastic patron of the women of the Dreamland brothel, thereby playing to the stereotype of black men as having an unrestrained, lascivious sexuality. Unlike the romantic Chris, John sees the women of the Dreamland brothel only as sex objects, and is much given to crude, macho boosting about his sexual prowess. In contrast to these examples of flawed masculinity, the white Chris is portrayed as kind, gentle man with a genuine love and concern for Kim, who sings at one point: “I wanted to save her, protect her/Christ, I’m an American/How could I fail to do good?”.
The Yellow Peril was a common theme in the fiction of the time. Perhaps most representative of this is Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu novels. Dr. Fu Manchu is an evil Chinese mad scientist/gangster out to take over the world, and being constantly foiled by the British policeman/spy Sir Denis Nayland Smith, and his assistant Dr. Petrie. The Fu Manchu character is believed to have been patterned on the antagonist of the 1898 Yellow Peril series by British writer M. P. Shiel. About the character of Dr. Fu Manchu, the British writer Jack Adrian wrote that Rohmer was :
...a shameless inflater of a peril that was no peril at all (the "Yellow Peril") into an absurd global conspiracy.
He had not even the excuse (if excuse is the word) of his predecessor in this shabby lie, M.P. Shiel, who was a vigorous racist, sometimes exhibiting a hatred and horror of Jews and Far Eastern races. Rohmer's own racism was careless and casual, a mere symptom of the times. But he recognized other's people's fears and loathings, and tapped directly into them with his saga of the fiendish, and seemingly deathless, Dr. Fu Manchu, whose millions of minions were ever bidding their time, awaiting the order to inundate and subjugate the Western white races, and particularly the British Isles. Even more particularly, London, for at the heart of the Empire the teeming hordes of "heathen Chinese" swarmed like hyperactive rats around Limehouse Reach and Wapping Old Stairs, poised to flood the capital, turn its citizens into opium or cocaine addicts, and carry off the flower of British maidenhood to the stews of Shanghai.
This nonsense was believed more or less seriously by just about all classes, even though, as the sociologist Virginia Berridge has determined, the ethnic Chinese population of the Limehouse area-indeed, the whole of London's East End-in the period 1900 through to the Second World War ran to a few hundred at most, the majority of whom were engaged in respectable professions such as cooking and laundering (clothes, not money). As for narcotics, this was notably the province of "black" immigrants than "yellow" (the well-heeded Chinese restaurant-owner "Brilliant Chang" notwithstanding), most of the actual drugs coming from Germany, where cocaine production was virtually unregulated. And so far as white slavery went, it was to Buenos Aires that most of the young girls (dancers, usually lured by spurious advertisements in The Stage) traveled.
Nevertheless, with Fu Manchu and his strange cohorts and even more bizarre "pets" (monstrous spiders, lizards, hamadryads, batrachians unknown to science, murderous lepidopterae, Venus fly-traps capable of digesting a man) Rohmer accomplished what all writers of popular fiction yearn for but rarely achieve-the creation of a character who transcends mere popularity and becomes an entry in the dictionary.
Dr. Fu Manchu led an international criminal organisation known as the Si-Fan, which comprised a pan-Asian "murder gang" from the "darkest places of the East" with countless number of Chinese, Burmese, Malay, and Indian thugs all willing to perform his every command. A recurring scene in Fu Manchu novels are the scenes where Fu dispatches Chinese and/or Indian assassins to kill Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie, who are literally surrounded by foreign bodies wishing to do them harm and metaphorically making the point that the East has wrongly trespassed into the West.
Film adaptations of the Dr. Fu Manchu novels are typified by The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), with Boris Karloff playing the title role. Reflecting the centrality of sexual fear to the Yellow Peril, in the film Fu gives a speech before a vast pan-Asian army urging them to "Kill the white man and take his women!". Several times The Mask of Fu Manchu hints that Fu is engaged in an incestuous relationship with his equally evil daughter Fah Lo See (Myrna Loy), which suggests once more the alleged abnormal sexuality of Asians. The American East Asia studies professor Huang Yunte wrote that Hollywood offered up two radically contrasting images of Asian men in the 1930s; the malevolent master criminal Dr. Fu Manchu vs. the benevolent master detective Charlie Chan. The Irish film studies professor Rod Stoneman noted how "...Rohmer’s concoction of cunning Asian villainy connects with the irrational fears of proliferation and incursion: racist myths often carried by the water imagery of flood, deluge, the tidal waves of immigrants, rivers of blood." Though Rohmer always denied being a racist, in 1936 when his novels were banned in Germany (the Nazi regime thought the name Rohmer sounded Jewish), Rohmer wrote a letter where he declared he was “a good Irishman” and he did not know why his novels had been banned because “my stories are not inimical to Nazi ideals”.
Another "Yellow Devil" villain is Li Shoon, a fictional villain of Chinese ethnicity created by H. Irving Hancock, first published in 1916. As common in the pulp fiction of the times, the depiction of Li Shoon had considerable racial stereotypes. He was described as being "tall and stout" and having "a round, moonlike yellow face" topped by "bulging eyebrows" and "sunken eyes". He has "an amazing compound of evil" which makes him "a wonder at everything wicked", and "a marvel of satanic cunning". DC Comics featured "Ching Lung" in Detective Comics, and he appeared on the cover of the first issue (March 1937).
Emperor Ming the Merciless, nemesis of Flash Gordon, was another iteration of the Fu Manchu trope. Peter Feng calls him a "futuristic Yellow Peril", quoting a reviewer who referred to Ming as a "slanty eyed, shiny domed, pointy nailed, arching eyebrowed, exotically dressed Oriental". Likewise, Buck Rogers fought against the "Mongol Reds" also known as "Hans", who had taken over America in the 25th century. In the late 1950s, Atlas Comics (now Marvel Comics) debuted the Yellow Claw, a Fu Manchu pastiche. Marvel would later use the actual Fu Manchu as the principal foe of his son, Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu in the 1970s. Other characters inspired by Rohmer's Fu Manchu include Pao Tcheou.
A 1977 Doctor Who serial, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, builds a science fiction plot upon another loose Fu Manchu pastiche. In this case, the key "yellow devil" character serves to enable an ill-intentioned time traveller from the fifty-first century. The principle villain is not Chinese, but rather a deformed Caucasian man named Magnus Greel, a war criminal from 51st century who has escaped into the 19th century, and is posing as the (fictional) Chinese god Weng-Chiang. Greel's followers are the Tong of the Black Scorpion, who are willing to obey his every command. Besides for the murderous Peking Homunculus cyborg, Greel's principle assistant is the magician Li H'sen Chang, the supposed leader of the Black Scorpion triad, who kidnaps British women to be dissolved in order to provide Greel with their "life essences" to keep him alive. Greel is not Asian, but the fact that the Chinese characters worship Greel as the god Weng-Chiang whereas the British characters can clearly realize that Greel is no god seems to be suggesting that Chinese have lower intelligence than the British. With the exception of Li who starts out as a charismatic gangster/magician, but who turns out to be pathetic, deluded, opium-addled pawn, none of the Black Scorpion triad seemed to have any individual personalities. The Black Scorpion triads hardly ever speak as they silently go about doing Greel`s biddings on the dark, fog-shrouded streets of Victorian London.
Yellow Peril: The Adventures of Sir John Weymouth-Smythe, by Richard Jaccoma (1978) is both a pastiche and a benign parody of the Sax Rohmer novels. As the title suggests, it's a distillation of the trope, focusing on the psychosexual stereotype of the seductive Asian woman as well that of the ruthless Mongol conqueror that underlies much of supposed threat to Western civilization. Written for a sophisticated modern audience, it uses the traditional use of first-person narrative to portray the nominal hero Sir John Weymouth-Smythe as simultaneously a lecher and a prude, torn between his desires and Victorian sensibilities but unable to acknowledge, much less resolve, his conflicted impulses. Set in the 1930s, the novel concerns the quest for the mystical "Spear of Destiny", an ancient relic with immense supernatural powers which gives whoever possesses it control of the world. Weymouth-Smythe spends much of the novel battling a Dr. Fu Manchu-type character named Chou en Shu for the Spear of Destiny, only for it to be revealed Chou is not the villain at all. Rather the real danger were the German characters who were all fanatical Nazis and who were Weymouth-Smythe's nominal allies in seeking the Spear of Destiny. The Nazis are led by Clara Schicksal, an icy, blue-eyed beautiful blonde who sacrifices hapless Burmese boys to ancient Germanic gods while performing fellatio on them; later on, Weymouth-Symthe punishes Schicksal by repeatedly sodomizing her. Chou en Shu is an ancient Chinese mystic with an enormous penis who rapes women (who greatly enjoy the experience by the end), and turns them into his devoted, willing sex slaves (there is something within his semen that takes over the minds of his female victims), using them as his tools to accomplish his goals when they not serving in his harem. Chou's mission is to foil the Nazis in their efforts to take control of the Spear of Destiny, in order to save the world. The fact that Weymouth-Smyte does not realize until it almost too late that the Nazis are the real danger rather the "Yellow Peril" stereotype he rather mindlessly associates with Chou is novel's way of saying that it is fascism and racism within the West, not an imaginary "Yellow Peril" that the real danger to the world. The cover blurbs for the paperback edition declaim "Erotic adventure in the style of the original 'pulps'" and "'A Porno-Fairytale-Occult-Thriller!' according to the Village Voice". It is clearly in the same line as the contemporaneous works of Philip José Farmer, "updating" Rohmer the way Farmer updated Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lester Dent, and Walter B. Gibson.