The Open Door policy of the United States with China began in 1899 under the guidance and oversight of then-Secretary of State John Hay. Hay initiated the Open Door Policy through a series of notes compiled between 1899 and 1900. These notes were essentially requests from the United States to foster good trade relations between the United States and China. They were also political acts of goodwill, as Hay and the United States government pledged to preserve and respect China’s administrative and governmental operations and to leave its territorial acquisitions undisturbed.
The concept for the Open Door Notes began after a series of conversations between American and British foreign policy experts on China, namely Alfred E. Hippisley and William W. Rockhill. The two men decided their nations’ economic interests and assets in China would be best protected by a formal agreement, and the concept for the notes began. Although the United States and Great Britain had trade and diplomatic relations with China before the Open Door policy, the policy created by John Hay was the first official policy that the United States had in writing governing and guiding its trade relations and foreign policy with China and other Eastern nations. The Open Door policy remained in effect through the first half of the 20th century and proved valuable in directing and maintaining good diplomacy and trade relations between the United States and China.