Yellow Peril: The Rise of an Imperial Scare

Tom Harper
University of Surrey

The Yellow Peril – symbolised by British author Sax Rohmer’s Chinese mastermind Fu Manchu, the self-described ‘Yellow Peril incarnate in one man’ (1913) –  is possibly the most influential paradigm informing the image of China and East Asia in Western popular consciousness [1]. This image depicts China as an implacable oriental opponent of the Western world, a uniform mass with little or no individuality and prone to extreme cruelty. While the perception of the China threat, such as fears over a full blown Sino-American trade war or fears over Chinese ‘student spies’, might appear to be a more recent development, it actually follows a path long trod in the European imperial imaginarium and perpetuated through American strategies in Asia during the 20th century [2]. These same policies have played an important role in influencing and proliferating the Yellow Peril paradigm. Continue reading “Yellow Peril: The Rise of an Imperial Scare”