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What were the causes and effects of the Chinese Exclusion Act?

The Chinese Exclusion Act was caused by economic competition and racial discrimination, leading to a significant decrease in Chinese immigration.

The Chinese Exclusion Act, passed in 1882 in the United States, was a result of a combination of economic and racial factors. The mid-19th century saw a significant influx of Chinese immigrants into the US, particularly in California, due to the Gold Rush and the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. These immigrants were willing to work for lower wages than their American counterparts, leading to intense competition for jobs. This economic competition, coupled with a deep-seated racial prejudice against the Chinese, led to growing anti-Chinese sentiment among the American public and politicians.

The economic competition was particularly fierce in the labour-intensive industries such as mining and railroad construction. The Chinese immigrants were often used as strikebreakers, further exacerbating the tension between them and the American workers. The economic downturn in the 1870s, known as the Long Depression, heightened the competition for jobs and fuelled anti-Chinese sentiment. Politicians, particularly in the West, capitalised on this sentiment to gain support, leading to the introduction and eventual passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Racial discrimination also played a significant role in the passage of the Act. The Chinese were seen as racially inferior and unassimilable to American society. They were often portrayed as a threat to the American way of life, with their different customs, traditions, and language. This racial prejudice was institutionalised in the form of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which effectively barred Chinese labourers from immigrating to the US.

The effects of the Chinese Exclusion Act were profound and long-lasting. It led to a significant decrease in Chinese immigration to the US. The Act also set a precedent for further restrictive immigration policies, such as the Immigration Act of 1924. It institutionalised the idea of racial exclusion in American immigration policy, which had lasting impacts on the Chinese community in the US. The Act also led to an increase in illegal immigration, as many Chinese sought to circumvent the restrictions by entering the US through Canada or Mexico. The Chinese Exclusion Act remained in effect until 1943, when it was repealed during World War II as a result of China's alliance with the US against Japan.

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