As a key ally of the United States against Japan during World War II, Chinese resentments of the Chinese Exclusion laws could no longer be ignored. Japanese propaganda encouraged China to break with the United States, citing the open racism of the U.S. laws. Following a well-received speaking tour of the United States by Madam Chiang Kai-shek, the U.S. educated, Christian wife of China’s leader, Congress repealed the Chinese Exclusion laws within a few months. Chinese immigrants became the first Asians eligible to naturalize and gain citizenship while China became subject to the same immigration restrictions as Europeans. China’s annual immigration quota, however, allowed only 105 Chinese immigrant admittance each year, as the Chinese population in the United States was so low.
An Act To repeal the Chinese Exclusion Acts, to establish quotas, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the . . . Acts or parts of Acts relating to the exclusion or deportation of persons of the Chinese race are hereby repealed . . . .
” SEC. 2. With the exception of those coming under subsections (b), (d), (e), and (f) of section 4, Immigration Act of 1924 . . . all Chinese persons entering the United States annually as immigrants shall be allocated to the quota for the Chinese computed under the provisions of section 11 of the said Act. A preference up to 75 per centum of the quota shall be given to Chinese born and resident in China . . . .
Building on wartime exigencies but also increasingly widespread popular acceptance of acculturated, educated Chinese and growing discomfort with social Darwinist constructions of essentialized racial differences, the Citizens Committee acted strategically through a small number of key legislators and public figures to pursue a limited reform agenda…
To garner sufficient votes to pass, the measure had to strike a balance between foreign and domestic demands. On the one hand, the Chinese government had to be assuaged that its citizens had gained equitable conditions for entry and residence. On the other hand, the bill had to promise limited impact to appease those Americans concerned about restricting labor competition and racial integration. It would be the Magnuson bill that offered an attainable balance between narrowly framed reforms that nonetheless accomplished foreign diplomacy goals by calling for changes benefitting only Chinese. Repeal abolished the Chinese exclusion laws, granted naturalization rights only to Chinese, and placed Chinese on the same quota entry basis as other countries legislated with the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924. This gesture toward equitable treatment would allocate Chinese an annual quota of only 107, compared with Britain’s quota of 66,000. Even when admitted on the same basis as other nationalities, the numbers of Chinese entering each year would be miniscule…
Moving toward this symbolically momentous, yet practically inconsequential, reform generated debates and witness testimony that scrutinized the influence of domestic racial inequalities on America’s foreign relations, how best to manage “minority problems,” the possibility of Chinese assimilability and contributions to America, how “racial equality” might be introduced to immigration laws without triggering a flood of arrivals from Asia, and whether Chinese would be content with symbolic quotas… (92-93)
Hsu, M. Y. (2015). The good immigrants: How the yellow peril became the model minority. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.