William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Asia

The Photographs of Harry Fowler Woods

Afterword by University of Cincinnati Libraries Dean, Xuemao Wang

Not long after I first arrived at the University of Cincinnati and became the dean and university librarian in 2012, a longtime friend of UC and an enthusiast of the international connections of Cincinnati to Asian communities brought me the Chinese-language edition of this book. After briefly skimming it, I was immediately attracted to the rich historical photographs—images that I had never seen before, even in China. I learned the book was published by Zhejiang University Press in China, and my friend encouraged me to think of publishing an English-language edition.

My enthusiasm and curiosity towards what happened in 1905 during William Howard Taft’s first and largest American government delegation to China were just part of my driving interests in the book. I wanted to know why this significant historical event was rarely known by people in both countries and barely mentioned by historians from both countries. Certainly, I am also interested in the book’s implications for today’s and future generations to understand this significant historical event. I was convinced that in order to achieve these goals, I should consider the possibility of publishing the book on this side of the world.

In preparing to do so, I took a trip to Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China in 2013 to meet one of the book’s authors, Dr. Hong Shen, as well as to discuss matters regarding publishing terms with Zhejiang University Press. Following that visit, I organized an international authors forum by inviting Shen and the other author, Ms. Margo Stever, to Cincinnati for a joint presentation. The forum drew a large participation from the University of Cincinnati community and was very successful.

In recent geopolitical affairs, East Asia is catching people’s greater attention and concerns, especially with recently increasing tension between the countries of China, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and others. Over a century ago when President Theodore Roosevelt sent then Secretary of the War Taft to Asia, he had the clear goal of America playing a role in resolving regional tensions. The mission in the 1905 voyage had two very important aims: ending the Russo-Japanese War through diplomacy and demonstrating the powerful influence in the Philippines by the United States. By bolstering the president’s administration policy in China of “Open Door,” the result would be an increase in its competitive advantage in trade. President Roosevelt understood America’s position in balancing world power and in easing conflicts by sending a diplomatic delegation to learn how the United States could be more effective on the global stage.

The current U.S. administration has instituted a key Asian policy known as pivot or rebalance. The key points of this policy is aimed at “strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers, including with China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.” Nowadays, sending a large delegation to the Far East no longer requires a “Manchuria” solution. The globalization and new technologies have made people’s communication ever easier. However, neither globalization nor technologies can replace the human role in understanding, inter-exchanging, and inter-dependency especially when it comes to resolving conflict.

Today, the University of Cincinnati has launched an ambitious global outreach. In Asia, we have engaged with most of the countries and regions, particularly China. The recent successful academic program with Chongqing University is just one example. Recent enrollment data shows that UC’s international students have reached 3200. Students from Asian countries have reached 2700, and students from China alone have reached 1100.

It is my hope that the publishing of this book in English will help raise a greater global awareness of this important and under-promoted historical and diplomatic event. With additions added to this book regarding William Howard Taft’s relationship with the University of Cincinnati, I hope this book will help engage UC alumni around the world, particularly in East Asia where the fastgrowing alumni base is important for the university’s future. History can teach us how we may wisely assess current affairs and how we may rationally foresee the future. Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 Mission to Asia, The Photographs of Harry Fowler Woods is an invaluable resource for not only understanding history, but also our present and future.

Production of the Looking East website is made possible by
The Louise Taft Semple Foundation


Support for the Looking East project is provided by
The David G. Taft Foundation, The Louise Taft Semple Foundation, The William P. Anderson Foundation, The Thendara Foundation and The Betty D. Anderson Family Fund



Melissa Cox Norris, Director of Library Communications
University of Cincinnati PO Box 210033 Cincinnati, OH 45221
(513) 556-1558 or Melissa.norris@uc.edu

LOOKING EAST WEBSITE PROJECT TEAM (University of Cincinnati Libraries)

Melissa Cox Norris, Project Director
Carrie Hill-Harriss, Website Design
Lisa Haitz, Technology Leader
Thank you to the authors of Looking East, William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Asia, The Photographs of Harry Fowler Woods:
Margo Taft Stever, James Taft Stever and Hong Shen
Thank you to the Ohio History Project team and Margo Taft Stever for sharing their original photography exhibit website content
Book and cover design: Alyson Rua and Orange Frazer Press