One drop of oil, one drop of blood: The United States and the petroleum problem in wartime China, 1937-1945

Wu Lin-Chun*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 1931, Japan occupied Manchuria and seemed intent on conquering China. Because Japan was devoid of petroleum, planners turned to exploration in the Western Pacific. In China, mobilization for a military invasion and preparations for economic survival made control of petroleum supplies more urgent than ever. As Irvine H. Anderson reminds us in The Standard-Vacuum Oil Company and United States East Asian Policy, 1933-1941, Standard- Vacuum, Shell, and the Anglo-American diplomatic corps accelerated their close cooperation especially after Japan created monopolies of the economies of Manchuria and North China, which violated the traditional principles of American Open Door Policy. However, the American de facto embargo policy and the Japanese resolve to seize the necessary supplies in the Dutch Indies made it inevitable that American companies would become involved in the formulation and execution of American policy both before and after Pearl Harbor. Building on Anderson's extraordinary research, this article focuses on the petroleum problem in China and the American response, especially of the State Department and Foreign Service officers, during 1937-45.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-51
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of American-East Asian Relations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • China petroleum
  • Second Sino-Japanese War
  • Sino-U.S. economic relations
  • U.S.-China relations
  • United Business in China

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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