Date of Graduation

Spring 2022


Master of Arts in History



Committee Chair

Sarah Mellors


A commonly held assumption of America’s post-Cold War place in the world is that prolonged contact with American capitalism and democracy will lead to the adoption of these systems in all nations that participate in international trade. This paper attempts to verify or disprove that assumption by examining a specific traded commodity between two specific nations, the institutions that support this trade, and the people actively participating in it. The growth of soybean exports from the state of Missouri provides this vehicle for examining the trade history between the United States of America and China, and provides evidence that disproves the assumption that democracy is an inevitable outcome of this trade. Through agricultural exports data provided by the US government, past analyses of US-China trade relations, as well as personal interviews conducted with policy and government advocates, businesspeople experienced in US-China trade, and personal experiences participating in US-China trade, I examine the recent history of US-China agricultural trade relations and why these did not satisfy American foreign policy expectations of creating a democratic China. In order to do this, I have divided the periods after which soybean trade between the United States and China began into three periods: the period of Domestic Self-Sufficiency, the Strategic Period, and the State-Owned Enterprise Period. Along with the relevant historical and economic background information underlying Modernization Theory, I introduce the concept of a force in a capitalistic market that propels a state toward democracy through private exchanges, which I term the Democratizing Market Force (DMF). I show that, contrary to expectations, American individuals participating in soybean exchanges with China since the early 1970s did not act primarily out of ideological interest. Based on this case study, it is also evident that a naturally occurring Democratizing Market Force never manifested itself in the soybean trade between Missouri and China, thus disproving the social scientific theories about the ideologically deterministic nature of such exchanges.


China, Modernization Theory, democracy, soybeans, Missouri, trade, self-interest, markets, US, trade war

Subject Categories

Asian History | Economic History | United States History


© David D. Hammons

Open Access