How an American officer helped modernize China’s Navy
The modernization of China’s military is widely perceived as a threat in the United States today. Yet some 135 years ago, one US naval officer traveled to the Middle Kingdom to help the country develop its prowess at sea – and it did not end well. Philo Norton McGiffin left the US in 1885 as a naive but determined 24-year-old to serve the Imperial Chinese Navy and was wounded in action. After eight years of intensive officer training, McGiffin failed to obtain a commission in the US Navy because of the lack of available ships in its tiny fleet. So instead, he traveled to China to seek employment fighting for the country in the Sino-French War (1884-85). “McGiffin is an important figure in t