The construction story of the gunboats made famous by Richard McKenna’s novel—soon to be re-released by the Naval Institute Press—and the classic motion picture starring Steve McQueen is one chock-full of problems that involved design, shipping, and quality control—not to mention the Chinese Revolution.
Western memory tends to be short-lived and highly selective, and Western society rarely recalls that troops from several Occidental nations and Japan once occupied China's cities, while U.S. warships patrolled China's rivers. We may have forgotten these events, but the Chinese have not; the national collective memory of the "century of shame" is never far from the surface in that country's dealings with foreign nations.
The U.S. naval presence in China dates from the earliest days of the republic: the Empress of China arrived in Canton in 1784, the first ship flying the new U.S. flag to enter the China trade. Extensive interests in China have continued to form the heart of U.S. Pacific policy to this day.