Yuan Shih-kai accepts Chinese throne

Yuan Shih-kai accepts Chinese throne

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With war raging in Europe, conflict also reigns in the Far East between two traditional enemies, Japan and an internally-divided China. On December 11, 1915, the first president of the new Chinese republic, Yuan Shih-kai, who had come to power in the wake of revolution in 1911 and the fall of the Manchu Dynasty in 1912, accepts the title of emperor of China.

Japan had declared war on Germany in August 1914, capturing the most important German overseas naval base at Tsingtao, on China’s Shantung peninsula, by amphibious assault. In January 1915, Japan’s imperialist-minded foreign minister, Kato Takaaki, presented China with the so-called 21 Demands, which included the extension of direct Japanese control over more of Shantung, southern Manchuria, and eastern Inner Mongolia and the seizure of more territory, including islands in the South Pacific controlled by Germany.

If accepted in their entirety, the 21 Demands would have essentially reduced China to a Japanese protectorate. Though Yuan, a former general and China’s president since February 1912, when he succeeded Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalist Peoples’ party, was forced to accept all but the most radical of the demands, he attempted to use Chinese anger over them to justify his bid for restoring the monarchy and installing himself as emperor. Having already dismissed the Chinese parliament and expelled the KMT party from the government, he was now ruling through provincial military governors throughout the country. The return to monarchy was met by such strong opposition within and outside of China, including from some of those same military governors, that Yuan was quickly forced to return the country to the republican form of government. He died in 1916.

READ MORE: China: A Timeline

Yuan Shikai

Yuan Shikai (1859-1916, Wade-Giles: Yuan Shih-kai) was a high ranking Qing military commander and president of the first Chinese republic from 1912 to 1916. A military strongman rather than a political leader, Shikai’s attempt to revive the monarchy and install himself as emperor sounded the death knell for the republic.

Background and military career

Shikai was born in rural Henan and received a good education, however after failing the imperial examinations he chose to join the Qing national army. In the 1880s, Shikai was sent to Korea to train forces there he subsequently became Beijing’s ambassador to Korea, advising local leaders and preventing a Japanese coup.

In 1895, Shikai was recalled and given command of the modernised New Army in northern China. He retained the loyalty of this army until his death – and it would later prove a valuable political tool.

In 1898, Shikai aligned with Dowager Empress Cixi during the reaction to the Hundred Days’ Reforms, helping her to elbow the Guangxu Emperor from power. He was appointed as governor of Shandong province in 1899 and refused to aid or support the Boxer Rebellion brewing there. He later ignored Cixi’s instructions, using his New Army troops to suppress the Boxers rather than support them.

Shikai continued to accumulate power after the Boxer Rebellion, to the extent that some in the Qing court feared he might lead a military coup. In 1907 Shikai was stripped of his political offices and forced into retirement – but the death of Cixi in 1908 meant that Yuan Shikai was not yet out of the picture.

At the outbreak of the Xinhai Revolution in October 1911, Yuan Shikai’s political views were uncertain. His control of the New Army, China’s most powerful military force, made Shikai an important figure as a consequence, he was courted by both the Qing and the Republicans.

In late 1911, Shikai commanded his army in battle against republican revolutionaries at Yangxia. A week later, he changed sides again after Sun Yixian offered him the presidency in a post-Qing republican government.

From president to aspiring emperor

Shikai was duly sworn in as president in February 1912. As China’s first Republican president, Shikai enjoyed the respect of conservatives and foreign powers. He had no personal commitment to republicanism or democracy, however, and much of his presidency was spent working to undermine or weaken the elected National Assembly.

Shikai’s last significant political act was an attempt to revive the monarchy. In December 1915, a puppet assembly convened by Shikai petitioned him to restore imperial rule and accept the title of emperor. This was met with condemnation and widespread opposition, both inside China and from foreign powers, most notably Japan. By March 1916, Shikai had all but abandoned the plan. He died just three months later.

Az Európában dühöngő háborúval a Távol-Keleten a konfliktus uralkodik két hagyományos ellenség, Japán és egy belsőleg megosztott Kína között. 1915. december 11-én az új kínai köztársaság első elnöke, Yuan Shih-kai, aki hatalomra került az 1911-es forradalom nyomán és a Manchu-dinasztia 1912-es bukásakor, elfogadja Kína császárának a címét.

Japán 1914 augusztusában háborút hirdetett Németországnak, kétéltű támadás útján elfogva a legfontosabb német tengerentúli tengeri támaszpontot Tsingtaóban, a kínai Shantung-félszigeten. 1915 januárjában Japán imperialista gondolkodású külügyminisztere, Kato Takaaki Kínát az úgynevezett 21 követeléssel terjesztette elő, amely magában foglalta a közvetlen japán ellenőrzés kiterjesztését Shantung, Dél-Mandžuuria és Kelet-Belső-Mongólia felett, valamint további területek elfoglalását. , ideértve a Csendes-óceán déli részén fekvő, Németország ellenőrzése alatt álló szigeteket.

Ha teljes egészében elfogadnák, a 21 igény lényegében Kínát egy japán protektorátusmá változtatta volna. Juan, a volt tábornok és Kína elnöke 1912 februárja óta, amikor Sun Yat-sen utódjaként a Kuomintang (KMT) vagy a nacionalista népek pártjának alapítója kénytelen volt minden igényt elfogadni, kivéve a radikálisabb követelményeket, megpróbált használja fel a kínai haragot fölöttük, hogy igazolja a monarchia helyreállítására és császárként való felállítására irányuló ajánlatát. Miután már elbocsátotta a kínai parlamentet és kitűzte a KMT pártot a kormánytól, most az országos tartományi katonai kormányzók útján uralkodott. A monarchiahoz való visszatérést Kínában és azon kívül, beleértve ugyanazon katonai kormányzók némelyike ​​által elkövetett annyira erős ellenállás fogadta el, hogy Yuan-t gyorsan arra kényszerítették, hogy visszatérje az országot a republikánus kormányzati formába. 1916-ban halt meg.

WI Yuan Shih-Kai ordered an invasion of German Qingdao in August 1914?

WI Yuan Shih-kai, the President and dictator of the early Republic of China, moved quickly after the outbreak of the war in Europe in 1914 to overpower the German garrison and reclaim the German leasehold in Shandong as sovereign Chinese territory.

Yuan has no particular reason to resent the Germans more than any other variety of foreigner, but decides that attacking the Germans is a good move mainly because, unlike most other foreign leaseholds: a) the Germans in China are isolated from support and the Chinese can overwhelm them, b) Japan or another Entente country is likely to take the territory otherwise, c) the Germans are in the smaller, more distant coalition and are therefore more likely to lose the war, d) he figures that if Germany does win in Europe and get to project serious power in the Far East again there is plenty of time for the Beiyang Republic to make concessions back to the Germans before things get too bad, and e) a successful anti-foreign operation would raise his prestige. Any additional international prestige or diplomatic popularity with Entente powers that China might gain is just added gravy for the dish.

With Yuan thinking along these lines and massing troops and guns accordingly, can he secure Qingdao from the Germans before the Japanese do?

What are the knock-on effects of this move?

Does this do away with the May 4th Movement and make China inclined to sign at Versailles?

How is Japanese foreign policy altered if at all? [minimal change would be the 21 Demands have less to say about Shandong in particular but are otherwise similar more extensive change would be Japan trying to pry Qingdao for itself anyway & driving China out, Japan demanding a greater share of German Pacific territories (Nauru?), Japan doing less in the wider naval war (feeling upset w/fewer gains) or Japan switching sides to join Germany]


WI Yuan Shih-kai, the President and dictator of the early Republic of China, moved quickly after the outbreak of the war in Europe in 1914 to overpower the German garrison and reclaim the German leasehold in Shandong as sovereign Chinese territory.

Yuan has no particular reason to resent the Germans more than any other variety of foreigner, but decides that attacking the Germans is a good move mainly because, unlike most other foreign leaseholds: a) the Germans in China are isolated from support and the Chinese can overwhelm them, b) Japan or another Entente country is likely to take the territory otherwise, c) the Germans are in the smaller, more distant coalition and are therefore more likely to lose the war, d) he figures that if Germany does win in Europe and get to project serious power in the Far East again there is plenty of time for the Beiyang Republic to make concessions back to the Germans before things get too bad, and e) a successful anti-foreign operation would raise his prestige. Any additional international prestige or diplomatic popularity with Entente powers that China might gain is just added gravy for the dish.

With Yuan thinking along these lines and massing troops and guns accordingly, can he secure Qingdao from the Germans before the Japanese do?

What are the knock-on effects of this move?

Does this do away with the May 4th Movement and make China inclined to sign at Versailles?

How is Japanese foreign policy altered if at all? [minimal change would be the 21 Demands have less to say about Shandong in particular but are otherwise similar more extensive change would be Japan trying to pry Qingdao for itself anyway & driving China out, Japan demanding a greater share of German Pacific territories (Nauru?), Japan doing less in the wider naval war (feeling upset w/fewer gains) or Japan switching sides to join Germany]

Yuan Shikai

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Yuan Shikai, Wade-Giles romanization Yüan Shih-k’ai, courtesy name (zi) Weiting, literary name (hao) Rong’an, (born Sept. 16, 1859, Henan province, China—died June 6, 1916), Chinese army leader and reformist minister in the twilight of the Qing dynasty (until 1911) and then first president of the Republic of China (1912–16).

Yuan was from a landed military family of Xiangcheng in Henan province. In his youth he showed a propensity for pleasure-seeking and excelled in physical activity rather than scholarship, although he was obviously a man of remarkable astuteness. He failed to win even the lowest of the classical-examination degrees but was to have the distinction of being the first Han Chinese to hold a viceroyalty and to become a grand councillor without any academic qualification. In the last days of the empire, he was made a marquess.

Yuan began his career in the Qing brigade of the Anhui army, commanded by Li Hongzhang, which was dispatched to Korea in 1882 to try to prevent Japanese encroachment in the area. The political crises of that remote kingdom repeatedly offered him opportunities to prove the correctness of his judgment and the promptness of his action, especially in military and economic affairs. In 1885 he was made Chinese commissioner at Seoul, and his energetic and loyal service to the throne contributed to the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95.

With the destruction of China’s navy and army by Japan in the war, the Qing capital of Beijing was exposed to external and internal attack in consequence, the training of a new army became an urgent task that fell on Yuan. As the division under his command was the only remnant of China’s army that survived the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, Yuan’s political stature became greater than that of all others, and in 1901 he was given the viceroyalty of the metropolitan province. In that office, and later as a grand councillor, he was to play a decisive part in China’s modernization and defense programs throughout, he enjoyed the trust and unflinching support of the dowager empress Cixi. On the death of the empress (1908), his opponents, notably the regent for the infant emperor, stripped him of all his offices and sent him home. Nevertheless, when the tide of revolution threatened to engulf the Qing dynasty, the throne was to need his service once more.

At this critical juncture, Yuan appeared to conservatives and revolutionaries alike as the only man who could lead the country to peace and unity, and so both the emperor in Beijing and the provisional president in Nanjing recommended Yuan to be the first president of China. The treasury then was empty the provinces were in the hands of local war lords a permanent constitution was still in the making and the newly elected National Assembly was, to Yuan, too quarrelsome and too cumbersome for the good of the country. When his plan for a gigantic foreign loan was obstructed by the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) in the National Assembly, he ruthlessly murdered the chairman of the party and undermined the assembly, thus bringing about a revolt against him in 1913. His victory in that struggle marked the end of all hopes for parliamentary democracy in China. Thereafter, he contrived to make himself president for life and then boldly announced a new imperial dynasty with himself as emperor in 1915–16. Yuan’s last attempt, ironically, sowed dissension even among the conservative civilian and military forces that had supported him. Widespread opposition, backed by Japan, rose to challenge his authority. Yuan found his European friends preoccupied by World War I and his old lieutenants unwilling to fight. He was forced to abolish the newly announced monarchy in March 1916 and died three months later.

History of The Foreign Policy of Japan

Before 1867-68, Japan was a backward country, but in that year there took place a revolution which changed the very face of Japan.

Feudalism was abolished. The Shogunate which controlled the Government was also come to an end. The people of Japan were infused into the soldiers.

Japan adopted and assimilated European culture and institutions. She began to dream of becoming a Great Power in the world.

Image Source: jsmea.or.jp/images/japan_logo.jpg

Her population began to grow and she required raw materials for her factories and markets for the finished goods. She wanted vacant lands for her surplus population. She wanted to put an end to the unequal treaties which had been imposed on her by the European Powers in the past. All these factors demanded a vigorous foreign policy.

  1. Sino-Japanese War (1894-95)
  2. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance (1902)
  3. Russo-Japanese War (1904-5)
  4. Japan during World War I
  5. The Washington Conference (1921)
  6. Manchuria

1. Sino-Japanese War (1894-95):

The first important landmark in the foreign policy of Japan was the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. Japan had a quarrel with China over Korea. She was afraid that some European power might take advantage of the weakness of Korea and establish her control over it. She considered the independence of Korea essential to her own security because Korea in the hands of an enemy was “a dagger thrust at the heart of Japan.”

In 1894, Japan gave an ultimatum to the King of Korea to accept the Japanese programme of reforms. The King tried to avoid the issue and consequently Japan attached Korea and took her King as a prisoner. China entered the war on the side of Korea but was defeated.

The Chinese were defeated because they were over-confident, ill- organized and inefficient. In less than a year, the Japanese overran the whole of Korea and Southern Manchuria and threatened Peking. In April 1895 was signed the Treaty of Shimonosheki.

By this treaty, China gave to Japan the Liao-tung Peninsula, Port Arthur and the Island of Formosa. China agreed to pay a huge war indemnity and make certain commercial concessions to Japan. She also recognized the independence of Korea and thereby gave a free hand to Japan. The result of Sino-Japanese War was that Japan was recognized as a Great Power and the European Powers began to fear what was called the “Yellow Peril”. The extra-territorial rights of the foreign countries in Japan were ended.

However, Japan was not allowed to keep to herself the gains which she got by the Treaty of 1895. Russia, France and Germany presented a joint note to Japan offering their friendly advice that she should refrain from annexing any part of the Chinese mainland. Instead of risking a war, Japan took the advice and returned to China the Liao-tung Peninsula and Port Arthur. Japan found herself helpless before the three Powers, and felt humiliated.

The joint intervention of the three Powers was not out of any humanitarian consideration. They had their own axes to grind. The Russian imperialists felt that Korea and the Liao-tung Peninsula were of vital importance to their country. If Japan dominated Korea, she would be able to control both sides of the southern outlet of the Japan Sea on which was situated the Russian port of Vladivostok, the intended terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

If Japan annexed the Liao-tung Peninsula, there would be no possibility of Russia getting an ice-free port in the south. Under the circumstances, Russian interests demanded that Japan must be ousted from those regions.

France joined hands with Russia as her faithful ally in world politics. William II, the German Emperor, was prepared to join hands with a view to meeting the “yellow peril”. His view was that Christendom must stand firmly against the pagan Orient.

He wanted to cultivate good relations, with Russia and no wonder he tried to show himself more zealous than France as a friend of Russian imperialism. He wanted to weaken the Franco-Russian Alliance and rob it of its anti-German slant. The memoirs of William II and Tirpitz show that at that time Germany desired to have a naval base in the Far East. It is these considerations that brought Russia, France and Germany together.

Having deprived Japan of her spoils of victory, the three powers were most anxious to get whatever they could from the Chinese Government. France got control over all the mines in the three southern provinces adjoining French Indo-China. She also got the right to extend the French railway-line from Annam to China. Russia started her influence in China by the establishment of the Russo-Chinese Bank. She also got Port Arthur.

Germany got the lease of the port and district of Kiao-Chow for 99 years and concessions for two railways in Shantung. Great Britain acquired the lease of Wei-hai-Wei “for as long a period as Port Arthur shall remain the possession of Russia.” It cannot be denied that the Treaty of Shimonosheki opened China for European aggression.

2. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance (1902):

The Anglo-Japanese Treaty was signed in January 1902 and both Japan and England had their own reasons for doing so. As regards Japan, she had been deprived of her gains from the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 by the combined action of Russia, France and Germany. She was forced to give back the Liao-tung Peninsula and Port Arthur to China. Port Arthur was occupied by Russia herself in 1897.

Russia also got certain concessions regarding ‘the Trans-Siberian Railway. All these were resented by Japan. England was the only country which did not join the other Powers against Japan. No wonder while Japan came to have a grudge against other European Powers, especially Russia, she began to look to England as a friend to check Russian ambitions.

It was in these circumstances that the seeds of the Anglo-Japanese alliance were planted. It is stated that Joseph Chamberiain talked of an Anglo-Japanese alliance in 1898. Russia tried to exploit the situation created in China by the Boxer Rising. She overran Manchuria and tried to secure recognition of her position by her influence over the Dowager Empress.

There was a lot of opposition from the other Powers to the establishment of Russian military protectorate over Manchuria and Russia was forced to withdraw. Both Japan and England felt that a check could be put on Russian advance by an alliance between the two countries. Count Heyashi told Lord Lansdowne that the Japanese had “a strong sentimental dislike to the retention by Russia of Manchuria from which they had at one time been expelled.”

However, Japan was not so much interested in Manchuria as in Korea. The Russian attitude was that while she was determined to control Manchuria herself she was not prepared to allow Japan to have a free hand in Korea.

There was every possibility of intervention by foreign Powers into the affairs of Korea and that Japan could not tolerate. Korea “could not possibly stand alone—its people were far too unintelligent and sooner or later it would have to be decided whether the country was to fall to Russia or not.”

The Japanese “would certainly fight in order to prevent it and it must be the object of their diplomacy to isolate Russia with which Power, if it stood alone, they were prepared to deal.” According to Lord Newton, the biographer of Lord Lansdowne, “Japan was prepared to fight for Korea single-handed, but not if other Powers such as France and Germany were to intervene.” Hence the necessity of a British alliance.

England also had her own reasons to enter into an alliance with Japan. Throughout the 19th century, England had followed a policy of splendid isolation and consequently had not entered into any alliance with any country. In 1879 was formed the Austro-German Alliance and in 1882 was made the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy In 1894, Russia and France entered into an alliance.

Thus, while other European Powers had entered into alliances, England had remained completely aloof from them but she began to feel towards the end of the 19th century that isolation was dangerous and not in the best interests of the country. A similar feeling was there on the occasion of the Fashoda incident of 1898.

The attitude of the European Powers during the Boer War also made England feel that her policy of isolation was not a right one. She wanted to enter into an alliance with Germany but the attitude of William II was not helpful. All the efforts of men like Joseph Chamberlain to bring together Germany and England failed.

The last effort was made in 1901 when William II came to England on the occasion of the death of Queen Victoria. When William II was approached for an alliance, his famous reply was. “The road to Berlin lies through Vienna.” Chamberlain is reported to have stated that if the people in Germany had no sense, there was no help for that.

It was under these circumstances that England decided to enter into an alliance with Japan and it was done in the beginning of January. There was another reason why England wanted to enter into an alliance with Japan. Both England and Japan were determined to check the further advance of Russia in the Far East and it was this community of interests that brought the two countries together.

Terms of the Treaty:

(1) Both Japan and England declared that they had no idea of aggression in China or Korea. They also expressed their anxiety to maintain the status quo in both the countries.

(2) It was agreed between England and Japan that England had her interests in China and Japan had her interests both in China and Korea. It was agreed that it would be admissible for either of them to take such measures as might be indispensable in order to safeguard those interests if threatened either by the aggressive action of any other Power or by disturbances arising in China or Korea.

(3) If either England or Japan was involved in a war with another Power while safeguarding those interests, the other party was to maintain strict neutrality. It was also to do its utmost to prevent other Powers from joining hostilities against its ally.

(4) If any other Power or Powers should join in hostilities against that ally, the other party was to come to its assistance and conduct the war in common and make peace in mutual agreement with it.

(5) Both England and Japan agreed that neither of them was to enter into a separate arrangement with another Power to the prejudice of the interests of the other without consulting the other.

(6) Whenever, in the opinion of either England or Japan, the above interests were in danger, the two governments were to communicate with each other fully and frankly.

(7) The agreement was to come into force at once and was to remain in force for five years.

The Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 1902 was revised in 1905. According to the revised agreement, each country was to come to the help of the other if the latter were attacked even by a single Power and the scope of the alliance was also extended to embrace British India. The alliance was to last for 10 years. In 1911, the agreement was again revised in order to remove any danger of England being involved in a war between the United States and Japan. The alliance continued up to 1923.

Importance of the Treaty:

The importance of the Anglo-Japanese alliance cannot be over­emphasized. It is rightly pointed out that there was no other treaty from which both the parties gained so much as did Japan and England from the treaty of 1902. Japan wanted an ally on whom she could depend to put a check to the further advance of Russia in the Far East. This she got in England.

According to the treaty, if she was involved in a war with Russia, England was to do everything in her power to prevent other Powers from joining Russia against Japan. This was to enable Japan to deal effectively with Russia. Japan was not so much afraid of Russia alone as she was afraid of the help that Russia might get from some other Powers. Having secured herself by the Treaty of 1902, there is no wonder that Japan chose her own opportunity to begin the war with Russia in 1904, only two years after the Treaty.

Great Britain also gained a lot from this Treaty. She was as much interested in checking the further advance of Russia in the Far East as Japan herself. She would like to help Japan in every way so that the latter might be able to deal a blow to Russia. Moreover, England was getting worried over the naval programme of Germany.

Germany was building her navy at a tremendous speed and that was liable to threaten the very existence of Great Britain. Under these circumstances, Great Britain wanted to withdraw her ships from the Pacific. This she could do after entering into an alliance with Japan which was a Great Power in the Pacific.

It is pointed out that this alliance was of very great importance to Japan from another point of view. It raised the status of Japan. She was admitted on terms of equality by the greatest of the world Empires.’ Japanese ambitions to expand got an impetus.

According to Lansdowne, the treaty was concluded “purely as a measure of precaution.” It did not threaten “the present or the legitimate interests of the other Powers.” It was intended to make for the preservation of peace and if peace was unfortunately broken, it was to have the effect of restricting the area of hostilities.

The Treaty of 1902 gave Japan a free hand in the Far East. It was undoubtedly a great landmark in her history of expansion in the Far East. She could depend not only upon her own strength but also upon the help which she was to get under the amended Treaty of 1905 which required England to come to the help of Japan if Japan went to war even with one single Power.

According to Grant and Temperley, “This Treaty was of epoch-making importance in every direction. Its intention, so far as Japan was concerned, must remain a little mysterious. The English diplomats seem to have thought that they would be able to keep Japan in order and to prevent her aggression against Russia. It is easy to see now that this was an entire mistake. Japanese military and naval organisation would be complete by the end of 1903, and after that, England’s alliance would (and did) enable them to attack Russia as soon as they found it convenient to do so.

This was not the only British mistake. Her negotiators seem to have believed that the effect of this treaty would be confined to the local area of China. But the diplomacy of the Great Powers is world-wide in its action and extent, and an alliance affecting the Sea of Japan was bound to trouble the Mediterranean and the North Sea. England’s situation, however, was not so perilous as it appeared. She was not indeed on friendly terms either with Russia or with France, but then neither was she with Germany. Even after the Japanese Alliance England could have joined either the Triple or the Dual Alliance. Germany seems still to have expected or hoped for the former.”

According to Taylor, “The Anglo-Japanese agreement, signed on 30 January 1902, gave both parties what they wanted. The Japanese got recognition of their special interest in Korea, and the assurance that Great Britain would keep France neutral in case they went to war with Russia. The British prevented any Japanese combine with Russia and strengthened the barrier against any further Russian advance. The price they paid was small now that the Boer War was over the British could easily spare the ships to counter France in the Far East their only sacrifice was Korea, and that was only a sacrifice of principle.

The gain, however, was not so great at the time as it was made by later unforeseen events. No one, not even the Japanese, supposed that they were capable of sustaining a serious war against Russia both parties hoped to strike a bargain with Russia, nor to go to war with her. The agreement threatens Russia’s position in Manchuria at the most it made further Russian expansion more difficult. Again, the alliance did not mark the end of British isolation rather it confirmed it. Isolation meant aloofness from the European Balance of Power and this was now more possible than before.

On the other hand, the alliance certainly did not imply any British estrangement from Germany. Rather the reverse. The British would no longer have to importune the Germans for help in the Far East and, therefore, relations between them would be easier. The Germans had constantly suggested alliance with the Japanese to the British and they were given advance notice of its conclusion. They believed that it would increase the tension between Great Britain and Russia, and welcome it much as Napoleon III had welcomed the Prussian alliance with Italy in the spring of 1866.”

According to Gottschalk and Lach, “Though the Americans feared the consequences of giving Japan a free hand in Korea, the possibility of Russo-Japanese cooperation in eastern Asia appeared an even greater danger. Secretary Hay was primarily concerned that, no matter what happens eventually in northern China and Manchuria, the United States shall not be placed in any worse position then while the country was under the unquestioned dominion of China.

And President Roosevelt expressed the opinion. ‘We cannot possibly interfere for the Koreans against Japan. They could not strike one blow in their own defence.’ Thus the United States government, agreeing with Great Britain that the realities required the courting of Tokyo, was prepared to refrain from interference with Japan’s obvious designs upon Korea.

“The end of England’s diplomatic isolation and the conclusion of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance helped to crystallize the alliance systems of Europe- Great Britain’s hostility to the Asiatic ambitions of Russia was viewed hopefully in Berlin, as presaging a conflict involving two of Germany’s potential enemies. The Germans were also hopeful that the Anglo-Japanese Alliance might add to the hard feelings between France and England because of France’s commitments to Russia against such an eventuality by providing for their neutrality in case of hostilities in the Far East limited to Russia and Japan alone. Under the terms of her alliance France was similarly protected from involvement on the side of Russia in an outbreak in eastern Asia. Both the Anglo-Japanese nor the Franco- Russian treaty, therefore, put obstacles in the way of an entente of France and England regarding their common interests in Europe and Africa, and an Anglo-French entente was soon to become a reality.”

The importance of this defensive and offensive alliance was realized at once. William II expressed his satisfaction over the Treaty. Both Austria and Italy sent congratulations. However, both Russia and France “made little attempt to conceal their disappointment.” The Anglo-Japanese alliance ended the British policy of isolation. After 1902, he entered into the Entenet Cordiale with France and in 1907 she made the Anglo-Russian Convention with Russia.

3. Russo-Japanese War (1904-05):

Manchuria has been rightly called the granary of the Far East. In addition to her agricultural products, she is rich in timber and minerals and no wonder its importance to Japan was very great. In 1895, Japan reluctantly gave up her control over the Liao-tung Peninsula as she felt that she could not face the combination of Russia, France and Germany.

However, Russia got for herself the lease of Port Arthur and the neighboring harbour of Talien-Wan for 25 years. She also secured the right to carry the Trans-Siberian Railway across Manchuria to Vladivostok. Port Arthur was also linked up by the railway with the Trans-Siberian Railway.

The Manchurian section of the Trans-Siberian Railway was known by the name of the Chinese Eastern Railway. It appeared to Japan that the Chinese Eastern Railway was as much a commercial project as a strategic railway. Thousands of Russian troops were garrisoned in Manchuria. Port Arthur was strengthened and a large fleet was stationed there. Japan dreaded that Russia would next pounce upon Korea. The situation was a serious one.

However, in 1902, a treaty was signed between China and Russia by which Russia undertook to respect the integrity of China and evacuate Manchuria. China agreed to be responsible for the safety of Russian subjects and Russian enterprises in that province. The evacuation was to be completed in three stages of 6 months each.

At the end of each stage, a part of Manchuria defined in the treaty was to be restored to China. In October 1902, Russia fulfilled the terms of the treaty. However, in April 1903, the second section of Manchuria was still in the hands of Russian troops and the Russian Government informed China that any further evacuation was to be a conditional one.

That was to take place only if China agreed to give certain concessions to Russia in Manchuria. This new demand of Russia was against the terms of the Treaty of April 1902. China was supported by Great Britain, the U.S.A. and Japan and consequently she refused to concede the Russian demand.

At that time, Russian subjects were carrying on some activities in North Korea. Bezobrazoff, a Russian speculator, was engaged in extorting a concession from the Korean Government. That concession carried with it the right to cut timber on the Yalu River. Bezobrazoff had great influence on persons in the entourage of the Czar. Work was begun on the Yalu River in April 1903 and on that pretext Russian troops were moved towards the river.

This was a direct violation of the agreement between Russia and Japan with regard to Korea. Japan had already spent a lot of money and taken great pains to develop her influence and control over Korea and consequently she was not prepared to allow Russia to have her own way. Japan made representations at St. Petersburg and protested that the activities of the Russian agents were not in accordance with the pledges made by the Russian Government.

Japan was willing to enter into a new treaty by which Russian interests in Manchuria could be safeguarded but Japan’s interests in Korea were also to be recognised and guaranteed. Russia gave her reply in October 1903. While certain restrictions were to be put on Japan with regard to Korea, Russia was to have a free hand in Manchuria and on the Yalu River. Fruitless negotiations were continued between the two countries for many months. Russia took advantage of this interval and tried to strengthen her military position in the Far East.

On 13 January 1904, Japan agreed to regard Manchuria as outside her sphere of influence but she also demanded that Russia should give a similar undertaking with regard to Korea. Japan asked for an early reply on account of the brisk movements of the Russian troops. As no reply was received, Japan decided to end the negotiations and on 5 February 1904 diplomatic relations with Russia were cut off.

In the beginning of February 1904, Russia had, east of Lake Baikal, about 80,000 field troops, 25,000 fortress troops and about 3,000 troops as frontier guards. Those forces were scattered over the immense area lying between Lake Baikal on the west, Vladivostok on the east, Nikolaievsk on the north and Port Arthur on the south.

The distance between the two main groups was about 900 miles. The rate at which the resources of European Russia could be made available in the Far East was dependent upon the capacity of the Eastern Siberian Railway. Neither the permanent way of the Eastern Siberian Railway, nor the number and accommodations of stations and sidings.

The quality of the rolling stock was such as to put up with the strain of heavy military traffic. However, the greatest headache was presented by Lake Baikal which created a gap of about 100 miles over which the railway had still to be constructed. On account of this gap, the passengers and goods had to be carried over an area of 30 miles of area.

During a part of the winter season, the water was frozen and things had to be carried on the snow. However, when the snow melted, all traffic came to a standstill till such time as the water became navigable. That pointed to the difficulties in the way of the Russian Government while fighting against Japan. It was not possible to send sufficient reinforcements before the end of April. Japan was sure that she would have to deal with a very small army of Russia to begin with.

As compared with Russia, the position of Japan at the beginning of the war was that she had an active army of 1,80,000 men with a first reserve of 200,000 strong and 470,000 other trained men or about 850,000 trained men in all. Japan was fully prepared for war. The huge indemnity which she had got from China was used profitably for the development of the army and the navy.

“Her spies and secret agents had thoroughly familiarised themselves with the topography and resources of Korea and Manchuria and her diplomatists had secured a clear ring for the fight by the Treaty of Alliance with Great Britain. Her soldiers had the opportunity of comparing themselves with the Russians in the Boxer campaign.

The result had not discouraged them. Her credit in the great money markets was good, and her supply of ammunitions and stores was complete down to the last gaiter button. She threw down the gauntlet to one of the greatest Powers of Europe to the astonishment of the world—but with the most complete confidence in herself, a confidence that was shared by every unit in the Empire, from the Heaven- descended Emperor on the throne down to the humblest private in the ranks.” (Longford).

The Russo-Japanese war was fought both on land and sea. The greatest battle of the war was that of Mukden, the capital of Manchuria. The fighting was so bitter that each side lost about 60,000 men in killed and wounded. The battle was won by Japan. However, as she was too much exhausted she could not follow up the victory.

Russia sent her Baltic fleet to the Far East. When it entered the Straits of Tsushima between Korea and Japan, it was completely destroyed by Admiral Togo. The naval battle of Tsushima has been compared to the Battle of Trafalgar. It was a decisive battle. Japan got control of the Pacific.

Both parties were completely exhausted and peace was ultimately brought about through the good offices of President Theodore Roosevelt of the U.S.A. By the terms of the Treaty of Portsmouth which was signed in September 1905, Russia recognised Korea within the sphere of interest of Japan. She also transferred to Japan her lease of the Liao-tung Peninsula. She also gave the southern half of the Island of Sakhalin to Japan and agreed to evacuate Manchuria.

It’s Effects:

(1) The Russo-Japanese war had far-reaching effects. It affected the history not only of Russia and Japan, but also that of China, India,, the East in general and also the West. The Russian dreams of having a warm-water port in the Far East were shattered completely. As Russia got a setback in the Far East she began to concentrate more and more in the Near East and Middle East. The defeat of Russia also exposed the weakness of the autocratic regime of the Romanovs. The liberal and revolutionary forces in Russia became active and consequently the Czar was forced to make concessions in 1905. That led to the liberal experiment in that country for some time.

(2) Japan had been deprived of her gains in 1895 by Russia and her collaborators. By defeating Russia in 1904-05, Japan felt that she had got her revenge. She had suffered from a sense of frustration for some time, but after 1905, she felt that she could go ahead with her programme of expansion and conquest.

Korea was completely at her mercy and she could annex it in 1910. Japan became a full-fledged imperialist country after 1905. She got a lead in the Far East and also entered into an open competition and rivalry with other European Powers in China. That process continued till the end of the Second World War.

(3) The Russo-Japanese war had its repercussions on European politics also. It was during this war that William II, the German Emperor, tried to win over Russia. Germany helped the refueling of the Russian ships in the Baltic. Attempts were made to convince Russia that she could depend upon Germany in her hour of difficulty. Russia could not depend upon England as she was already in alliance with Japan.

In July 1905, William II and Nicholas II met at Bjorko. Both the monarchs agreed that in the event of British attack on the Baltic, they were to safeguard their interests by occupying Denmark during the war. The Kaiser produced the draft of a treaty which was signed by the Czar in the presence of two witnesses.

According to the draft treaty, if any European State should attack either Power, the other was to aid with all its forces and neither of the two was to conclude a separate peace treaty.The treaty was to come into force on the conclusion of peace with Japan and was to be cancelled only after a notice of a year. Russia was to make the terms of the treaty known to France and invite her to join it.

The Kaiser was happy at his achievement. The alliance was to be of use to Russia as it was to create confidence in the minds of the people with regard to peace and was likely to encourage financial circles in foreign countries to invest money in Russian enterprises. That was likely to cool down the self-assertion and impertinence of William II.

It was accepted that Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Norway would be attracted to the new centre of gravity and revolve in the orbit of the great bloc of Powers. It appeared that the old dream of William II to create a combination of the continental Powers under the leadership of Germany was going to be realised.

However, the Czar did not seem to be enthusiastic about the Bjorko pact. After the conclusion of the war with Japan, he informed his Foreign Minister of what had transpired at Bjorko. It is stated that the Russian Foreign Minister “could not believe his eyes or ears.” The Bjorko pact had to be denounced because France was opposed to it and the Russian Ministers also doubted its efficacy.

The Czar also hesitated and repented. William II reminded Nicholas II of the moral obligations arising out of the Bjorko pact and asked Nicholas II to spend more time, labour and patience to induce France to join the pact. He reminded him of their joining these pacts before God and taking of the vows. “What is signed is signed God is our testator.” The pact could not make any headway.

The Russian Ambassador at Paris informed the Czar that France was not prepared to join the German League on any condition. Nicholas II pointed out that the pact was not followed as it did not bear the signatures of the Foreign Ministers. It was under these circumstances that the Bjorko pact became a dead letter. It was treacherously extorted and quickly denounced and consequently did not affect the course of European politics.

(4) However, as a result of the efforts of France, Edward VII, Grey and Izvolski, the Anglo-Russian Convention was signed in 1907. This could be said to be an indirect effect of the Russo-Japanese War.

(5) The Russo-Japanese war shook China from her slumber. She felt humiliated at the thought that two foreign Powers made her territory as the battle-ground. The patriots of China would like to break with the past traditions and carry out revolutionary changes in their country with a view to putting their country on her feet. No wonder, the reform movement in China got an impetus from the war of 1904-5.

(6) The Russo-Japanese war profoundly influenced the imagination of the people of the East. It was for the first time in modem history that an Asiatic Power was able not only to face a Western power but also to defeat her completely. This gave encouragement to the nationalist forces in the East. It is pointed out that the Battle of Tsushima was more disastrous to the prestige of the West than the First Afghan War. To the East it held out fresh hopes and feelings of confidence. The victory of Japan profoundly affected the national agitation in India.

4. Japan during World War I:

When the First World War broke out in 1914, Japan also declared war against the Central Powers. She took full advantage of the preoccupation of the Great Powers in the European theatre of war. She captured Kiao-Chou and the other German concessions in Shantung. These possessions were guaranteed to Japan by the secret treaty with the allies. In January 1915, Japan presented the famous. “Twenty-one Demands” to China. An attempt was made to conceal the contents of those demands from other Powers, but they leaked out.

Those demands related to Shantung, Manchuria, Eastern Inner Mongolia and coal and iron concessions. It was also demanded that China must not alienate any of her gulfs, harbours and coasts to any other Power. Its object was to close China to Europe and keep Asia for the Asiatics. It has been characterised as the “Asiatic Monroe Doctrine”.

Japan also demanded the appointment of a Japanese adviser, purchase of Japanese ammunition, control over the police and the right of carrying religious propaganda in China. Japan tried to put all kinds of pressure on China to get those demands accepted.

The Chinese President Yuan Shih-kai was offered support for his own imperial schemes. He was also threatened with war. In May 1915, an ultimatum was presented to China and the latter had to accept most of the demands of Japan. It was pointed out that the treaty of 1915 between China and Japan “was the outcome of a Private deal between Yuan Shih-kai and Japan.

From a legal point of view, it has never been passed by Parliament and therefore cannot be enforced from the practical point of view. Yuan Shih-kai had at this time already become a criminal traitor to the Chinese Republic and had no claim to represent the people who at that time regarded Japan with a universal and bitter hatred”.

In 1917 Japan entered into the Lansing-Ishii agreement with the U.S.A. by which the latter recognised “that territorial propinquity creates special relations between countries” and Japan “has therefore special interests in China.” In other words, the U.S.A. also accepted the special claims of Japan in China.

As both Japan and China fought on the side of the Allies, the Japanese and Chinese delegations at the Peace Conference presented opposing claims. However, the claims of Japan were accepted and those of China were rejected. Japan was given all the rights which Germany had in Kiao-Chou and the province of Shantung. She was also given the German islands north of the Equator. Obviously, China was disappointed by the peace settlement.

5. The Washington Conference (1921):

The U.S.A. was not happy at the increase of the power of Japan and consequently she wanted to put some check on her power. Japan was the greatest naval Power in the Far East and the Americans could not put up with that fact. Consequently the American Government invited Japan, Great Britain, France, Italy, China, Portugal, Belgium and Holland “to participate in a conference on the limitation of armaments, in connection with which Pacific and Far Eastern questions would also be discussed.”

The Washington Conference was held in November 1921. Three treaties were signed at Washington, viz., Four-Power Treaty, Five-Power Treaty and Nine- Power Treaty. The Four-Power Treaty was made between Great Britain, Japan, France and the U.S.A. All the Powers agreed to respect the rights of one another in relation to their insular possessions in the Pacific. They were to consult one another if there was any dispute among them.

They were also to consult one another if there was a threat of war from any other Power. The Five-Power Treaty provided for naval disarmament. It fixed the ratio of the navies of the various countries.

There was to be naval parity between the U.S.A. and Great Britain. Japanese Navy was to be 60% of British or American Navy. The strength of the French and the Italian Navies was fixed at 35% of that of England or the U.S.A.

These limitations related to the capital ships and did not apply to light cruisers, destroyers and submarines. The contracting parties were to maintain the status quo in the Pacific. By the Nine-Power Treaty, all the Powers assembled at Washington pledged themselves to respect the territorial integrity of China and to refrain from taking advantage of the conditions in China to seek special rights or privileges which would abridge the rights of subjects and citizens or friendly States.

At the Washington Conference Japan also agreed to return Kiao-Chou territory to China. It cannot be denied that the Washington Conference put a check on the growing power of Japan. She was given an inferior position with regard to her naval strength and was also forced to surrender the gains of the World War I. The Japanese patriots were not prepared to accept such terms for long and there was bound to be trouble in the future.

6. Manchuria:

Japan was keenly interested in the affairs of Manchuria. Her population was increasing by leaps and bounds and she wanted additional territory for her surplus population. Her factories wanted not only raw materials but also new markets for the finished products. Japanese capital needed some area for investment.

Manchuria was near Japan and her strategic importance was not unknown to the Japanese military strategists. She had already got control over the South Manchurian Railway. For the protection of that railway, she was entitled to keep 15,000 soldiers in Manchuria with their headquarters at Mukden. The terminus of the railway was at Darien which was under Japan and through that port passed more than half the foreign trade of Manchuria.

The Japanese built towns along the railway and also executed modem projects which added substantially to the prosperity of the area. The foreign banking business of Manchuria was completely in the hands of the Japanese. By 1931, Japanese investment in Manchuria amounted to about one million dollars.

Japan had her eyes on Manchuria for a long time and she found that the year 1931 was the most appropriate one for the acquisition of that territory. Europe was busy with her own problems. World-wide depression confronted European statesmen.

The latter had to face the problems of unemployment, debt moratoria, disarmament, tariff barriers, etc. Political situation in Germany and Italy was abnormal. China also was passing through a great crisis. After the death of Dr. Sun Yat Sen in 1925, many groups struggled to secure supremacy in China.

Although General Chiang Kai-shek established his supremacy in the country he had still to face many rivals. There was no unity in the Chinese ranks. The hold of the central government over the outlying provinces was not secure. There was treachery in the dealings of the various parties. Famines and floods in the country added to the misery of the people. The local military chiefs were busy in their bandit activities. If Japan really intended to conquer Manchuria, there could not be any better opportunity for it.

On the night of 18-19 September 1931, a Japanese patrol claimed to discover a detachment of Chinese soldiers near Mukden trying to blow up the South Manchurian Railway. It was a good enough excuse for the Japanese. There was some fighting and about 10,000 Chinese soldiers in Mukden were either disarmed or dispersed.

Within four days all the Chinese towns within a radius of 200 miles north of Mukden were occupied by the Japanese. The Chinese Government in Manchuria evacuated Mukden. By November 1931, practically the whole of North Manchuria was in the hands of the Japanese. By January 1932, the whole of the Manchuria was completely conquered by Japan.

The Chinese Government protested against the Japanese action in the League of Nations and appealed to the member-States in the name of collective security to intervene. The Japanese delegate in the League of Nations tried to remove the fears of the Powers by declaring that his government had no intention to annex Manchuria and the Japanese troops would be withdrawn as soon as the lives and property of the Japanese in Manchuria were secured. Japan characterised her action as merely a police action.

In spite of the fact that Japan was the aggressor, the Council of the League of Nations decided not to take action against her and a resolution was passed unanimously on 30 September 1931, by which an opportunity was given to Japan to withdraw from Manchuria. The American Government also felt concerned over the Japanese attack. She would like to do all that lay in her power to maintain the territorial integrity of China.

Although the U.S.A. was not a member of the League of Nations, she participated in the deliberations of the Council of the League of Nations and offered to co-operate if action was taken against Japan. While the League of Nations hesitated to take action against Japan, the attitude of Japan became all the more stiff. She resented the interference of other Powers in the affairs of Manchuria.

When it became clear that Japan was determined to persist in her course of action the League of Nations appointed the famous Lytton Commission to investigate, on the spot “any circumstances which affecting international relations, threaten to disturb peace between China and Japan.”

However, the Commission was instructed not “to interfere with the military arrangements of either party.” After completing its work, the Lytton Commission submitted its report in November 1932. The report attempted to perform the impossible task of pleasing both the parties. Its recommendations were couched in a very guarded language.

It recommended direct negotiations between the belligerents. China was asked to set up an autonomous government in Manchuria under her own suzerainty. It also made some recommendations with regard to the reorganization of railways, etc., in Manchuria. It recommended the employment of experts from outside for political and financial purposes. The report avoided to mention Japan as the aggressor.

To quote, “The present case is not that of a country which has declared war on another country without previously exhausting the opportunities for conciliation provided in the Covenant of the League of Nations, neither is it a simple case of the violation of the frontier of one country by the armed forces of a neighbouring country,” In spite of this, when the Lytton report was discussed by the Assembly of the League of Nations, the Japanese delegation left the hall and Japan gave a notice of terminating her membership of the League.

While Japan took a decisive action with regard to the League, the latter failed to take any effective action against Japan. That was partly due to the attitude of the various Powers. Sir John Simon, the British Foreign Minister, declared that his country was not prepared to go to war against Japan on the question of Manchuria. Mr. L.S. Amery, a leading Conservative statesman, declared thus in 1933 in the House of Commons. “I confess that we see no reason whatever that either in act or in word, or in sympathy, we should go individually or internationally against Japan in this matter. Japan has got a very powerful case based upon fundamental realities.

When you look at the fact that Japan needs markets and that it is imperative for her, in the world in which she lives that there should be some sort of peace and order, then who is there among us to cast the first stone and to say that Japan ought not to have acted with the object of creating peace and order in Manchuria and defending herself against the continued aggression of vigorous Chinese nationalism? Our whole policy in India our whole policy in Egypt stands condemned if we condemn Japan.”

As the League of Nations took no action, Japan was able to retain Manchuria under her control. The failure of the League was a great blow to the principle of collective security. It was bound to encourage persons like Mussolini and Hitler in their aggressive designs. Japan also felt that she could snatch away the other parts of China and no one would come to oppose her. No wonder, her imperialism got an impetus.

Regarding the conquest of Manchuria by Japan, Gathome Hardy has made the following observation. “The shock, therefore, which the incident administered to the whole system of collective security was tremendous and well-nigh fatal and the only question on which opinion can be divided is as to whether the responsibility for this lies wholly at the door of Japan or whether it must be shared by those who planned a system which the world is incapable of working. There are, indeed, persons who think that the application of sanctions was practical, but the difficulties were so great and the prospect of plunging the world in war so formidable that the inaction of the members of the League must be considered pardonable if not wholly justified.”

According to Mackintosh, “Both Italy and Germany concluded that there was little risk in making treaties and carrying out aggressions, since the League Powers seemed loath to act in concert. Japan called the bluff of the League and proved to the world that even a slight danger of war was enough to cool the ardour of its supporters.” It is also pointed out that the action of the League “struck a fatal blow at the collective system, killed any chance of disarmament and started the present drift towards a world war which, when it comes, will be infinitely most devastating to the present social and imperial order than anything that could have resulted from applying the Covenant to Japan.”

The acquisition of Manchuria by Japan added to her hunger and Japanese patriots, industrialists and soldiers began to think in terms of bringing the whole of Eastern Asia under their control. The Japanese Government threatened other Powers with war if they tried to support the Chinese Government against Japan. “We oppose, therefore, any attempt on the part of China to avail herself of the influence of any other country in order to resist Japan we also oppose any action taken by China calculated to play one Power against another Power. Any joint operation undertaken by foreign Powers even in the name of technical or financial assistance at this particular moment after the Manchurian and Shanghai incidents are bound to acquire political significance.

While negotiations on normal questions of finance or trade would not be objected but supplying China with war aero planes, building aerodromes in China and detailing military instructors or military advisers to China or contracting a loan to provide funds for political uses, would obviously tend to alienate friendly relations between Japan, China and other countries and to disturb peace and order in Eastern Asia. Japan will oppose such projects.”

It is true that Great Britain and the U.S.A. repudiated the above claims of Japan, but in spite of that nothing was done to stop the further disintegration of China. Japan was determined to oppose tooth and nail every foreign attempt to help China. She also left no stone unturned to create dissensions among the Chinese. She decided to finish China once for all before the Chinese patriots were able to whip up the national enthusiasm to present a united front to the aggressor.

An attempt was made by Japan in 1935 to separate the northern province of China from the rest of the country. However, her efforts failed on account of the timely action of the Chinese. The local Japanese Military authority was able to set up a puppet government under the name of East Hopei autonomous government. Attempts were made by Japan to injure the Chinese finances by encouraging smuggling on a large scale.

There was a lot of resentment against Japan in China, and in 1936 many Japanese were murdered in that country. In July 1937, there was a clash between Chinese troops and Japanese troops near Peking. There was no formal declaration of war but hostilities between the two countries assumed large dimensions. Like the Germans, the Japanese steamroller continued unchecked its work of conquering the whole of China. Peking was captured. Nanking fell into the hands of the Japanese.

Although the Japanese attitude towards the Britishers in China was humiliating and even outrageous. Great Britain refused to be drawn up into the arena of war. The League of Nations contented itself by merely passing pious resolutions. Japan continued its work of conquest unhampered from any quarter. Hankow and Canton were also captured. Japan was able to establish her control over all the Chinese ports and the coastline.

For some time, China got help from Russia, but that was lessened in course of time. In 1939, Japan was able to cut off the railway line to Indo-China. China was still getting her supplies through the Burma Road, but even that became superfluous after the conquest of Burma by Japan. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the Pearl Harbour and thus the U.S.A. entered the war.

For some time, Japan was able to have her own way. Singapore fell into her hands. French Indo-China, Siam, Malaya and Burma were conquered by Japan. Even the security of Australia and India was threatened. Ultimately, as a result of the joint action of the United Nations, the Japanese were beaten back. The throwing of two atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 brought about the surrender of Japan.

Manchu Emperor Xuantong / Hsuantung / Hsuan tung - 1908-1911

P'u Yi, pronounced "Poo yee," is also sometimes spelled P'u-i, Puyi, Pu-Yi or Buyi. By the time P'u Yi was born on February 7, 1906, the Ch'ing Dynasty was in trouble. China had come to be dominated by foreign powers, mainly Westerners. The country was ruled by Dowager Empress Tzu His (or Cixi) who had imprisioned the nominal emperor, Kuang Hsu, for conspiring against her. The circumstances of the death, almost simultaneously, of the Emperor, Kuang-hsu, and of the Dowager Empress, Tze-Hsi, who had been the real ruler of the Empire, were involved in considerable obscurity. The Emperor is said to have died on the 14th of November, 1908, and the Empress on the following day. On her deathbed the empress named young P'u Yi - the son of the imprisoned emperor's brother - to succeed her. To make sure the current emperor didn't interfere in her plans, it is said, she had him poisoned.

The announcement of their decease was preceded by the publication of two imperial edicts, one of which made Prince Chun, of the royal family, Regent of the Empire, while the other named Pu-Yi, the Prince's son, three years old, as the heir presumptive to the throne. As communicated later to foreign governments, the Regent was given, by another imperial rescript, full power over the civil and military departments of government, and the entire appointment and dismissal of officials. The promised creation of a Parliament was anticipated in the prescription of his duties. The prince disliked politics, and dissidents considered him weak.

On the 2d of December the strict mourning observed at Peking was suspended briefly, to permit the ceremonies attending the ascension of the dragon throne by the child-Emperor, Pu-Yi, who, as Emperor, took the name of Hsuan-Tung.The ceremonies lasted but half an hour. "The function began by the princes of the imperial family and the high officials of the empire kowtowing to the memorial tablets of their late majesties. After this they all kowtowed in turn to Pu-Yi: Pu-Yi then offered a sacrifice before the tablets of the Emperor and the Dowager Empress. After this he was relieved of his dress of mourning and clad with much care in a diminutive imperial garment, embroidered with the imperial dragon.

The child monarch received the title of Hsuan tung and his father was appointed Regent, while the two great Viceroys, Yuan Shih kai and Chang Chih tung, were named as Grand Guardians of the Heir. With another child upon the throne the outlook was at least uncertain, but at this moment few could have predicted the events so soon to rise above the horizon.

An event of bad omen shortly after the commencement of the new reign was the dismissal of Yuan Shih kai, whose rheumatism was urged as an excuse for his compulsory retirement, but who was probably feared on account of his foreign-trained troops. In other respects the tide of reform seemed still flowing.

There are some things which are so universally anticipated that when they do happen they take everybody by surprise. It was so with regard to the Chinese Revolution. Every newspaper, every missionary, every diplomat, foretold it time and time again. Yet when the outbreak came in September, 1911, the exclamation on the lips of all was "How sudden!" In a sense it was sudden, because the explosion did not take place at the contemplated time.

There was great resentment in China against foreigners and the Manchu government, and in 1911 rebellion swept through the country, forcing Prince Ch'un to resign as regent. All through January 1912, plans were being considered for the abdication of the Imperial house. These plans were favored by Prince Ching, who was convinced of the hopelessness of reestablishing Manchu authority in the provinces. Chinese general Yuan Shih k'ai had taken over the government. He hoped to start his own ruling dynasty and suggested that P'u Yi should abdicate. Fearing the consequences if they refused, the Manchu Grand Council agreed, and on February 12, 1912, the five-year old emperor renounced his throne. He continued to live in the Forbidden City and was treated with enormous respect.

The Forbidden City was run by eunuchs, and P'u Yi didn't meet another child until he was seven when his brother and sister visited him. The children played hide and seek andhad a good time until P'u Yi noticed the color of the lining of his brother's sleeve. It wasyellow! Outraged, P'u Yi screamed at his brother, who stood at attention and said, "Itisn't yellow, sire. It is apricot, Your Imperial Majesty."Although P'u Yi was no longer emperor, everyone knelt and kowtowed to him, includinghis parents, whom he rarely saw. He became emperor at age three and didn't see his mother again until he was 10. His upbringing was supervised by four consorts of previous emperors. In his own words, "Although I had many mothers, I never knew motherly love." His real mother argued with the consorts about how to raise P'u Yi. After one of these arguments she swallowed opium and died. P'u Yi was about 13 at the time. Pu Yi's father, Prince Ch'un, visited his son every two months and never stayed for more than two minutes.

The eunuchs also treated P'u Yi with great formality. Everywhere he went in the Forbidden City he was accompanied by a huge procession. He couldn't take a simple stroll without his entourage following him with food, medicine and clothing. He had no set meal times. When he wanted to eat he commanded, "Bring the food!" andimmediately the eunuchs brought him six tables full of food: two tables of main dishes,one table of vegetables, and three tables of rice and cakes. He was "limited" to 25 dishes per meal previous emperors had been served at least 100 dishes. The Forbidden City's cooks prepared food constantly, day and night, so that it would be ready at P'u Yi's whim. When P'u Yi was in a bad mood he ordered eunuchs flogged in his presence. Once, as an adult, he allegedly had a boy beaten for running away - and the boy died.

In 1917 when P'u Yi was 9, a warlord named Chang Hsun decided to restore him to the throne. Chang's army surrounded Peking, and P'u Yi released a decree stating that hewas the emperor once again. Leaders of the republican government accused the monarchists of using P'u Yi as a puppet, which, or course, he was. Six days after P'u Yi's restoration a plane dropped three bombs on the Forbidden City. It was the first air raid in Chinese history. P'u Yi was in his classroom when he heard an explosions. He said later, "I was so terrified that I shook all over, and the color drained from my tutors' faces." One bomb damaged a lotus pond and another injured a sedan-chair carrier. The third bomb fell amid a group of eunuchs who were gambling, but didn't explode. Then the sound of gunfire was heard approaching the Forbidden City. P'u Yi's supporters abandoned him, and once again he lost his throne.

He remained in the Forbidden City, and his life went on much as it had before. P'u Yi received an uneven education. He studied classics, history and poetry, but learned no math, geography or science. His lessons were in Chinese and Manchu. At age 13 he started studying English. The Manchus still hoped to restore P'u Yi to his throne, and they wanted him to have contact with Western powers who might be able to help them achieve their goal. So they asked a senior official of the British Colonial Office to become P'u Yi's English tutor. His name was Reginald Johnston. He wasn't really a teacher - his real job was to act as ago-between for P'u Yi and the British government. However, he did help P'u Yi learn to speak English, and he and the boy became close friends. P'u Yi was heavily influenced by Johnston and developed a fascination for Western things.

He asked Johnston to help him pick an English name for himself. Johnston gavehim a list of names of British kings, and P'u Yi chose Henry, so the "last emperor of China" is listed in encyclopedias as Henry P'u Yi. It was Johnston who first noticed that P'u Yi needed glasses. P'u Yi's advisors objected, considering glasses too Western for a Chinese emperor, but P'u Yi overruled them and wore glasses the rest of his life. As P'u Yi learned more about the world, he realized that he was a prisoner in the Forbidden City. At the age of 15 he tried to escape by bribing the guards at the gate. They took his money, then betrayed him. He never made it outside the palace walls.

When P'u Yi was 16 his advisors decided that it was time for him to marry. They gave him photos of four Manchu girls and told him to pick one. The pictures weren't clear and he couldn't really tell what the girls looked like, but he picked a 13-year old girl named Wen Hsiu. His advisors were displeased, and told him that Wen Hsiu was too ugly to beempress. At their insistence he picked another bride, a very beautiful girl his own age. She was Wan Jung, later known as Elizabeth. Elizabeth became his official wife and Wen Hsiu, his first choice, became his consort. On the night of his wedding to Elizabeth, P'u Yi panicked and fled from their bedroom it's possible that he never consummated his marriages. He had no children. Many years later his sister-in-law, Hiro Saga, wrote that as an adult P'u Yi kept a pageboy as his concubine. Hiro also claimed that "P'u Yi once took a 12-year old girl as a consort, but the girl ran away after a few days."

In 1924 the army of another warlord, Feng Yu-hsiang, surrounded the Forbidden City. But this warlord did not want to restore P'u Yi to his throne. Feng was both a Communist and a Christian, and an enemy of the Manchus. P'u Yi was forced to leave the Forbidden City for the first time since becoming emperor. He took with him his imperial seal and a suitcase filled with precious stones. The teenaged former emperor traveled by limousine to the mansion of his father, Prince Ch'un. There one of Feng's men shook his hand and called him Mr. P'u Yi.

For the first time in his life, P'u Yi was being treated as an ordinary citizen - and he loved it. "I had no freedom as emperor. Now I have found my freedom!" he is said to have exclaimed. But he was still a prisoner, and he had not given up his dream of regaining the throne.

In 1934 the Japanese agreed to make P'u Yi the Emperor of Manchukuo. He took the reign title K'ang Teh, or "Tranquility and Virtue." At the end of the war Soviet forces invaded Manchuria. In 1950, P'u Yi was forced to return to China, where he was sent at once to a prison camp. He remained there for nine years. When P'u Yi died in 1967 it was rumored that he had been murdered by revolutionaries. But in fact he probably died of cancer. China is still Communist, and at this point it seems unlikely that its monarch will be restored.

Yuan Shih-k’ai by Jerome Chen

Ah, hostile biography. Today I’ll be discussing what I’ve picked up reading a book about Yuan Shih-k’ai (now just Yuan Shikai), the first President of post-revolutionary China. He’s one of those figures I’d never even heard of, and when I stumbled upon Jerome Chen’s eponymously titled biography of the man, I decided to read it mostly out of curiosity regarding his role in Seoul in the turbulent 1880s.

I’d assumed his involvement there was the main reason the book was in the library’s holdings at all, to be honest, but it turns out he’s actually more like China’s equivalent of Syngman Rhee, except that just before his downfall, he decided to try and get instated as Emperor of China. (The idea of a reinstatement of monarchy was popular there in 1915.) By Chen’s estimation, Yuan was a general failure, basically mocked by the people and hated by anyone whose opinion mattered.

The biography has a few interesting tidbits, though.

For one thing, the Boxers Rebellion took place during Yuan’s tenure as governor of Shandong, and among the things he did immediately was to check whether the Boxers actually had supernatural powers:

A number of Boxers willing to put themselves to the test were killed by his firing squad. Previous demonstrations had reportedly left the Boxers unscathed (proving only, one supposes, that Yuan’s marksmen were more accurate than their predecessors), Yuan charged that even in force the Boxers were ineffective, noting that once 400 to 500 of them attacked a single church and failed to take it. “How can they wipe out foreigners? Even if they could recruit millions of people and roam around everywhere, spreading like bush fires, what effect would they have?”(46)

One wonders what Yuan’s men thought of the process of testing, as well as how many “many” actually means? Did they just keep shooting Boxers until nobody left was willing to test his mystical powers? How long did that take? The Boxers, like the Taipings, are interesting examples because of the cult-like aspects of their organization, which go hand-in-hand with the radical goals of their movement.

Of course, one of the things that Yuan is remembered for is what Chen calls (in a rhetorically very Red moment) “flunkyism”: he was an ardent and somewhat naïve internationalist, believing that developed/Western nations would be willing to help China out as it sought to modernize and develop itself. Perhaps this was why he was so eager to take on loans from anyone willing to make them: Belgium, America, Britain, and so on.

Britain, meanwhile, took a hardline with Yuan’s China:

The British attitude was clearly summarized in the Times on September 5, 1913: “The Chinese republic has been plainly warned that it will not be recognized by the British government until it undertakes to respect the autonomy of Tibet, in accordance with well-understood treaty obligations.” Yuan had stirred up the issue of Tibet in April 1913 by reasserting China’s claim to the area. Britain had protested, and following the Dalai Lama’s return from Indian on July 24, a revolt broke out. In August, Sir John Jordan sent a note recognizing China’s suzerainity over the area but denying her sovereignty. The note protested China’s “interference with the internal affairs of Tibet” and presented Britain’s conditions for recognizing Yuan’s government. (141-42)

In fact, the press in China was indignant—understandably, given that the Britain that was worriedly hand-wringing about Chinese imperialism then owned the biggest empire on Earth—and neither the Chinese government nor the Chinese assembly ratified the conventions penned at the Simla Conference in October of that year… but that didn’t stop Yuan from recognizing Tibet’s autonomy… and the republic of China being recognized by Britain on the very same day. (The power of telegraphs at work!) There were similar wranglings over Mongolia at the same time, with China and Russia playing chicken over the territory. (The Russians had made a massive loan to the Mongolians, in exchange for overseeing their finances!)

As for Japan, well, that’s interesting. According to Chen:

The revolutionary years in China were years of Japanese passivity toward the Asian continent. On the question of recognition, she had only two demands—that the powers act in unison, and that the British and Japanese ministers arrange for a declaration on the subject of treaty rights before recognition. (145)

That’s interesting because, if you ask a Korean what the years of 1911-1915 were like, they don’t paint a picture of Japanese passivity at all: Japan had been actively trying to horn in on Korea since the 1880s, and was in the process of taking over the Korean peninsula at the time. Japan does manage to pose a threat in Chen’s narrative, mind you: Sir John Jordan characterized Japan as “a highwayman well armed” with whom there was no reasoning. (Indeed, he says Japan was even worse than Germany had been toward Belgium, though a Reuter dispatch at the time suggested that “the real root of the problem is the fact that [China] still looks down on Japan” (156) and couldn’t see its way to respecting Japan as an equal, much less an equal of developed nations… something that, at least militarily, the rest of the world was to some degree forced to do when Japan trounced the Russians in the Russo-Japanese war not long before.) Meanwhile The U.S. State Department was leery to side with China: Wilson feared that it would provoke Japanese hostility toward China, at the very least, and figured the Japanese were being pushy enough already.

To be fair, Japan’s spokesman does a pretty good job of making Japan look bad: Minister Hioki Eki, who was tasked with presenting Yuan’s government with the demands of the Japanese government (the notorious Twenty-One Demands), basically described the Japanese rationale as the logical response to the disarray in Beijing:

The present crisis throughout the world virtually forces my government to take far-reaching action. When there is a fire in a jeweler’s shop, the neighbors cannot be expected to refrain from helping themselves. (156)

Because, hey, looters gonna loot, I guess?

It’s a funny moment: visit Tokyo and you’ll probably run across at least one example of this same rhetoric, albeit half-sanitized and dressed up for modern audiences (especially at a place like the Yasukuni Shrine/Museum): no talk of the necessity and naturalness of looting, but a lot of the “we had no choice” because of “the present crisis throughout the world”… except that one suspects Hioki doesn’t mean the crisis of Western colonialism, just the crisis of war between the Western powers… and of course, these days they leave out all mention of, like, how Japan looting Asia was as natural as any propoerty crime during a neighborhood disaster. Mind you, Hioki is referring not only to the Great War, but also the utter mess in Beijing… and the response by the Chinese was a huge outcry, a boycott of Japanese goods, and an even more bellicose and pushy Japan.

That mess in Beijing, which opened the door to Japanese and other aggression, is part of why Yuan manages to come out looking even more at fault than anyone else for the troubles that would follow in China. He was seen as a superstitious power-monger by the people, as one urban legend that circulated among his officers in 1915:

Yuan had a habit of taking a short nap after lunch and having a cup of tea immediately afterwards. A boy was given the job of bringing him the tea.

One day when the boy went into the bedroom, carrying the tea in an exquisite jade cup, he saw, not his master, but a huge toad sitting on the couch. Stunned, he dropped the cup on the floor. Fortunately, the noise did not disturb the sleeping president.

The boy tiptoed out of the room and then ran to an elderly servant who treated him as a son. He told the old man what had happened and tearfully begged him to make up some story that would keep Yuan from punishing him for breaking the valuable cup. The old man pondered a while and then told the child what to say, should their master ask any questions.

Presently, Yuan woke up to find his tea in a porcelain beaker. He at once summoned the boy and asked him where the jade cup was. The boy answered truthfully.

“Broken?” Yuan’s tone was severe. But the boy calmly explained, “Yes, Sir, because I saw something very strange.” “What?” demanded the master, visibly annoyed. “When I came in here a moment ago with a cup of tea, I did not see you, Sir, on the couch, but…” “But what? You liar?” “But a five-clawed golden dragon.” “Rubbish!” the master shouted, but his anger suddenly left him. He opened a drawer, took out a hundred-dollar bill, and thrust it into the boy’s hand. He cautioned him not to mention a word of what he had just seen to anyone else. (159)

Yuan’s officers were snickering about this not only because Yuan was widely understood to be superstitious, and known to have designs on the imperial throne, but also because he was not regal, more a toad than a dragon when all was said and done. 1

Besides, Yuan’s was a China where insane things were happening, including government hits arranged in the most ridiculous way. Sung Chiao-jen, the leader of the Kuomintang (the opposition party), was assassinated at Yuan’s order, shot in Shanghai right on the platform where he was supposed to board a train to Peking (Beijing). Yuan had to issue a warrant for the arrest of the shooter, but soon, all was made clear:

On the day after Sung’s death, an antique dealer walked into a Shanghai police station and made his statement: “Ten days ago, I delivered some antiques to Mr. Ying Kuei-hsing…, a customer of mine for some time. He showed me a photograph of a man and asked me to kill him at a certain place and time. He promised to give me a thousand dollars for the job. I am, as you can see, merely a businessman and have never killed anyone so I refused. This morning I saw the same photograph in the papers.” Acting on this clue, the police arrested Ying in a private brothel in Shanghai. The next day, in a search of Ying’s home the police found a revolver with only two bullets in the chamber, three copies of the secret code used by the cabinet, and several telegrams in this code—some between Ying and Premier Chao Ping-chun’s confidential secretary, Hung Shu-tsu, and some between Ying and one Wu Shih-ying.

Long story short, there was a trial afterward, Wu ended up dead in his cell, Ying was liberated by gangster buddies and moved to the German settlement in Tsingtao (Qingdao), and it was pretty clear to everyone that Yuan was involved, try as he might to have his secret police pin the blame one someone else, including an organization, no kidding, called the Women’s Assassination group. Poor Yuan was stupid enough to have let a government-organized, government-funded hit on the leader of the opposition be organized in such a slapdash way that random businessmen were being invited to kill the target for money, so I suppose it’s not surprising his attempted cover-up was that inept. Sun Yat-Sen went so far as to call for all-out war on Yuan, fearing he’d ruin China in the long run.

And it seems they were right in that appraisal: before long, Yuan met his end, and it wasn’t a particularly good one. Here’s how one contemporary commentator, Liang Ch’i-ch’ao, opined:

Yuan does not know the difference between a man and a beast. All he knows about human beings is that they fear weapons and love gold, and it is by these two things that he rules the country. For four years, there have been no politics in Peking except the ghostly shadows of a knife and a piece of gold… Day in and day out he has enticed people by waving a piece of gold in front of their eyes and waving a knife at their backs. By bribery and terror, he has enslaved our people… For four years, there have been no moral standards among the elite of our country. It cannot be denied that seven or eight of every ten of them are now thoroughly corrupt and rotten. Who is responsible for this? I do not hesitate a moment in saying that it has been entirely due to Yuan Shih-k’ai…. If his empire exists and continues to exst for many years to come, good people will continue to become fewer and fewer, until they eventually disappear: only the bad ones will survive and the entire Chinese nation will lose all sense of human values. (193)

That may sound alarmist from our perspective, but then the world was a different place in the early 1900s: outright colonialism was the status quo in a lot of places, and the Chinese struggled to adapt their thinking to this world. They tended to mix both Social Darwinist ideas (wherein better developed nations achieve superiority and wipe out less-developed ones) with Confucian notions of virtue manifesting in the fate of the Chinese nation. Mencius’s notion was sometimes invoked regarding how the man who gets insulted publicly is usually a man who has already insulted himself Mencius had indeed already argued that the nation that is attacked by outsiders, typically is one that has already attacked its own vitality, as Chen explains: Chinese commentators in the revolutionary era felt that most Chinese people weren’t really fit for citizenship so much as for slavery… but that wasn’t for some inborn, racial reason: it was simply a function of their being (like their nation) “undeveloped.” Indeed, just as in Japan and Korea, the ancestor-mythology (in China’s case, descent traced back to the Yellow Emperor, and resultant inborn divine intelligence) was being revived during this period.

Ch’en T’ien-hua, “a Hunan revolutionary who drowned himself in protest in 1905” and “is sometimes regarded as the most virulent anti-imperialist of the 1900’s (sic)” (202), pointed out in one of his essays that the stakes were very high for China: after all, Indian and Poland had both fallen prey to external colonizers, and Africa had been divided up disastrously. The disunity in China, he feared, posed the greatest threat since it left a weakness open that foreigners could use to gain a foothold. His sense of foreign power was situational, though: in his essay, he asked,

How did the foreigners become so strong? So rich? Are they born so? No, they have achieved their power and wealth only in the last two centuries. (202)

Thus Ch’en argued what others in Asia had argued before him: that the best way to resist foreign imperialism was to learn from the would-be colonizers, to master their tricks. According to Ch’en, the greatest of those tricks was widespread education he believed that they had “ceased to regard or treat the uneducated as human beings” and that this “had fostered public spirit, patriotism, and unlimited military, political, artistic, and industrial progress.” (202) What Ch’en had in common with both Yuan and Sun Yat Sen was the assumption that the only way forward for China was a new Chinese imperialism: that no inherently anti-imperialist program was conceivable.

Reading this book, I couldn’t help but wonder how history might have gone had things played out just a little differently. There were certainly a number of instances where things might have worked out better for Yuan (though, note, that would likely have been worse for China in the short term). What might have happened if Yuan had somehow managed to weather the storms, gain extensive foreign support, and stay in control of China? It’s a similar question to the one that has fascinated me for years, about what might have happened if the Taipings had been able to do so, and either split China in half, or take over.

In the case of Yuan, I can’t help but imagine that Southern China would have revolted… after all, this was only a couple of generations after the Taiping Rebellion, and most of the southerners alive at the time had either experienced that uprising directly, or grown up hearing endless stories about it. Yuan would doubtless have been as terrible an emperor in the long run as he had been ineffectual in the short run…. certainly as awful and Hong Xiu’quan would have been. But who might have taken the throne after him? Might the idea of Chinese unity collapsed as he clung to what he could, while some other nation-state arose in the South? If the Great War (World War I) hadn’t broken out, Britain would have been free to support Yuan, in exchange, say, for the release of Tibet and Mongolia (and, probably, Xinjiang later on).

This does echo back to an old declaration among the documents of the Taiping Rebellion, issuing a punishment of death for anyone seeing a mystical creature like a dragon, phoenix, or kirin and failing to report it to the Taiping authorities: magical beasts were a sign that someone worthy was about to become emperor… and that was law under the rebel Taiping government during (albeit very early into) Yuan’s own lifetime.↩

Chinese History - Republic of China 1911-1919

Cowed by foreign powers, China's imperial rule crumbled. A republic was formed and a president elected. Four years later the president declared himself emperor, and civil war erupted. Reform leaders like Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek, and Mao Tse-tung would battle old warlords and each other through this period as the country strained to avoid foreign domination. China had balked at entering the modern world. Japan, however, looked enviously upon the resources of the Asian continent and considered China weak. By the end of World War I, Japan was entrenched firmly in Manchuria, Mongolia, and China's Shandong province.

During the 19th century, Qing control weakened, and prosperity diminished. China suffered massive social strife, economic stagnation, explosive population growth, and Western penetration and influence. The Taiping and Nian rebellions, along with a Russian-supported Muslim separatist movement in Xinjiang, drained Chinese resources and almost toppled the dynasty. Britain's desire to continue its illegal opium trade with China collided with imperial edicts prohibiting the addictive drug, and the First Opium War erupted in 1840. China lost the war subsequently, Britain and other Western powers, including the United States, forcibly occupied "concessions" and gained special commercial privileges. Hong Kong was ceded to Britain in 1842 under the Treaty of Nanking, and in 1898, when the Opium Wars finally ended, Britain executed a 99-year lease of the New Territories, significantly expanding the size of the Hong Kong colony.

As time went on, the Western powers, wielding superior military technology, gained more economic and political privileges. Reformist Chinese officials argued for the adoption of Western technology to strengthen the dynasty and counter Western advances, but the Qing court played down both the Western threat and the benefits of Western technology. A number of groups dedicated to overthrowing the Ching government had arisen. Among them was the Xing Zhong Hui (Revive China Society), founded by Sun Yat-sen in Honolulu in 1894 during the First Sino-Japanese War. In Tokyo in 1905, while Sun was in exile there, the society joined with other groups to establish the Tong Meng Hui (Revolutionary Alliance). Frustrated by the Qing court's resistance to reform, young officials, military officers, and students--inspired by the revolutionary ideas of Sun Yat-sen--began to advocate the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and creation of a republic.

Much disturbance of feeling and apprehension of a troublesome reaction in Chinese policy was excited among the foreign representatives in China, on January 2, 1909. by the sudden dismissal of the able and powerful viceroy of Chih-li, Yuan Shih-kai, from all his offices. Yuan Shih-kai left Peking in haste, evidently in fear of his life, and it was expected that his whole following of friends and supporters would be swept out of their offices and employments. But no such result followed, and credit began to be given to the assurances of the imperial government that the dismissal of Yuan meant no reversal of policy or reaction whatever. He was distrusted, it was intimated, because he had been disloyal to the late emperor in 1898, when the latter attempted great reforms.

A revolutionary military uprising on October 10, 1911, led to the abdication of the last Qing monarch. As part of a compromise to overthrow the dynasty without a civil war, the revolutionaries and reformers allowed high Qing officials to retain prominent positions in the new republic. One of these figures, Gen. Yuan Shikai, was chosen as the republic's first president. Under the Ching dynasty, Yuan had trained the elite, Western-style Beiyang Army.

The abdication had been due primarily to Yuan Shih-kai, who was influenced by three things- hatred of a dynasty that had desired his blood ambition to rule the nation himself and an inveterate habit of following foreign opinion because that opinion controlled the stock markets on which China had lived for twenty years. Consequently, when the Manchus had been eliminated, there remained for him two controlling impulses and only two-his ambition and the foreign money-market. Everything else-parliament, people, and provincial capitals-was for him mere shadow-play and not reality. It is only when the problem is thus envisaged that what took place can be understood.

The republic that Sun Yat-sen and his associates envisioned evolved slowly. The revolutionists lacked an army, and the power of Yuan Shikai began to outstrip that of parliament. Yuan revised the constitution at will and became dictatorial. In August 1912 a new political party was founded by Song Jiaoren (1882-1913), one of Sun's associates. The party, the Kuo Min-tang (Kuomintang or KMT -- the National People's Party, frequently referred to as the Nationalist Party), was an amalgamation of small political groups, including Sun's Tongmeng Hui. In the national elections held in February 1913 for the new bicameral parliament, Song campaigned against the Yuan administration, and his party won a majority of seats. Yuan had Song assassinated in March he had already arranged the assassination of several pro-revolutionist generals. Animosity toward Yuan grew.

After the 1911 revolution, the new republic split into three primary factions: 1) Sun Yat-sen's Nationalist Party, based in Nanjing (formerly Nanking) 2) Yuan Shih-k'ai's former Imperial Army whose seat of power was in Beijing (formerly Peking) and 3) warlords in northern China who continued to reign over several provinces. In the summer of 1913 seven southern provinces rebelled against Yuan. When the rebellion was suppressed, Sun and other instigators fled to Japan. In October 1913 an intimidated parliament formally elected Yuan president of the Republic of China, and the major powers extended recognition to his government. To achieve international recognition, Yuan Shikai had to agree to autonomy for Outer Mongolia and Xizang [Tibet]. China was still to be suzerain, but it would have to allow Russia a free hand in Outer Mongolia and Britain continuance of its influence in Xizang.

In November 1913 Yuan Shikai, legally president, ordered the Kuo Min-tang dissolved and its members removed from parliament. Within a few months, he suspended parliament and the provincial assemblies and forced the promulgation of a new constitution, which, in effect, made him president for life. Yuan's ambitions still were not satisfied, and, by the end of 1915, it was announced that he would reestablish the monarchy.

To finance the war in Europe, Western money had been pulled out of China and Japan stepped into the void, granting massive loans to the government of Yuan Shih-k'ai. In 1915 the Japanese set before the warlord government in Beijing the so-called Twenty-One Demands, which would have made China a Japanese protectorate. The Beijing government rejected some of these demands but yielded to the Japanese insistence on keeping the Shandong territory already in its possession. Beijing also recognized Tokyo's authority over southern Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia [in 1917, in secret communiques, Britain, France, and Italy assented to the Japanese claim in exchange for the Japan's naval action against Germany].

Yuan Shih-k'ai counsellors and henchmen set going the gathering of monarchical support, and the isolating of opposition to the president becoming emperor and saving China. The machine was set in motion on August 30, 1915. On October 7, it emitted the set process for nominating Yuan Shih-k'ai as emperor. On December 11, Yuan's Council of State read the votes of the monarchist's agents in the provinces electing him emperor, and tendered him the throne. On December 29, Yuan gave orders to attack the Republican rebels, in arms against his usurpation. He put the crown away, but on January 2, 1916, entered the palace in the imperial yellow chair of the last dynasty, sat on the throne, received officials, and the salutation of "Imperial Majesty", and appointed the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce as a special envoy to the world, - well, to Tokio, - to announce the new reign. On January 22, Yuan Shih-k'ai postponed the monarchy, and on March 22 resumed the republic.

The new revolution was on. Widespread rebellions ensued, and numerous provinces declared independence. With opposition at every quarter and the nation breaking up into warlord factions, Yuan Shikai died of natural causes on 06 June 1916, deserted by his lieutenants. General Li Yuan-hong, vice president of the Republic that Yuan Shi-kai had sought to dismantle, succeeded him, while General Duan Qi-rui retained his post as premier. Yuan's death left the republican government all but shattered, ushering in the era of the "warlords" during which China was ruled and ravaged by shifting coalitions of competing provincial military leaders. Chaos reigned as control of the Chinese capital see-sawed between several groups: generals of the former Imperial Army, territorial warlords, and the Nationalists (also called Kuomintang or KMT).

Provincial military- governors and generals, particularly in the northern provinces, were busily conspiring to revive the defunct Manchu empire. In the face of this menace the republicans themselves were disunited The Conservative northern or militarist party, recruited chiefly from the old governing classes in North China, and led by Premier Tuan Chi-jui, was determined to dominate the republic in defiance of parliamentary Radicals. On the other hand, the Radical republicans (organized in party called Kwo-min-tang), representing the "solid South' of Chinese democracy, uncompromisingly insisted that they should exercise the control of the government. In the negotiations of foreign loans, a clique of pro-Japanese Conservatives favored Japan, whereas the Radicals inclined toward America.

The struggle between North and South in China is very old. In one form or another it has gone on for eight hundred years-in fact ever since the Kitan and Chin Tartars burst through the Great Wall in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and commenced the Tartar military supremacy in North China which has so profoundly modified the old Chinese ritual of government. For although the Ming dynasty (Chinese) broke the Mongol supremacy, and moved the capital from Nanking to Peking five hundred years ago, the Mings were soon enough ousted by the Manchus (Tartars again), who stereotyped nearly three centuries ago the conception of a military domination directed from Peking-a domination which, no matter how unreal it may have become, still lived in Northern China as a political concept, tradition playing such a powerful role among the educated and uneducated alike that no amount of argument can kill it. This, then, is the real quarrel between North and South in spite of all talk about constitutionalism, namely, that the Peking tradition of a military domination has not been killed.

In August 1917 China had declared war on Germany in the hope of recovering its lost province, then under Japanese control. But in 1918 the Beijing government signed a secret deal with Japan accepting the latter's claim to Shandong. When the Paris peace conference of 1919 confirmed the Japanese claim to Shandong and Beijing's sellout became public, internal reaction was shattering. On May 4, 1919, there were massive student demonstrations, as 10,000 students rose against the Beijing government and Japan.

The political fervor, student activism, and iconoclastic and reformist intellectual currents set in motion by the patriotic student protest developed into a national awakening known as the May Fourth Movement. The intellectual milieu in which the May Fourth Movement developed was known as the New Culture Movement and occupied the period from 1917 to 1923. The student demonstrations of May 4, 1919 were the high point of the New Culture Movement, and the terms are often used synonymously. Students returned from abroad advocating social and political theories ranging from complete Westernization of China to the socialism that one day would be adopted by China's communist rulers. One of its leaders was a librarian-turned-Marxist named Mao Zedong (formerly spelled Tse-tung), who founded the Chinese Communist Party in China with only 57 original members.

Important economic and social changes occurred during the first years of the Republic. With the outbreak of World War I, competition from foreign firms abated, and domestic light industry experienced rapid growth. By 1918, the industrial sector employed 1.8 million workers. Meanwhile, modern banks were able to meet expanding financial demand.

In addition to Japan, the United States was the other emerging Pacific power. It had long felt sympathetic toward the Chinese people, both because of their plight and the potential of their markets. China, in turn, looked to the United States to check foreign aggression. While Washington tried to reign in Japan's Asian design, there was little America could do with a limited military and economic presence. In 1921-22, an international conference aiming to limit the world's navies was held in Washington. The resulting Nine Powers Treaty (also signed by Japan) reaffirmed America's Open Door policy towards China.


Early Years

For centuries, China was ruled under an imperial system, led by the Ch'ing government. However, their internal grasp of China began to falter in the early 19th century when European countries turned their attention towards Asia. The Ch'ing government had failed to resist the European powers which enraged many of its people to overthrow their rule and establish a republic. That dream came true in 1911 where numerous soldiers of the Ch'ing New Army started a revolution in Hsin-hai which prompted many surrounding provinces to overthrow the Ch'ing rule. A provisional government was set up in the South with Sun Yat-sen as president. After many tense agreements between officials from both sides, Ch'ing agreed to abdicate Pu-i's throne in return of Yuan Shih-kai as president. In 1912, the Republic of China was proclaimed under a united China. Before Yuan Shih-kai can exercise his presidential powers, the Kuomintang Party, reformed by Sun Yat-Sen and Sung Chiao-Jen, won most of the federal elections in 1913. Many other parties, like the Progressive Party, were deeply upset by the results and many of the members turned their attention towards the secretive Royalist Party, due to some members were former Ch-ing government officials.

The Royalist Party began to infiltrate the republic secretly to restore the Manchu monarchy and preserve the Qing's religious institutions. Many government officials of the Republic supported the Royalist Party as they saw the republic as a westernizing disaster towards China.

Peking-Nanking Civil War

In 1917, a Royalist general named Chang Hsün, along with other support from ethnic groups in the Northeast and other Royalist government officials, seized Beiping, renamed it Peking, and proclaimed Pu-i as Emperor of China, restoring the Manchu government. Many of the northern provinces seceded from the Republic to form the Greater Ch'ing Empire. With the sudden secession, the Chinese Republic declared martial law, in retrospect turning itself into a one-party military authoritarianism government. As the Ch'ing Empire stole many of the Republic's emblems and color theme, the Republic saw this as identity theft and how the opposing empire can manipulate countries to be against them. This results in the Republic changing their flag and color theme, with the Kuomintang symbol implemented onto the national flag.

As no gains from both sides were very significant, the Chinese Republic formed diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in return for troops, supplies, and materials. The Soviet Union gladly accept the relations as they saw how the ongoing Chinese civil war mirrors the recently ended Russian War and the Republic fought against an absolute monarchy government. The Chinese Republic received Soviet advisors and materials in 1921. In 1922, the Chinese Republic, with the help of the Soviet Union, formulated the Northern Expedition Liberation. The Chinese Republic also gained support from the recently formed Communist Party of China and Tibet, due to them fearing of total control of their place and the Chinese Republic promising them freedom very similar to de facto independence but not totally independent. Song Jiaoren issued the liberation in late 1922 towards the Ch-ing government and with the fierce strength of Chiang Kai-Shek, the Chinese National Revolutionary Army pushed against the strict borders that have been seemingly impossibly to get over.

In mid-1923, the Chinese National Revolutionary Army was able to get to Beiping, after heavy fighting in the enemy's land. This significant turning point increased the morale of the Chinese Republic which ignited the spirit of reuniting China as a whole. The Chinese National Revolutionary Army was able to sweep over many units of the Ch'ing Empire as many of them deserted, surrendered, or lost morale. At last, the crippled Ch'ing government signed a surrender towards the Chinese Republic. With China reunited as a whole under a government. Dr. Sun Yat-sen was able to see this achievement and hoped, like many others, that China would turn towards a democratic republic as soon China stabilize.

Nanking Decade

After China has been unified, a failed assassination on Sung Chiao-Jen had left him crippled which forced him to retire his role as chairman of the Kuomintang Party and President of the Chinese Republic. A leaderless void was created in his absence fortunately, Wang Ching-wei was able to take President and chairman role. Some of his successful goals during the early Nanking Decade was military unification, development of school education, a new national anthem to replace the Kuomintang anthem, the pavement of highways & roads, and continued alliance with the Chinese Communist Party & Soviet Union.

Throughout the decade, internal stability has allowed the nation to experience exponential economic growth and the start of many ambitious government projects. Many western countries began to recognize the new republic as true China which began to unravel the unfair treaties placed on them. One of the well-known countries that China happily accepted was Germany because they saw them as a partner in the modernization of China due to Germany not actively pursuing imperialism interests in China. Many German industrial firms began looking for businesses in China due to untapped resources found in the rich grounds of China. In 1929, China and Germany officially declared diplomatic relations with each other.

However, the Great Depression took place during the 30s where Chinese industrialization was hampered and German trade decreased. It remained like that until the Mukden Incident where Japan invaded Manchuria. This incident has sparked the interest of a concrete military and industrial policy to resist Japanese encroachment. Fortunately, the Japanese have not dared to invade Mongolia province due to the fear of provoking the Soviet Union, which essentially had a strong influence in Mongolia. Shortly after, an elaborate defensive wall was set up near the Manchurian borders and is currently known to the world as the Greater Ch'angch'eng Defense. Proven to halt further Japanese invasion, it was used as a propaganda tool to boost Chinese nationalism and morale. However, the Japanese were able to invade China using a different route.

Second Sino-Japanese War & World War of Resistance (WWII)

In 1937, the recently formed Greater British Federation has allowed their Japanese ally to enter through Hong Kong in order to invade China. Suddenly confused with reports of Japanese soldiers appearing in Southern China, China redirected the majority of its troops from the Manchurian border towards the South. Even if it's able to slow down the Japanese advancement into China and winning major battles, like the Battle of Shanghai, Japan keeps sending more troops which forced Chinese troops to retreat.

As the Japanese got closer to Nanking, the government ordered a civilian relocation in order to keep losses low. With the head of Generalissimo Chiang-Kai-Shek directing the army against the Japanese, they were able to halt Japanese advancement. Unfortunately, the government saw no real strategic reason to continue defending Nanking and alerted all units-in-combat to retreat to Chungking. An emergency relocation was made to make Chungking a temporary capital of free China. However, some of the Chinese government officials and local Chinese civilians remained to defect to the Japanese and formed the Nanking Self-Government Committee, with Japanese approval, which later transformed into the Reformed Government of the Chinese Republic, claiming all of Japanese occupied land in China. Japan then again attacked the city of Wuchang in 1938 and China saw the city as an advantage to the Japanese because Wuchang was a major transportation hub that can lead to every major city that has not been captured. Under stressed loadout, Chinese forces were able to drive out the Japanese and strictly protect the city Wuchang.

In 1941, China gained new allies to fight against the Japanese force where Imperial British Government-in-Exile, United States, Soviet Union, and Germany sent troops to aid China in their fight but mostly used in South Asia. The Chinese Expeditionary Force was dispatched to aid their allies again Japanese imperialism and gained some success. In the Chinese front, both sides saw no significant gain until 1943 when the tide began to change in favor of China. President Wang Ching-wei attended the Cairo Conference in Egypt where US President Franklin Roosevelt, Imperial British-in-exile Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Soviet Chairman Joseph Stalin, and Imperial German Chancellor Otto Braun attended the meeting. The main clauses of the Cairo Declaration are that the five great allies are fighting this war to restrain and punish the aggression of Japan, they covet no gain for themselves and won't involve themselves in territorial expansion wars after the conflict. Later, a declaration was developed, using the ideas from the 1941 Atlantic Charter to formalize an international idealism unity named The United Nations Organization.

In late 1943, China fought against the weakened Japanese forces and successfully gained Nanking which boosted Chinese nationalism morale. Even if China was winning the Chinese front, it still struggles in gaining land in its Southern lands. Therefore, China turned its attention towards Manchuria where the Japanese barely clings on it. China and the Soviet Union funded Korean revolutionaries in Manchuria and Korea to cause an uprising to distract Japanese forces in order to weaken their grasp of Northern Asia. In late 1945, China swiftly liberated Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula from the Japanese. Promising to the Korean revolutionaries to aid them with the Korean Provisional Government situated in China, the Chinese government installed the Korean government-in-exile in the Korean peninsula and sent some advisors to ensure internal stability. In 1946, the Empire of Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers, ending World War II.

Problems in the South

However, China still has to deal with Chinese traitors and Japanese soldiers who are unwilling to give up their position. The United States tried to intervene with a ceasefire from both sides but both sides were unwilling to mutually give up their battle. In 1949, Chinese forces successfully drove Japanese soldiers and Chinese collaborators out of the mainland but unfortunately into Taiwan. Before China can initialize the liberalization of Taiwan, the United States declared that Taiwan would be protected under its protection due to its fear of a communist takeover in numerous countries. With the rise of political conflicts, the Cold War begins to arise. China angered with what the United States had done, sided with the Comintern stronger than ever. Even if China does not agree with the political system of the Soviet Union and its puppets, China and the Soviet Union agreed to strengthen their diplomatic relations against American aggression and imperialism.

Post-war World

After suffering through an intense war with major losses in population, China ought to jog their economy running again due to the major of its economy used for the war and hyperinflation rising pretty quickly. China started in reindustrialization where its economy started to stabilize enough for its government system to allow its citizens to have their necessities and wants. Many people wanted China to adopt a more free republic for its citizens to vote for different parties. Even with doubts by the government officials, China relieved its strict central control of the provinces and only allowed multiparty elections at the state-level. However, China feared that the Americans and its allies would undermine their government by creating puppet parties to control the government so they set up very strict rules on how a party can participate in provincial and federal governments. Many parties became well-known through China like the Democratic Party, Republican Party, Progressive Party, Chinese People's Party, and especially the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese Communist Party grew in popularity when Taiwan unsuccessfully tried to invade mainland China with American gear in 1961. With the government's permission, the Chinese Communist Party was allowed to began spreading Chinese patriotism and nationalism against the Americans.

Failed Red Revolution

With Chinese communism spreading throughout China, the radical-minded Mao Tse-tung planned to turn the party into a new direction. He forced many high-ranked members to retire in order to control the party and he planned to get the Chinese youths' attention by calling radical solutions to end problems. This got a lot of popularity in the southern provinces where some of the Chinese youths creating the Red Guards to revolutionize the "good old days."

Watch the video: Yuan Shikai rule 1912 - 1916


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