Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact


SDHF Newsletter No. 391 The Road to the Greater East Asian War Part 17, Chapter 5 : Japan and World War I-1

Nakamura Akira, Dokkyo University Professor Emeritus
(English Translation: Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact)
Part 17, Chapter 5: Japan and World War I-1

On July 28, 1914, World War I broke out. Britain formally asked the Japanese government “to employ some of their warships in hunting and destroying German armed merchantmen in China.” On August 15 Japan sent an ultimatum to Germany. Japan turned down requests from Britain, France, and Russia to deploy Japanese troops to Europe. The activity of German warships intensified, and in January 1917 Britain again asked Japan to send warships to the Mediterranean Sea. Japan acquiesced, and in early February dispatched a torpedo squadron comprising a cruiser and eight destroyers.
During World War I, Sino-Japanese relations were complicated by what are referred to as the Twenty-One Demands, which are considered by some to be a synonym for aggression against China. However, American historian Alfred W. Griswold offers his opinion in Far Eastern Policy of the United States, as follows:

Japan had been making great strides toward wealth and power since her war with Russia. But she had by no means reached the objectives the attainment of which she believed her geographical situation made imperative. The position in Korea, southern Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia that she had wrested from Russia and fortified with the sundry political instruments already discussed had enhanced her sense of security, yet left it far from complete. … The Knox neutralization scheme and the Chinchow-Aigun project had threatened the foundation of her special position north of the Great Wall. … In China proper lay the raw materials and natural resources which, for Europe, were profitable speculations, but for Japan were the lifeblood of existence. … Now that these Western nations were preoccupied with the war, Japan would adjust the situation. Since 1895, when France, Russia and Germany had forced her to return the Liaotung Peninsula to China, Western interventionists had repeatedly thwarted Japan in her pursuit of what, to her, was not only a just but vitally essential policy. … She would strengthen her foothold in Manchuria and Mongolia, and make that in Shantung secure enough to withstand another Triple Intervention. … Finally, she would make the contract so binding that it could not be broken on European council tables once the war freed Europe’s attention. Such, briefly, was the origin of the Twenty-One Demands.

A summary of the Twenty-One Demands follows.

Group 1: Four articles whereby the Japanese government demands that the Chinese government agree in advance to Japan’s disposition of former German interests in Shandong province.
Group II: Seven articles demanding: a 99-year extension of the leases on Port Arthur and Dalian, as well as on the South Manchurian and Anfeng railways: permission for Japanese nationals to reside, travel, and conduct business in South Manchuria and Eastern Inner Mongolia; consent of the Japanese government when a railway is to be built or the Chinese government employs advisors, to be obtained in advance.
Group III: Two articles demanding that the Hanyeping Co. be made a joint Japanese-Chinese concern when the opportune moment arrives.
Group IV: One article demanding that the Chinese government neither cede nor lease any harbor, bay, or island along the coast of China to a third power.
Group V: Seven articles (these were desiderata, not demands) that were alleged to infringe upon Chinese sovereignty:(Article 1) a request that Chinese government employ Japanese political and military advisors; (Article 2) a request that Japanese hospitals, temples, and schools be given the right to own land; (Article 3) a request that joint Japanese-Chinese police forces be established in certain areas, if necessary; (Article 4) a request that China purchase a fixed amount of weapons from Japan or establish a Japanese-Chinese jointly operated arsenal; (Article 5) a request that railway construction rights in South China be granted to Japan; (Article 6) a request that priority be given to Japan concerning the construction or working of railways, mines, and harbors in Fujian province; (Article 7) a request that Japanese subjects be granted the right to do missionary work in China.
Thus, there were 14 demands and seven requests. The 14 demands were not unreasonable, given the situation at the time.
Then, what about the seven requests? Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Chinese revolutionary leader, sent a note to Koike Chōzō, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Political Affairs Bureau in mid-March 1915. In it Sun proposed a Japan-China covenant that would include the following terms: (1) to facilitate joint Japan-China operations, Chinese weapons would be manufactured to match the gauge of Japanese weapons, (2) when Chinese military or government planned to employ foreigners, Japanese would be given priority, and (3) Japan would be consulted in advance when foreign capital was needed or a merger was planned for mines, railways, or coastal routes.
This means that Sun Yat-sen was in agreement with both Japan’s demands and desiderata.