Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact


SDHF Newsletter No. 404 The Road to the Greater East Asian War Part 25, Chapter 7-3

Nakamura Akira, Dokkyo University Professor Emeritus
(English Translation: Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact)
Part 25, Chapter 7: The Illusion of International Cooperation – 3

March 29, 2024

The US, the host nation of the Washington Conference, had embraced an extremely optimistic presumption, i.e., if constraints were placed on Japanese activities there, China would suddenly transform itself into a modern sovereign nation. But post-Washington-Conference China, the “real” China, tore that rose-colored forecast to shreds.

The warlords were battling fiercely. In April 1922 the first Zhili-Fengtian War was fought. Wu Peifu of the Jilin militia defeated Zhang Zuolin’s Fengtian militia; Zhang fled to Manchuria. But in May, the undaunted Zhang issued a declaration of independence in connection with the three eastern provinces that comprise Manchuria. At this point China had three governments (one in Beijing, another in Guandong, and the third in Fengtian). Less than three months after the Nine-Power Treaty was signed in Washington, China had unraveled into three regimes. The “ideal China” that Washington Conference had envisioned proved to be a delusion, one of China’s own making.

Manchuria’s de facto independence: On May 31, 1924 two treaties between China and the USSR were signed: (1) the Sino-Soviet Agreement on General Principles for the Settlement of the Questions Between the Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Republics, and (2) Agreement for Provisional Management of the Chinese Eastern Railway. However, in September of the same year, Zhang Zuolin’s Fengtian government concluded an identical agreement with the Soviets pertaining to operation of the Chinese Eastern Railway. The fact that Zhang Zuolin’s Fengtian government signed an agreement exactly the same as that signed between China and the USSR tells us that Zhang was stating, in no uncertain terms, that the three eastern provinces (Manchuria) were independent of China.

The Special Conference on the Chinese Customs Tariff commence was held in October, 1926 in Beijing with 13 nations participating. The Chinese delegation, intoxicated by nationalistic fervor, was scheming to restore tariff autonomy in one fell swoop at this conference. But neither the UK nor the US, which had in principle supported Chinese demands for the restoration of Chinese national sovereignty at the Paris Peace Conference and the Washington Conference, had any intention of agreeing immediately to the new Chinese demands. The UK delegation stated that they were opposed to the Western Powers’ addressing this topic until China had quelled internecine warfare. Japan approached the conference with a plan that agreed with the desires of the Chinese for tariff autonomy. The conference seemed about to dissolve any number of times. Then, in April 1926, the government led by Duan Qirui collapsed because of a coup d’état, and Beijing plunged into anarchy. On July 3 the conference was postponed until such time as a legitimate government was established in China.

The Commission on Extraterritoriality in China issued a report in September 1926, stating that it could not relinquish extraterritoriality until China established “a unified system of laws, judicial independence from military authorities and exclusive branches of government, and extension of system of modern courts, prisons, and detention houses.”


MOTEKI Hiromichi, Chairman
Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact