China and the United States of America
Notes from Japan, China and the Powers

For The U.S. War Against Asia
by William P. Meyers

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China and the U.S. 1901 to Versailles Peace Conference

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All [page numbers] reference China, Japan, and the Powers by Meribeth E. Cameron, Thomas H. D. Mahoney, and George E. McReynolds. The Ronald Press Company, New York. Copyright 1952

The Russian advances in Manchuria and Korea caused the U.S. to back Japan in the Russo-Japanese War. Then “the emergence of Japan as a threat to the open door prompted a shift in Japanese-American relations which directed American energies against the new Japanese policy of exclusive rights [in China] and finally culminated in war in December, 1941.” [339]

The Japan-U.S. Root-Takahira Agreement “pledged both countries to respect the status quo in the Pacific, to respect each other’s possessions in that are, to uphold the open door in China, and to support China’s independence and integrity.” [343]

World War I was a bad time for China, even though it was not a combat area. Japan’s prior Twenty-One Demands showed Chinese weakness. The Republic, though nominally in place, had been replaced by regional war lords, notably Yuan Shih-k’ai, who attempted to convert upgrade himself from President to Emperor, but died on June 6, 1916. China severed relations with Germany & Austria, at the request of the U.S., on March 14, 1917. The Powers also agreed to revise Chinese customs tariffs, which they controlled. Japan wanted China out of the war and any post-war conferences in order to retain control of Shantung. Japan made a deal that with Britain, supporting giving German islands south of the equator, with Japan to keep Shantung and German islands north of the equator.  [366-368]

German business men were more popular in China than French, Japanese, British or Americans; most Chinese, and in particular the Kuomintang, wanted Germany to win the war, contrary to their government’s policy. 1917 saw a variety of governmental changes and rebellions in China. The Kuomintang set up their own government in Canton. The northern militarists in control of the recognized government declared war on Germany and Austria on August 14, 1917. China was able to seize German and Austrian property and regained control of Hankow and Tientsin. The allies declared they would suspend their own collection of Boxer Rebellion indemnities and that Germany and Austria would forfeit theirs. Customs duties were raised by 5%. The civil war between Peking and Canton continued. [368-370]

Except seizing German concessions, China did little for the war effort. China did send 175,000 laborers Europe and the Middle East to help the war effort. Peking focused its military action on defeating Canton. Peking took war loans from Japan and made a military agreement with her. [370]

The Bolshevik Revolution led to a collapse of Russian authority over the Chinese Eastern Railway zone in Manchuria. China sent troops to restore order. In early 1918 the United States, Great Britain, France and Japan began military action against the Leninists, basing themselves in Manchuria with Chinese permission. The allies were thrown back into Manchuria in June, 1918. The Japanese occupied northern Manchuria, despite U.S. opposition. The U.S. blocked Chinese takeover of the Chinese Eastern Railway, and engineered a joint allied take over.[371-372]

By the end of World War I there was no longer a Republic in China. The central government was in Peking, a rival was in Canton, but war lords were becoming the most important factor. China had again been pushed around by Japan and the Powers, not treated as an equal ally. [373]

At war end the European powers were too exhausted to meddle much in China, but Japan and the United States emerged as rivals. The U.S. “strove from 1914 until 1917 to expand its commercial activities in China, particularly in Manchuria,” which in turn made the Japanese feel they had to push harder. But the U.S.’s attention was diverted to Europe once war was declared on Germany. The Lansing-Ishii Agreement between the U.S. and Japan (represented by Secretary of State Robert Lansing and Viscount Ishii) was an exchange of notes signed November 2, 1917. The U.S. recognized “that Japan has special interests in China, particularly in the part to which her possessions are contiguous.” In return Japan promised to respect the independence and territorial integrity of China, and the open door commercial policy. This was generally believed to be an instance of the U.S. “selling China down the river.” [374-375]

The Chinese hoped that the Versailles Peace Conference would fix up past injustices. “The speeches of Woodrow Wilson, replete as they were with lofty idealism, did much to raise Chinese hopes” — they had been translated into Chinese. The Chinese sought the canceling of the Boxer Indemnity, extraterritoriality, and the other rights that had been imposed by the Powers, plus the return of Shantung. The delegation included Wang Ch’ing-wei. [375-376] [See Japan notes for Japanese hopes for the conference, which in some cased conflicted]

The Chinese argued that German concessions in Shantung were illegal to begin with, and therefore should not be transferred to Japan. The U.S. and Britain suggested they get Shantung (as a League mandate to be returned to China later), but Japan threatened to not sign the treaty. In the end Japan got all former German rights in Shantung, but announced they would hand back the peninsula to China and retain only the “economic privileges granted to Germany.” [376]

This was considered a defeat for President Wilson and the “self-determination” point of his Fourteen Points. [I note Wilson only pushed self-determination when the U.S. could benefit from the breakup of other nation’s empires.] [377]

Chinese were really angry about the treaty, as expressed by protests. [378]

The Japanese proposal for a racial equality clause (“the principle of the equality of nations and just treatment of their nationals”) was derailed by Woodrow Wilson himself [who was the committed racist head of a racist political organization in the United States, the Democratic Party]. China, France, Italy and others supported this proposal, but it was opposed by the U.S. and Great Britain (which had subjugated vast numbers of non-whites in its colonies). Wilson chaired the committee voting on the proposal, and when Japan won 11 of 17 possible votes, declared that it required unanimous approval. [378-379]


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