Sunday, January 18, 2015

January 18th, 1915

- Japan had entered the First World War on the side of the Entente not because it was threatened by Germany, but rather to secure its own limited objectives in East Asia and the Pacific.  Indeed, the amount of time and effort it would take the rest of the Entente to defeat Germany in Europe was of no particular concern to Japan, provided that Germany was defeated eventually.  Thus Japan's focus was always limited to its immediate backyard, and by the end of 1914 had secured its immediate territorial objectives through the seizure of Tsingtao and the German islands of the north Pacific.  With this accomplished, the focus of the Japanese government turned to China, still a neutral state but one in which Japan had long sought to secure economic and political hegemony.  China was seen as an essential source of raw materials and a market for exports, and a dominant Japanese interest was also viewed as crucial to the security of the nascent Japanese Empire.  The European colonial powers, however, had also long been interested in China, and concessions to Britain, France, and Russia threaten to crowd out Japan, while the 'Open Door' policy of the United States is equally unpalatable.  The ongoing war, however, has opened an opportunity to the Japanese government to expand its influence in China without meeting the opposition of Britain, France, and Russia, given their continued desire for Japanese assistance.

Thus today the Japanese ambassador presents to the Chinese government what will become known as the Twenty-One Demands, listing the concessions expected of the Chinese.  The Demands were organized into five groups:

  1. Japan is to be given the right to settle the future of Tsingtao (in practice, this means Japan will be able to take the base for itself).
  2. The Japanese lease of Kwantung is to be extended for ninety-nine years, consolidating Japan's hold on southern Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia.
  3. Japan will be granted joint ownership of the Hanyehping iron and coal company, a key source of raw materials whose exploitation by Japan would have the additional benefit of retarding Chinese industrialization.
  4. China will not give or lease any harbour opposite the Japanese colony of Taiwan.
  5. Explicitly labelled as a series of 'wishes', not 'demands', the fifth group cover more general issues, such as China accepting Japanese military and political advisers and that Japanese citizens can own land in China, which would effectively give Japan indirect control over those parts of China over which it does not already have direct control.

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