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.
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.
- Sino-Japanese War (1894-95)
- The Anglo-Japanese Alliance (1902)
- Russo-Japanese War (1904-5)
- Japan during World War I
- The Washington Conference (1921)
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.
(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.
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.