Can a Potential Future Pacific War be Avoided? Part 1

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Can a Potential Future Pacific War be Avoided? Part 1

Can a Potential Future Pacific War be Avoided? Part 1

The purpose of this multipart investigation will be two-fold, where one we analyze what led to the 1941-1945 pacific war starting with the discussions following the Treaty of Versailles in context of which Erez Manela in his epic book 1 pointed to 1919 as the “Wilsonian Moment” whereby the purpose of this is too to understand potentially could lead to a futures second pacific war if China follows up on its threats to attack Taiwan with as a purpose to take control of what China terms the South China Sea.

The term South China Sea itself did not exist before the 20th century and was first established as a regional concept in Japan or as the preface to Yoshaburo Takekoshi’s 1910 bestseller Nangokukki [Outline of the History of the South Seas], Tokyo: Niyousha, 1910, indicated that “in the last twenty years the name `South Seas’ has come into general use” which suggests that this term may have been re-imported to China from Japan.

As we have seen, many perceive The Treaty of Versailles and 1919 as a moment in which a few European and North American states – principally, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States – reaffirmed their supremacy over affairs in all reaches of the globe. Of course, these remaining so-called Great Powers were not omnipotent, as witnessed by their failed attempt to reverse the course of the Russian Revolution. Still, they collectively asserted their primacy by excluding the newly formed Soviet Union from the League of Nations, and more importantly, refusing to dismantle the remaining colonial empires. Within this view of 1919, the centrality of President Wilson suggests that it was the year that the United States attained global preeminence, or hegemonic shift, at the expense of the European powers, and in particular that of the United Kingdom with the abrupt end to Pax Britannica following the outbreak of the First World War

The “1919 moment” – a notion that extends before and after that calendar year – as we have seen was a time of tremendous global upheaval as well as significance. However, one should contest the prevailing historiographical tendency that privileges Europeans and Americans’ experiences and actions in determining the worldwide importance of that moment. In fact, this narrative fails to adequately address the populations and real or imagined states of Northeast Asia. Doing so demonstrates that the diplomatic and military endeavors, intellectual pursuits, and nation-building efforts within Northeast Asia constitute a bold new challenge to European and American hegemony. This does not mean that Europeans and Americans ceased to shape the international system to suit their own interests, as that argument would necessitate the denial of historical reality. Rather, something we will now expand on, is that among others, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, and Mongolians rejected key aspects of this Euro-American hegemony, raised objections, and posited new challenges to the nation-state system on which it rested. These actions in themselves wrought fissures within the world order that would eventually explode in the late 1930s and 1940s, create conflict and instability through the Cold War, and shape the multipolar nature of world affairs from the late twentieth century until very recently when the shadow of a bipolar world began to loom over us.

Japan seized the outbreak of war in Europe as a “one-in-a-million chance” to establish Japan’s footholds in China south of the Great Wall. As an ally of Great Britain, Japan immediately declared war on Germany. Within three months, it occupied the German leased territory in Shandong Province, including Qingdao with an excellent harbor in Jiaozhou Bay. Intending to secure all German rights and concessions in Qingdao/Shandong (along with other Japanese interests in China, notably in Manchuria and Fujian), Japan resorted to the aggressive diplomacy of the Twenty-One Demands and extracted the Beijing (Chinese Republic) government’s consent to give Japan a free hand in its negotiations with Germany at a future peace conference in Paris.

Thus, the greatest challenger to the Eurocentric system – or the established world order – was Japan, as it ascended to a Big Five Power position at the Paris Peace Conference. When the Covenant of the League of Nations, part of the Treaty of Versailles, came into force in 1920, Japan became one of only four Executive Council members who oversaw the League’s operations since the United States had failed to join the body. However, as a non-white country, Japan collided with a glass ceiling that relegated it to a secondary status among the Powers. Discourses of biologically determined racial hierarchies and civilizing missions that prevailed during the “age of empire” prevented Japan from attaining full parity with the other Great Powers. Nonetheless, these same trends meant that, when Japan proposed adding a racial equality clause to the League’s convention, its effort gained widespread attention worldwide, including within China.

The European and American refusal to enshrine racial equality in a multilateral treaty pushed many Japanese intellectuals and political leaders on their own rejectionist path, away from the West and toward an anti-Western form of pan-Asianism. It was no coincidence that intellectuals in Japan began to call for Japan’s exit from the West and reentry to Asia, or that pan-Asianism and other transnational ideologies gained popularity at this juncture. 1919 and the years after were undoubtedly a key turning point because the lack of support from the United States became a critical catalyst for Japan’s eventual divergence from established global norms. Deciding that the Western Powers envisioned a world in which the white race was assured permanent supremacy, Japanese leaders began to seek an alternate course whereby Japan would become the master of Asia. 

To be sure, Koreans and Chinese also leveled substantive challenges to the Euro-American international system’s foundation during 1919. However, they did so initially in the form of anti-Japanese mass movements. As for Korea, a Japanese presence, especially after the imposition of a protectorate (1905) and full annexation (1910), mediated Korea’s contacts with the wider world to a large degree. Thus the March 1st Movement, also known as the Sam-il Movement, one of the earliest public displays of Korean resistance during Korea’s rule by Japan from 1910 to 1945. As a consequence, Japan stood in as a proxy for the international order of colonial empires.

The widespread explosion of independence-oriented mass nationalism in the March First Movement challenged Japanese imperialism and the broader edifice of colonial rule. Similarly, when Chinese students marched in Beijing two months later in opposition to the Treaty of Versailles, which placed Germany’s concessions in China under Japanese control rather than restoring them to Chinese sovereignty, they protested the character of the “old diplomacy” with its secret agreements and presumption that the world existed for the Great Powers to divide.

It should not be overlooked that in both cases, Chinese and Korean activists drew on ideas and models from the very system they sought to undermine, such as the right to national self-determination, participatory democracy, and ideas of social equality. In other words, even though Japan worked to overturn aspects of Euro-American hegemony, from the perspective of many politically active Chinese and Koreans, Japan was undeniably fully complicit in the international colonial order. Therefore, it can be said that an attack on Japan’s imperialist activities, in turn, targeted the larger system that had produced global wars and an unequal peace. 

The Shandong/Qingdao controversy

To this day, every 4 May(‘May fourth’) is Youth Day in China. This public holiday commemorates the revolutionary rallies led by Chinese youth in the early 1900s. Yet as we among others will see why, in our multi-part investigation, what actually took place on 4 May 1919 in fact is strongly contested. Although both the Communist party in China (CCP) and most historians agree that in 1919 the country was at its nadir. The last imperial dynasty, the Qing, weakened by decades of internal strife and foreign encroachment on Chinese territory, had collapsed in 1911. A military strongman, Yuan Shikai, had tried to reinstate the monarchy with himself as the new emperor. His death in 1916 had unleashed struggles between rival warlords. the CCP does not want to be reminded that its supporters were once attracted by its promise of liberation from autocracy, not by the dictatorship it came to represent.

In East Asia, there was a socialization process that began after the First Opium War (1838–1842), when European powers forced their way into China and secured their interests by obtaining concessions and extraterritoriality. A decade later, in 1853–1854, Commodore Perry’s arrival in Tokyo Bay opened Japan to the world. While different in some respects, China and Japan shared a similar path in which they had to substantially change their political and economic systems to gain recognition as members of the international community.2 Thus, from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, multilateralism was at the core of the two countries’ foreign policy. For China, Japan’s success in ending extraterritoriality in 1894 and forming an alliance with Britain in 1902 proved that multilateralism effectively kept peace in the world and allowed mobility in the global system. Hence, from 1895 to 1915, China saw Japan as a model of “East Asian modernity” and sent thousands of its brightest students to schools in Japan. 

To highlight the close relationship between China and Japan during this time, Douglas Reynolds calls these ten years “the golden decade” of Sino-Japanese relations.3 The period was golden not only because it was in sharp contrast to what happened later when the two countries went to war in the 1930s and 1940s. The metaphor that it was golden is because China and Japan were closely tied to a cultural and technology sharing network to build an “East Asian modernity.” What drove this cultural and technological network was the belief that East Asia (encompassing China, Japan, and Korea) was a region with a unique culture and history that could achieve modernity equal to, but different from, Europe and the United States. A striking characteristic of this network was that it was centered in Japan rather than in China, practically destabilizing the Sino-centric tributary system dominant in East Asia in previous centuries.

The “golden decade” ended abruptly in 1915 when the Japanese government presented the Twenty-One Demands to Yuan Shikai, the president of China’s young Republic.

The larger context of this was that in October 1914, a combined task force of British, British, Indian, and Japanese troops besieged Germany’s major enclave at Qingdao. The German forces, many rallied from expatriate communities across China, led a dogged resistance in which more besiegers than defenders fell. But on 7 November, the settlement capitulated. In stark contrast with the deepening stalemate on the western front, it was seen as a military triumph, and Qingdao was left under Japanese administration. Some 5,000 German defenders ended up in fifteen hastily constructed prisoner-of-war camps in Japan, arriving rather incongruously to German and Japanese flags’ fluttering. Bismarck’s Germany had, after all, served as a model for Meiji statesmen.4

Japan took advantage of the embroilment in Europe to project its national trade and influence across Asia and into the Pacific. Exploiting the 1902 alliance with Britain, Japanese warships were seen everywhere in British harbors. Civilian ‘sightseeing parties’ gathered economic and political intelligence in Malaya and Indochina, and the Netherlands Indies. British strategists knew that as the greater weight of British naval power was drawn towards the home seas, the defense of eastern sea lanes was at the mercy of Japanese goodwill. Few were under any illusions about Japan’s hidden intentions. The Dutch press in the Indies saw the loss of Qingdao as a moral and racial victory at the expense of European powers and feared a pre-emptive British occupation of the Dutch outer islands.5 It would not take much – Germany overrunning the neutral Netherlands or the Japanese extending their occupation of German Oceania – for an overzealous rival to encamp on Australia’s borders. To forestall this, the enterprising British consul in Batavia, W. R. D. Beckett, suggested to Whitehall that parts of the Netherlands East Indies – Sumatra, Borneo, and the Celebes – be partitioned between Britain and Japan. But Whitehall upheld the status quo: the Dutch at least were ‘harmless.’6

To capitalize on this ‘one in a million chance,’ on 18 January 1915, Japan presented ‘Twenty-One Demands’ to the President of China, Yuan Shikai, calling for economic privileges and settlement rights extraterritorial concessions. This launched a fresh wave of patriotic demonstrations across Chinese cities. The leaders of the newly established republic, for their part, sought recognition and respect among the imperial powers of the world. They saw the conflict in Europe as an opportunity to regain their lost territories, especially the German Concession at Qingdao. But the Allies denied China’s entry into the war. Although officially neutral until August 1917, China has begun recruiting ‘laborers as soldiers’ for Europe. This became a patriotic cause like no other, as the fierce internal debates around the war extended the public spheres for newspapers and polemic.7 Some 120,000 men were despatched to the west; in the region of another 100,000 were recruited for Tsarist Russia, the Murmansk railway, the Baku oilfields, and the Donets’ coal mines Basin. But for many of the impoverished rural laborers – most of whom came from Shandong, the old heart of the Boxer Rebellion on the eastern edge of the North China plain – it resulted in the form of debt bondage much like any other. The route to the western front for 84,244 of them was through Canada.

Some 120,000 men were despatched to the west; in the region of another 100,000 were recruited for Tsarist Russia, the Murmansk railway, the Baku oilfields, and the Donets’ coal mines Basin. But for many of the impoverished rural laborers – most of whom came from Shandong, the old heart of the Boxer Rebellion on the eastern edge of the North China plain – it resulted in debt bondage much like any other. The route to the western front for 84,244 of them was through Canada: a cynical, and secret, hiatus in the decades of exclusion.8 

The aftermath of the Versailles treaty

The Versailles treaty Articles 128 to 158 specified that Germany’s treaties with several states were invalidated. The most important of these concerned the Chinese Shangdong peninsula (Articles 156– 158), where, since 1898, Germany had held a 99-year lease for 100 square miles at Kiachow Bay in the south. Here, at Qingdao, they constructed a harbor where the German Cruiser Squadron was stationed. The Japanese overran Tsingtaoe in the early months of the war, and they expanded their base far beyond the territory leased to Germany. The Allies, keen to secure continued Japanese assistance in East Asia and the Pacific, had assured Japan in 1917 that it could take over from Germany in Shantung after the war. Still, U.S. delegates at the peace conference objected to the acquisition. Under pressure to finalize the treaty in the last days of April, Wilson agreed to a compromise: Japan could take over Germany’s economic rights in Shantung – the port, the railways, and the mines – but had to pull out its occupation forces. When the Chinese delegates were handed these terms, they left the conference. Japan withdrew from Shangdong in 1922 but invaded the Chinese mainland, including Shangdong, fifteen years later. It was the beginning of a war and occupation to take the life of twenty million Chinese. 

What is less known is the behavior of Woodrow Wilson when the end of April 1919, Wilson (USA), Clemenceau (France), and Lloyd George (Britain) settled the last major issue on their agenda, which was indeed the quarrel between the Republic of China and the Japanese Empire.

On the other hand, the French and particularly Lloyd George’s arguments were: We can’t say to the Japanese: “We were happy to find you in time of war; but now, good buy!” The Japanese compounded Wilson’s anxieties by threatening to withdraw from the Peace Conference unless their Chinese claim was honored. Thus in a double bind, Wilson feared that if the Japanese followed the Italians out the door and declined to sign the treaty, Wilson explained, Germany might also decline. And that thus the only hope for world peace was “to keep the world together, get the League of Nations with Japan in it, and then try to secure justice for the Chinese.” So Wilson joined Clemenceau and Lloyd George in awarding the German rights in Shangdong to Japan. And in the agreement not written into the Versailles treaty Articles, Japan promised to return Shangdong Peninsula to Chinese sovereignty “at the earliest possible time.”

China’s faith turned to anger and disillusion when, in early May 1919, news reached China that the Big Three had decided to give economic control of the Shandong Peninsula to Japan. Thousands of protesters marched through Beijing’s streets on May 4, protesting Japanese businesses, expressing their anger at the Western leaders in Paris, and burning down a prominent Chinese politician’s house with ties to Japan. Calls for a full boycott of Western and Japanese goods soon followed, as did a wave of strikes in Shanghai, Wuhan, and other Chinese cities.

China’s weakness and Japan’s strength

Thus the First World War had starkly revealed both China’s weakness and Japan’s strength. For their part, Japanese leaders knew that the European influence in Asia would likely decline after the war, and they very much wanted to be the power that would fill in the resulting vacuum. Their delegation to Paris was led by Prince Saionji Kinmochi, a seventy-year-old elder statesman and former prime minister who had studied at the Sorbonne and had been Georges’s classmate Clemenceau there. Japanese leaders mistrusted Woodrow Wilson’s principles, seeing right through his noble-sounding ideas to the racist core that underlay them. As one Japanese newspaper wrote, Wilson was an angel in rhetoric but a devil indeed. The Japanese knew that Wilson held Asians to a lower standard of development than he did Europeans. They also blamed Wilson’s promises of national self-determination for the rise in anti-Japanese sentiment in China and Korea. Hoping to catch Wilson in a trap and expose his hypocrisy, the Japanese delegates came to Paris seeking to force the insertion of a racial equality clause into the final treaty. Either the Allies would agree and thereby undercut their own rationale for imperialism, or they would refuse and give the Japanese a tremendous public relations victory across Asia, especially inside the European and American colonial empires.

But not having China present among the signatories was another bad taste that the signing ceremony left behind. British diplomat Sir James Headlam-Morley and American general Tasker H. Bliss were among the senior officials who sympathized with the Chinese and thought they had been correct to refuse to put their names on a treaty so humiliating their country. The Shandong decision was deeply unpopular among the Chinese and among diplomats in Paris who recognized just how badly it undermined the very principles upon which they were trying to rebuild the world. Headlam-Morley worried about the ramifications of China’s noninvolvement in that new world order. Chinese anger at the West and the West’s acquiescence in Japan’s power grab would inevitably lead to an increase in Japanese strength, a development that worried both the Europeans and the Americans. Headlam-Morley feared setting up the dangerous possibility of creating a bloc of anti–League of Nations states led by an alliance between Germany, the Soviet Union, and China. Neither option augured well for the West or stability in East Asia. The Americans were worried about Japanese power growth, but Wilson scarcely had time to think about Asia. First, he had to find a way to get the US Senate to approve the Treaty of Versailles and its most controversial provision, the League of Nations’ Covenant. The battle to do so proved to be one of the most arduous, partisan, and acrimonious debates in the history of American American politics. In the end, it may well have led Wilson to suffer the strokes that incapacitated him, destroyed the remainder of his presidency, and muddled his legacy.

A shared animus at the old system crystallized in debates on China’s place in the world. ‘Warlordism,’ a popular pejorative term for the provincial militarists’ politics, was seen as a symptom of imperialism and China’s democracy’s weakness.9

When the European powers finally rejected China’s demands at Versailles to restore its territories at Shangdong/Qingdao, the news spread through Beijing like wildfire. There was fury that Qingdao remained in Japanese hands. On the evening of 3 May 1919, students from across the city rallied at Beida’s law school. There were fiery speeches, and one student bit his finger and wrote in blood on a banner: ‘Return our Qingdao.’ The next morning some 3,000 students from across Beijing rallied on the square before the Tiananmen, or ‘Gate of Heavenly Peace,’ and the threshold of the dethroned emperor. They shouted demands for an hour, wrote slogans on the joss notes (‘hell banknotes’) used at funerals, and recited mock funerary couplets for the ministers who had failed China so badly at Versailles. They marched to the Japanese legation, but soldiers and police barred the way, and they had no permit to enter. Determined to hold someone directly to account, part of the crowd surged towards the house of one of the Versailles delegates, the deputy foreign minister, Cao Rulin, who was seen to be sympathetic to Japan. Ten or so students – at least one of them a not-so-young twenty-nine years of age – broke into the house and opened its doors to the rest. They punched one of the minister’s house guests – China’s minister to Tokyo, who had played a role in acquiescing to Japanese demands – terrorized Cao’s concubine, and set fire to his bed. The rector of Beida, Cai Yuanpei, resigned and left the city. Thirty-two students were arrested before being released three days later. One student died, but only because the demonstration had exacerbated his tuberculosis.10 

The students endeavored to prove to western observers that this was a modern protest enacted in an orderly manner in the public spaces and new thoroughfares of Beijing. In the words of one leader, it was an awakening of sorts: ‘a a new way of doing things, applying a new method of thinking, using colloquial, easily understood language to communicate with the masses, and using effective organizational techniques … It embodied the progress of the age.’11 For them, it heralded a ‘life or death’ struggle that propelled them out into the world. The key activists were now younger, a self-conscious and exclusive generation; there was an invisible threshold by which, if one was born too early or too late, one was on the wrong side of history as they understood it. They shared a conviction that the generation before them was ill-equipped for leadership and had, by its failings, relinquished such a role. But this fissure was more imaginary – and exaggerated for effect – than real. They were somewhat selective in their self-fashioning, even choosing some of their intellectual inspirations, which included members of the generation in between, the generation of ‘lasts and firsts.’ Lu Xun was thirty-seven years old and had spent most of the last decade trapped in the bureaucratic inertia the students were challenging. Chen Duxiu was forty. He had increasing doubts about the efficacy of the students as yet another ‘movement of constitutions.’ Soon, however, two of his own sons would break with him and head abroad.12 

Almost immediately, ‘May Fourth’ came to symbolize a rejection of the old ways and the birth of a new culture: another fury of enlightenment. Demonstrations and boycotts soon spread to the divided port cities. The moment news of the protest reached Shanghai on 5 May, a city-wide students’ union was formed encompassing some sixty-one schools. It garnered wider support with the fourth anniversary of China’s acquiescence to Japan’s Twenty-One Demands, which fell on 9 May, and through a boycott, took on a more popular dimension. By 15 June, there was a five-day shutdown of the city’s Japanese cotton mills in a strike involving some 30,000 laborers. Perhaps the largest single episode of violence occurred in Tokyo itself, on 7 May, when 400 demonstrating Chinese students were confronted with more than 1,000 Japanese cavalrymen; over a quarter of the protestors were injured, though none fatally.13 If May Fourth saw the advent of ‘students’ as new political and social actors, its legacy lay as much in their methods as what they thought and symbolized. The longer-term and deeper strands of activity that lay behind these events were located not only in the sites where the most prominent champions of the new ideas were found but also in provincial cities away from the coast. In Wuhan’s cities, for example, the heart of the 1911 Wuchang uprising, there was an interlocking world of literary and study societies, cooperative bookstores, and bodies such as the YMCA it’s hiking, singing, socializing, and group discussions. These overlapped with mutual aid societies on a more radical model.14 Similar constellations were to be found in other Chinese cities. As one young writer explained it: As to the actions which should be undertaken once we have united, there is one extremely violent party, which uses the method ‘Do unto others as they do unto you’ to struggle desperately to the end with the aristocrats and capitalists. The leader of this party is a man named Marx who was born in Germany. There is another party more moderate than that of Marx. It does not expect rapid results but begins by understanding the common people. Men should all have a morality of mutual aid and work voluntarily. As for the aristocrats and capitalists, it suffices that they repent and turn toward the good and work and help people rather than them harming them; it is not necessary to kill them. The ideas of this party are broader and more far-reaching. They want to unite the whole globe into a single country, unite the human race in a single-family, and attain together in peace, happiness, and friendship – not friendship as understood by the Japanese – an age of prosperity. The leader of this party is a man named Kropotkin, who was born in Russia.15 

The author was a young history teacher and review editor in Hunan province called Mao Zedong. He had recently returned from Beijing where, between August 1918 and March 1919, he had been one of the many non-students who attended classes at Beida and had worked in the university’s library. Before that, he had formed part of the active circle based around the Hunan First Normal School in Changsha, a reformist teacher-training college whose curriculum combined classical Chinese pedagogy with new forms of learning that included many thinkers from the European Enlightenment. Its teachers had spent time in Japan, Germany, and even Scotland, and they introduced New Youth to their students.16 One of the Hunan group’s principal acts, spearheaded by Mao Zedong, set up a ‘Culture Books’ agency in Changsha. In the absence of a ‘national’ press, it signed up subscribers to newspapers from Beijing and Shanghai, particularly for their literary and political supplements.17 In an important sense, therefore, much of the intellectual substance of May Fourth had already permeated these circles. In other places, May Fourth was distant thunder. In the interior of Fujian province, in Zhangping, only a handful of people read the newspapers in the local reading room. News of strikes and boycotts in the region or what happened in Beijing normally took some time to filter through. No student had ever seen a copy of New Youth. But then, here too, the effects of May Fourth were eventually felt. As one nineteen-year-old, Zheng Chaolin, later remembered it: ‘Students who normally never stirred were now active; students who never spoke were now voluble. The reading room was crowded, current events were common knowledge, and, most important of all, the students now controlled their own association.’18

Underneath Yuan Shikai center:

Russian Revolution and East Asia

In late 1917 when the Bolsheviks swept to power in Russia, the existing order in Asia was changed dramatically. First, the Russo-Japanese alliance collapsed, and the Russian Revolution presented a new opportunity for Japan to extend its interest in Siberia. Japan could leverage this into gaining further control in Manchuria. While Japan was busy preparing its military expedition into Russia, it was also pressuring China to sign a treaty giving Japan full control of Manchuria and the Chinese army, using the excuse of dealing with German soldiers in Russia and preventing the spread of revolutionary currents from Russia to East Asia.

In early February 1918, when Japan first pressed this issue, China made it clear that if the so-called German threat came at its Russian border, China would itself manage the situation. But Japan pushed hard. On 2 March, the Chinese Foreign Ministry agreed in principle that China would negotiate with Japan regarding the joint defense if the latter were really sincere in its promise that afterward, the Japanese troops within Chinese territory would be entirely withdrawn. As it did with the Twenty-one Demands, Japan asked China to keep the discussions and alleged agreements strictly secret. Viscount Motono told Zhang Zongxiang, Chinese minister to Japan, that “before the joint defense agreement is made known, we shouldn’t disclose anything in words to the Allied countries, but should wait until such a time when the two countries can jointly confer with them.”  

The agreement did not last long. On 27 January 1921, Japan was compelled to cancel. In mid-May, the Terauchi Masatake government and Beijing concluded and signed the joint defense agreements; the army section was signed on May 16, the naval section three days later. Its provisions enabled Japanese troops to move freely throughout most of China. To continue receiving its financial support, the Republic of China (the Beiyang government that sat in its capital Peking between 1912 and 1928) even agreed that Japan could keep Shandong’s interests in a secret agreement signed on September 24, 1918.

These secret arrangements were important for two reasons. First, they sowed the seeds of China’s failure at the Paris Peace Conference regarding the Shandong issue. Second, the joint defense agreement aroused strong opposition among China’s foreign policy public, especially college students, with nationwide demonstrations coming as a forerunner of the May Fourth Movement. Indeed, when the news regarding the secret treaty with Japan leaked out, the Chinese people immediately protested. Thirty-seven groups in Shanghai alone sent a telegram on April 23 to the Beiyang government, declaring their opposition to the alleged treaty. Many influential social groups, including the United Association of National Commerce and provincial education commissions, openly expressed their dissent. Many societies sent delegates to Beijing to petition the government directly not to sign the treaty. They all pointed out that such agreements would only damage China’s national interest and claims to sovereignty. Some protesters felt this was worse than the Twenty-one Demands. Among the protesters, students were the most active and vocal. Chinese students in Japan demonstrated, refused to go to class, and many returned to China. Beijing students organized demonstrations in front of the presidential office, demanding rejection of the treaty. Students in other places such as Tianjin and Shanghai also took similar actions. 

Part 2: Issues like the Asian Monroe Doctrine, how relations between China and Japan from the 1890s onward transformed the region from the hierarchy of time to the hierarchy of space, Leninist and Wilsonian Internationalism, western and Eastern Sovereignty, and the crucial March First and May Fourth movements were covered in: Part Two Can a potential future Pacific War be avoided?

Part 3: The important Chinese factions beyond 1919 and the need for China to create a new Nation-State and how Japan, in turn, sought to expand into Asia through liberal imperialism and then sought to consolidate its empire through liberal internationalism were covered in: Part Three Can a potential future Pacific War be avoided?

Part 4: The various arrangements between the US and Japan, including The Kellogg–Briand Pact or Pact in 1928 and The Treaty for the Limitation and Reduction of Naval Armament of 1930. Including that American policy toward Japan until shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack was not the product of a rational, value-maximizing decisional process. Rather, it constituted the cumulative, aggregate outcome of several bar­gaining games which would enable them to carry out their preferred Pacific strategy was covered in: Part Four Can a potential future Pacific War be avoided?

Part 5: The Manchurian crisis and its connection to the winding road to World War II are covered in: Part Five Can a potential future Pacific War be avoided?

Part 6:The war itself quickly unfolded in favor of Japan’s regionalist ambitions, a subject we carried through to the post-world war situation. Whereby we also discussed when Japan saw itself in a special role as mediator between the West (“Euro-America”) and the East (“Asia”) to “harmonize” or “blend” the two civilizations and demanded that Japan lead Asia in this anti-Western enterprise there are parallels with what Asim Doğan in his extensive new book describes how the ambiguous and assertive Belt and Road Initiative is a matter of special concern in this aspect. The Tributary System, which provides concrete evidence of how Chinese dynasties handled with foreign relations, is a useful reference point in understanding its twenty-first-century developments. This is particularly true because, after the turbulence of the “Century of Humiliation” and the Maoist Era, China seems to be explicitly re-embracing its history and its pre-revolutionary identity in: Part Six Can a potential future Pacific War be avoided?

Part 7: Part Seven Can a potential future Pacific War be avoided?

Part 8: While initially both the nationalist Chiang Kai-shek (anti-Mao Guomindang/KMT), including Mao’s Communist Party (CCP), had long supported independence for Taiwan rather than reincorporation into China, this started to change following the publication of the New Atlas of China’s Construction created by cartographer Bai Meichu in 1936. A turning point for Bai and others who saw China’s need to create a new Nation-State was the Versailles peace conference’s outcome in 1919 mentioned in part one. Yet that from today’s point of view, the fall of Taiwan to China would be seen around Asia as the end of American predominance and even as “America’s Suez,” hence demolishing the myth that Taiwan has no hope is critical. And that while the United States has managed to deter Beijing from taking destructive military action against Taiwan over the last four decades because the latter has been relatively weak, the risks of this approach inches dangerously close to outweighing its benefits. Conclusion and outlook.


1. Erez Manela, The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism (Oxford Studies in International History), 2009.

2. The classic works on the common path of socialization are Gerritt W. Gong, The Standard of “Civilization” in International Society (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984) and Hedley Bull and Adam Watson, eds., The Expansion of International Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984). For a historical reflection on China’s and Japan’s internationalization, see Akira Iriye, China and Japan in Global Setting (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998). 

3. Douglas R. Reynolds, China, 1898-1912: The Xinzheng Revolution and Japan (Cambridge, MA: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1993), 1‒39. 

4. Sandra Barkhof, ‘Renegotiating the Yellow Peril: Cultural and Physical Displacement in the German Colony in China during the First World War,’ in Sandra Barkhof and Angela K. Smith (eds), War and Displacement in the Twentieth Century: Global Conflicts, London, Routledge, 2014, pp. 151–67, at pp. 161–2; Frederick R. Dickinson, War and National Reinvention: Japan in the Great War, 1914–1919, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Asia Center, 1999, p.117. 

5. S. L. van der Wal, ‘The Netherlands as an Imperial Power in South-east Asia in the Nineteenth Century and After’, in J. S. Bromley and E. H. Kossmann (eds), Britain and the Netherlands in Europe and Asia, London, Macmillan,1968, pp. 191–206, at p. 96. 

7. Nicholas Tarling, ‘“A Vital British Interest”: Britain, Japan, and the Security of Netherlands India in the Inter-War Period’, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 9/2 (1978), pp. 180–218, at pp. 187–8. 

8. Xu Guoqi, China and the Great War: China’s Pursuit of a New National Identity and Internationalization, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2005.

9. Guoqi Xu, Strangers on the Western Front: Chinese Workers in the Great War,2011, esp. pp. 55–79 for Canada; Paul J. Bailey, ‘“An Army of Workers”: Chinese Indentured Labour in First World War France’, in Santanu Das (ed.), Race, Empire, and First World War Writing, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 35–52. 

10. Edward A. McCord, ‘Warlords against Warlordism: The Politics of Anti-Militarism in Early Twentieth-Century China,’ Modern Asian Studies, 30/4 (1996), pp. 795–827. 

11. Vera Schwarcz, The Chinese Enlightenment (Center for Chinese Studies, UC Berkeley), 1986, pp. 11–23; Timothy B. Weston, The Power of Position: Beijing University, Intellectuals, and Chinese Political Culture, 1898-1929 (Berkeley Series in Interdisciplinary Studies of China), 2004, pp. 175–81. 

12. Tony Saich and Benjamin Yang, The Rise to Power of the Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis, 2016, p. 63. 

13. Marilyn A. Levine, The Found Generation: Chinese Communists in Europe during the Twenties (Jackson School Publications in International Studies), 1993, pp. 16–23; Hans J. van de Ven, From Friend to Comrade: The Founding of the Chinese Communist Party, 1920-1927, 1992, p. 17. 

14. Joseph T. Chen, The May Fourth Movement in Shanghai: The Making of a Social Movement in Modern China, Leiden, Brill, 1971, esp. pp. 74–84; Elizabeth J. Perry, Shanghai on Strike: The Politics of Chinese Labor, Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 1993, pp. 69–70. 

15. Shakhar Rahav, The Rise of Political Intellectuals in Modern China: May Fourth Societies and the Roots of Mass-Party Politics, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015; Wen-Hsin Yeh, Provincial Passages: Culture, Space, and the Origins of Chinese Communism, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1996.

16. Mao Zedong, ‘The Great Union of the Popular Masses’, pt 1, 21 July 1919, in Stuart Schram (ed.), Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings, 1912–49, vol. I: The Pre-Marxist Period, 1912–1920, reprint edn, London, Routledge, 2015, pp. 378–90, at p.380. 

17. Liyan Liu, ‘The Man Who Molded Mao: Yang Changji and the First Generation of Chinese Communists’, Modern China, 32/4 (2006), pp. 483–512. 

18. Stephen R. Platt, Provincial Patriots: The Hunanese and Modern China, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2007, pp. 189–91. 

19. Zheng Chaolin, An Oppositionist for Life: Memoirs of the Chinese Revolutionary Zheng Chaolin, trans. and ed. Gregor Benton, Atlantic Highlands, NJ, Humanities Press, 1996, p.2. 

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