W. Reginald Wheeler
China and the World War
THE CHINESE-JAPANESE MILITARY AGREEMENT OF 1918
The situation in Russia following the abdication of the Czar in March, 1917, was of special concern to the Allies. It was of vital importance to the two neighbouring oriental supporters of the Allies, Japan and China. The northern boundaries of the Chinese Republic are contiguous for hundreds of miles with the boundaries of Siberia; any German penetration there would be felt at once in China. Japanese shipping, which included practically all of the vessels on the Pacific, would be menaced at once if the Germans should gain control of Vladivostok. Further, in its larger aspect of German control of Russia's resources and territory, presaging the establishment of a vast empire stretching from the North Sea to the Pacific, the Japanese saw a grave menace. The military danger of the German forces in Siberia seems to have been exaggerated, but there was every probability of economic control and domination. Japan could not take military measures to meet this situation unless it had the consent and support of its neighbour on the mainland, and consequently, soon after the revolution in Russia, negotiations were begun leading to a military agreement between China and Japan. The military agreement was signed May 16, 1918; the naval agreement, May 19th; the first public announcement was made in Tokio, May 30th. The whole affair was shrouded in much secrecy, and was the cause of endless comment and even suspicion in both countries, which was not wholly dispelled by the explanatory statement finally published.
The first report concerning the proposed agreement became current in China in the Spring of 1917. Unfortunately it was associated in the minds of the Chinese with Group Five of the Twenty-one Demands made by Japan in January, 1915. These demands were forecasted by the secret statement of the Black Dragon Society, already mentioned, which spoke of a "Defensive Military Alliance" between China and Japan as the ultimate goal of Japanese foreign policy. The fifth group of the Demands, it may be remembered, was the most severe, involving certain rights which, if granted to Japan, would infringe the sovereignty of China and make it practically a vassal nation.
In its ultimatum of May 7, 1915, Japan, under threat of force, demanded the acceptance of the first four groups and agreed to hold the fifth group in abeyance, with the exception of the article in relation to Fukien Provinces, saying, "The Japanese Imperial Government will undertake to detach the Group Five from the present negotiations and discuss it separately in the future." Commenting on this clause , a leading journalist in the Orient, Mr. Putnam-Weale, had said, " It is this fact which remains the sword of Damocles hanging over China's head; and until this sword has been flung back into the waters of the Yellow Sea the Far-Eastern situation will remain perilous."(23) The Twenty-one Demands were prefaced by the statement that they; were being made for the purpose "of maintaining the general peace in Eastern Asia," and it was not surprising that, when Japan began negotiations for a military alliance, having a similar purpose, last year, many Chinese began to fear that the long-dreaded sword of Damocles "was about to fall.
The first specific mention of the proposed alliance was made in the Peking Gazette, the most influential native newspaper, on May 18. The editor, Eugene Chen, has already been mentioned, was a fiery supporter of the Republic and an opponent of the Japanese. In an editorial entitled "Selling China," he asserted that the Premier, Tuan Chi-jui, was contemplating making an agreement with Japan which would involve practically all the concessions mentioned in the original Group Five. Mr. Chen was promptly arrested and thrown into prison without a trial; later his newspaper was suppressed and its property confiscated. Subsequently Mr. Chen was pardoned and made his escape from Peking; but his accusation lingered in the minds of the Chinese public and became associated with any mention of a military alliance with Japan.
Matters remained at a standstill until the early months of the year 1918, when reports again began to circulate, saying that the agreement was soon to be made. The wildest and most extravagant stories became current. The statement was freely made that the northern officials were selling China for their own interests. In March it was recorded that a preliminary agreement had been signed, and protests from all the country were sent to Peking.
An example of these rumours was a letter published in the China Press in April. It was written by a Chinese who claimed to have gained his information directly from one of the high officials in Peking. The China Press published it with the following comments:
"The China Press some weeks ago received from its Peking correspondent word that new demands or 'requirements' had been presented by Japan. Since then Reuter's Agency has also carried the reports. In the light of those facts, the following letter, although its authority cannot be vouched for, is interesting:
(double)"'I hope you have perused my last letter. Since then there has been another exceedingly alarming occurrence. This is in connection with the revival of the negotiations with a certain country to form a certain alliance for participation in the great war. Its inside facts are as follows:
"'(1) Warfare alliance, including the training of soldiers under their supervision.
"'(2) Arms alliance, including the organization of arsenals with joint Chinese and -------- interest.
"'(3) Industrial alliance, including the practical surrender of all the mines of the republic.
"'(4) Financial alliance, including a loan to China amounting to $60,000,000, the control of the issue of banknotes and the reorganization of the banks of China and communications.
"'(5) Educational alliance.
"'(6) Diplomatic alliance.
"'(7) Transportation alliance.'
"This is certainly more alarming than Group Five of the Twenty-one. Demands presented in the fourth year of the Republic. Another demand included in the present negotiations is that China shall not sign any treaty. or agreement with any foreign power, with out the consent of the government in question.
"This new pact, went into force on May 1. It is learned that it was officially signed and sealed. The special mission of the Minister of the nation concerned was solely for the purpose of effecting the conclusion of the alliance.
"Although it appears on the surface as a document of an alliance for participation in the war, it really to a bill of sale of the nation. This is a continuation of what was intended to be effected in the fourth year of the republic, only it has been immensely enlarged upon: and is a hundred times more detrimental.
"This piece of news is obtained through, ChowTse-chi from the 'Money Joss.' (Liang Shih-yi.)"
Finally, on May 16th, an official statement from both Peking and Tokyo was published, stating that an agreement had been reached. The fears of the Chinese were heightened by the fact that the officials would not publish the terms of the alliance. Similar secrecy had surrounded the serving of the Twenty-one Demands in 1915, and many alarmists recalled this fact. The editor of the chief native newspaper in Perking committed suicide, saying that be would not live to become a slave of a foreign country. The Chinese students in Japan attacked the Chinese embassy in Tokyo and then left in a body for or China The leaders of the Southern party in China telegraphed Peking that they would give up their opposition to the Central Government if it would cancel the agreement. Even in Japan there was much adverse criticism of the secrecy maintained by the Imperial Government. Finally this feeling grew so strong that on May 30th an official statement was made concerning the agreement. It took the form of a denial of the many rumours which had arisen, rather than a clear exposition of the agreement itself. It mentioned certain notes which had been exchanged on March 25th between the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Minister in Tokyo. These notes were of the greatest importance, as they stated that the military agreement had relation only to the hostile penetration into. Russian territory, and the assurance was given that Japanese troops, stationed within Chinese territory for the purpose of defence, would be completely withdrawn upon the termination of the war. The period within which the notes were to remain in force was to be determined by the military and naval authorities of the two powers. The notes follow:
Mr. Chang to Viscount Motono
"Tokyo, March 25, 1918.--- I have the honour to communicate to Your Excellency that the Government of China, believing that in the present situation cooperation with the Government of Japan on the lines hereinafter indicated is highly important in the interest of both countries, have authorized me to approach your Government with a view to arranging for such co-operation.
"1. Having regard to the steady penetration of hostile influence into Russian territory, threatening the general peace and security of the Far East, the Government of China and the Government of Japan shall promptly consider in common the measures to be taken in order to meet the exigencies of the situation, and to do their share in the Allied cause for the prosecution of the present war.
"2. The methods and conditions of such co-operation between the Chinese and Japanese armed forces in the joint defensive movements against the enemy for giving effect to the decision which may be arrived at by the two Governments in common accord under the preceding clause, shall be arranged by the competent authorities of the two powers who will from time to time consult each other fully and freely upon all questions of mutual interest. It is understood that the matters thus arranged by the competent authorities shall be confirmed by the two Governments and shall be put into operation at such time as may be deemed opportune."
Viscount Motono replied on the same day with an identic note recapitulating Mr. Chang's statements and adding:
"The Imperial Government, fully sharing the views embodied in the foregoing proposals, will be happy to co-operate with the Chinese Government on the lines above indicated."
Viscount Motono to Mr. Chang
"Tokyo, March 25, 1918--- With reference to the notes exchanged on March 25 between the Governments of Japan and of China on the subject of their joint defensive movements against the enemy, I have the honour to propose on behalf of my Government that the period within which the said notes are to remain in force shall be determined by the competent military and naval authorities of the two Powers. At the same time the Imperial government are happy to declare that the Japanese troops stationed within Chinese territory for the purpose of such defensive movements against the enemy shall be completely withdrawn from such territory upon the termination of the war."
Fig. 7. Review of Chinese Troops, a Detachment of whom have Joined the Allied Forces in Siberia. The influence of German military training is shown by the fact that Chinese soldiers, like the Japanese, adopt the goose-step in review.
Mr. Chang to Viscount Motano
"Tokyo, March 25, 1918--- I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellency's communication under today's date, proposing on behalf of your Government that the period within which the said notes are to remain in force shall be determined by the competent military and naval authorities of the two Powers. I am happy to state in reply that the foregoing proposal is accepted by my Government. I am further gratified to take note of the declaration embodied in your communication under acknowledgment that the Japanese troops stationed within Chinese territory for the purpose of defensive movements against the enemy shall be completely withdrawn from such territory upon the termination of the war."
These notes were apparently the foundation of the reports current during the last of March in China, although there is evidence for the view that the first demands of the Japanese were more extreme than these notes indicate. In addition to these notes the Japanese government issued a supplementary statement categorically denying all such interpretations of the agreement. The statement follows:
"Having regard for the steady penetration. of hostile influence into Russian, territory, jeopardizing the peace and welfare of the Far East, and recognizing the imperative necessity of adequate co-operation between Japan and China to meet the exigencies of the case, the Governments of the two countries, after frank interchange of views, caused the annexed notes to be exchanged, March 25, between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Minister: in Tokyo.
"In pursuance of the purport of the notes the Imperial Government subsequently sent Commissioners representing the Imperial Army and Navy to Peking, where they held conferences with the authorities of the Chinese army and navy. The negotiations progressing smoothly, two agreements were concluded, one relating to the army being signed May 16, and the other relating to the navy, May 19.
"These agreements only embody concrete arrangements as to the manner and conditions under which the armies and navies of the two countries are to co-operate in common defence against the enemy, on the basis of the above mentioned notes exchanged on March 25. The details of the arrangements constituting as they do a military secret, can not be made public, but they contain no provision other than those pertaining to the object already defined. Currency has been given to various rumours, alleging that the agreements contain for instance such stipulations as that a Chinese Expedition is to be under Japanese command, that Japan may construct forts in Chinese territory at such places as she may choose, that Japan will assume the control of Chinese railways, shipyards, and arsenals, and even that Japan will assume the control of China's finances, will organize China's police system, will acquire the right of freely operating Chinese mines producing materials for the use of the arsenals, etc. It cannot be too emphatically stated that these and similar rumours are absolutely unfounded.
"May 30, the 7th year of Taisho,
"Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
In this statement there is no definite information given concerning the details of the arrangement. Considerable speculation has taken place in regard to these details. President Feng was rumoured to have shown them to a delegation of students who came to him to protest against the agreement. Various versions have been published unofficially; a translation of one of them which comes from semi-official sources, read as follows:
"Article 1. In view of the penetration of enemy influence into the eastern territory of Russia, and of the likelihood of the peace of the two contracting parties being disturbed thereby, China and Japan mutually agree actively to undertake the obligations of war-participation by measures designed jointly to guard against the action of the enemy.
"Article 2. The two countries shall mutually recognize and respect the equality of the other regarding position and interests in carrying out joint military measures.
"Article 3. When it is necessary to take action based on this agreement, orders will be issued by both China and Japan to their troops and people, calling on them to be frankly sincere in dealing with each other in the area of military operations; and the Chinese officials shall co-operate and assist the Japanese troops in the area involved so that there may be no hindrance to military movements. Japanese troops shall on their part respect Chinese sovereignty and shall not cause any inconvenience to the Chinese people by violating local customs and traditions.
"Article 4. Japanese troops in Chinese territory shall withdraw from China as soon as war is ended.
"Article 5. If it be, found, necessary to send troops outside of Chinese territory, troops will be jointly sent by the two countries.,
"Article 6. The war area and war responsibilities shall be fixed by mutual, arrangement of the, military authorities of the two countries as and when occasion arises in accordance, with their respective: military resources.
"Article 7. In the interests of convenience, the military authorities of the two countries shall undertake the following affairs during the period necessary for the execution of joint measures:
"1. The two countries shall mutually assist and facilitate each other in. extending the means of communications (post and telegraph) in- connection with military, movements and transportation.
"2. When necessary for war purposes construction operations may be carried on and the same shall be by mutual consent of the decided,. when occasion arises, chief commanders of the two countries. The said construction-operation shall: be removed when the war is ended.
"3. The two countries shall mutually supply each other with military supplies: and raw materials for, the purpose of jointly guarding against the enemy. The quantity to be supplied shall, be limited to the extent of not interfering with the necessary requirements of the country supplying the same.
"4. Regarding questions of military sanitation in the: war the two countries shall render mutual assistance to each other.
"5. Officers directly concerned with war operations shall mutually be sent by the two countries for cooperation.. If one party should ask for the. assistance of technical experts, the other shall supply the same.
"6. For convenience, military maps of the area of war operations will be exchanged.
"Article 8. When the Chinese Eastern Railway is used for military, transportation, the provisions of the original treaty relating to the management and protection of the said line shall be respected. The method of transportation shall be decided as occasion arises.
"Article 9. Details, regarding the actual performance of this agreement shall be discussed by mutual agreement of the delegates appointed by the Military Authorities of the two countries concerned.
"Article 10. Neither of the two countries shall disclose the contents of the agreement and its appendix, and the same shall be treated as military secrets.
"Article: 11. This Agreement shall, become valid when it is approved by both Governments after being signed by the Military representatives of two. countries. As to the proper moment for the beginning of war operations, the same shall be decided by the highest military organs of the two countries. The provisions of this agreement and the detailed steps arising therefrom shall become null and void on the day the joint war measures against the enemy end.
"Article 12. Two copies of the Chinese and of the Japanese text of this agreement shall be drawn; one of each shall be kept by China and Japan. The Chinese and Japanese texts shall be identical in meaning."(24)
The main feeling in the Orient concerning the alliance was one of relief and of surprise at the long period of secrecy that shrouded the negotiations---a secrecy which tended to increase any misunderstanding which might have arisen. A general explanation of this secrecy by Japanese, as well as Chinese writers, was that Japan attempted to gain more than was contained in the final agreement; that her original plan had to be modified by the counter-proposals of the Peking Government. There was also a tendency to criticize the statement for not being more explicit. Thus, according to the Japan Advertiser of May 31st, "Mr. Yuko Hamuguchi, a prominent member of the Kenseikai, remarks that the agreement has caused misunderstanding and much excitement among many Chinese, and though an official statement has now been published the agreement will remain as much a conundrum as ever, inasmuch as the important clauses are kept secret. It seems problematical whether the official statement just published will have the desired effect in removing the suspicion of the Chinese."
Fig. 8. Japanese Troops, in Allied Expeditionary Force in Siberia. Half of this force is composed of troops from Japan; General K. Otani is the Commander-in-Chief.
On the other hand, there was a general appreciation of the promises of Japan to retire when the military necessity permits, and a feeling that, because of the alliance, Japan and China were the better prepared to do their part in the final phases of the great war. Thus the Japan Advertiser commented editorially upon the alliance; its views were seconded by the hopeful minded press of the Orient.
"The categorical denial of the rumours so widely current in China is a conclusive reply to the sensation-mongers who have been so active. The present emphatic disclaimer will have great value in restoring China's confidence in Japan, and may mark a turning point in the relations of the two countries. That may be counted positive gain, in addition to the confounding of malicious rumours. The other positive gain is that the way is clear for whatever action may be called for by further enemy penetration of Russian territory. . . . There is ample justification for the agreement, and the Allies will sincerely rejoice that the way is clear for action,. if action should be necessary."
Since these words were. written an Allied force has entered Siberia. After a wise and prolonged deliberation, the United States government decided to send a military force to join with. troops from Japan and China and others of the Allied nations in the attempt to strengthen the: Czecho-Slovaks in their revolt against the Bolsheviks and the; Germans in Russia.(25) Solemn assurances have been. made to the people of Russia that this Allied force has no intention of infringing any of the nation's rights, but that its presence is merely a guarantee of Allied support in the attempt of Russia to free itself from the invader and the traitor. The ranking officer in the expeditionary force of the Allies is the Japanese General K. Otani; Chinese -troops are co-operating under his command; and from elsewhere along the frontier, reports have, come of other Chinese soldiers having repulsed forces of the Red Guards. Thus, China is realizing its ambition of assisting., in a military way, as, well as industrially, in the world-war for international, justice, and freedom.
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