Little Bits of History

January 18

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 18, 2017

1915: Japan issues Twenty-One Demands to the government of China. During World War I, the Empire of Japan had Ōkuma Shigenobu as Prime Minister. He sent a list of demands to China which would extend Japanese control of Manchuria as well as increase control over the economy. The Japanese had gained a great deal of influence in northern China and Manchuria during the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War. At the time, Japan ranked with European imperialist powers in their quest to take control of China. The Qing dynasty was overthrown and a new Republic of China was created under General Yuan Shikai. Japan saw this development as a way to increase her own power on the mainland.

Early drafting of the demandswas done by Shigenobu and Foreign Minister Katō Takaaki, who would later serve as Prime Minister of Japan. They were presented to the Genrō and Japanese Emperor Taishō. They went next to the Diet who approved the list of demands after which they were presented to Shikai on this date. Along with the demands came threats of dire consequences if they were not met. The demands were divided into five groups.

The first group demanded that Japan’s seizure of German ports and operations be recognized along with control over infrastructure in the Shandong Province. Groups two and three sequentially granted Japan a wider sphere of influence over greater territories and natural as well as manmade resources. Group four barred China from making similar deals with other foreign powers. And the most aggressive and final list demanded China hire Japanese advisors who would take control of China’s finances and police as well as freedom to build their own infrastructure. They attempted to keep this last section secret while putting pressure on the new Chinese government.

A new list of Thirteen Demands was sent on May 7, almost two weeks after China’s rejection of the first list. Shikai was not in a strong enough position, since he was still in battle with other warlords over total control of China and he capitulated and signed the reduced document on May 25, 1915. The consequences for Japan were mainly negative. The signing of the demands did little to increase the de facto power Japan already had in China but it did greatly antagonize relations between Japan and the US and Great Britain who had been Japan’s greatest ally up to this point. The British Foreign Office was dismayed by Japan’s overbearing and bullying behaviors. The Chinese themselves organized a total boycott of all Japanese imports and the economic consequences were considerable.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. – Frederick Douglass

As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce. – Adam Smith

Freedom is our most precious commodity and if we are not eternally vigilant, government will take it all away. Individual freedom demands individual responsibility. – Lyn Nofziger

No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow. – Alice Walker


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