If not for the United States, Shandong Province (山东省), map to the left, may still be a Japanese territory today. Reader perspectivehere brought to our attention tomorrow (Feb. 4th) will be the 90th anniversary of the Washington Naval Conference of 1929 which gave back sovereignty of Shandong Province to China. It was The Treaty of Versailles marking the end of WW1 in 1919 that transferred this German “sphere of influence” territory to Japan without China’s approval.
History has many twists and turns. If not for the United States defeating Japan in WW2, the China today might not be intact. John Woo is now making a new epic film about the Flying Tigers to commemorate this important period when the two countries aided each other.
The United States also has China to thank for – for resisting and bogging down the Japanese army in China’s large land mass.
A twist might have been Japan emerging as the victor in WW2, and in such a case, China might have been usurped under ethnic Japanese rule – a situation not unlike many dynasties that have come to pass in Chinese history. With millions of Chinese slaughtered by the Japanese, not many people would be in the mood to consider this scenario.
Looking at the Treaty of Versailles, the Chinese should be reminded how unjust the world order was only a few decades ago. Without a strong enough nation, it is the plight of 1.3 billion at the whims of stronger powers. It is that lesson that a stronger China must work towards further improving our existing world order for everyone on this planet.
I wanted to remind people that tomorrow (Feb 4) will be the 90th anniversary of the date that sovereignty over the Province of Shandong was agreed by Japan to revert back to China pursuant to an agreement with the United States at the Washington Naval Conference of 1922.
Wikipedia describes it thus:
“The Shantung Problem (simplified Chinese: 山东问题; traditional Chinese: 山東問題; pinyin: Shāndōng wèntí) refers to the dispute over Article 156 of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, which dealt with the concession of the Shandong peninsula.
During the First World War, China supported the Allies on condition that Germany’s concessions on the Shandong peninsula would be returned to China. In spite of this agreement, the Article transferred the concessions in Shandong to Japan rather than returning sovereign authority to China. Japan was allowed possession of the province because of secret agreements signed with European powers. One of the excuses the Japanese used was that Duan Qirui had borrowed money from Japan to strengthen his army, this now being repaid with the concession of the Shandong peninsula. The Chinese ambassador to Paris, Wellington Koo, stated that the Chinese could not concede Shandong, which was the birthplace of Confucius, a highly important Chinese philosopher, as much as Christians could not concede Jerusalem, and demanded the returning of sovereignty over Shandong, to no avail. Chinese outrage over this provision led to demonstrations and a cultural movement known as the May Fourth Movement and influenced Wellington Koo not to sign the treaty.
China declared the end of its war against Germany in September 1919 and signed a separate treaty with Germany in 1921. The dispute was mediated by the United States in 1922 during the Washington Naval Conference, and the sovereignty of Shandong was agreed to be returned to China on February 4 of that year, while Japanese residents in Shandong were given special rights.”
During this period of history, the United States was one of the few foreign colonial powers that helped China to protect its sovereignty and resist invasion and dismemberment. Although the US was pursuing its own interests, as it would be expected to, its interests did align at that time with protecting Chinese sovereignty.
In my view, this is a fine moment of alignment of interests between the two countries that should be commemorated.
Some more details here:
“In addition to the multilateral agreements, several bilateral treaties were completed at the conference. Japan and China also signed a bilateral agreement, the Shangtung (Shandong) Treaty, which returned control of that province and its railroad to China. Japan had taken control of the area from the Germans during World War I, and then it maintained control over the years that followed. The combination of the Shangtung Treaty and the Nine-Power Treaty was meant to reassure China that its territory would not be further compromised by Japanese expansion. Additionally, Japan agreed to withdraw its troops from Siberia and the United States and Japan formed agreement over equal access to cable and radio facilities on the Japanese-controlled island of Yap.”
We should also remember to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Nine-Power Treaty, which was signed on Feb 6, 1922.