China Joins the Fighting Democracies
( Originally Published 1918 )
THE circumstances connected with the entrance of the Republic of China into the World War were as follows: On February 4, 1917, the American Minister, Dr. Reinsch, requested the Chinese Government to follow the United States in protesting against the German use of the submarine against neutral ships. On February 9th Pekin made such a protest to Germany, and declared its intention of severing diplomatic relations if the protest were ineffectual. The immediate answer of Germany was to torpedo the French ship Atlas in the Mediterranean on which were over seven hundred Chinese laborers. On March 10th the Chinese Parliament empowered the government to break with Germany. On the same afternoon a reply was received from the German Government to the Chinese protest, of a very mild character. The reply produced a great deal of surprise in China.
A Chinese statesman made this comment on the German change of attitude : "The troops under Count Waldersee leaving Germany for the relief of Pekin were instructed by the War Lord to grant no quarter to the Chinese. On the other hand, the latter were to be so disciplined that they would never dare look a German in the face again. The whirligig of time brings its own revenge, and today, after the lapse of scarcely seventeen years, we hear the Vossische Zeitung commenting on the diplomatic rupture between China and Germany, 'lamenting that even so weak a state as the Far Eastern Republic dares look defiantly at the German nation."
The breaking off of relations with Germany led to trouble between the President of the Republic and the Premier. The Premier de-sired to break off relations without consulting Parliament. The President insisted that Parliament should be consulted, which was actually done. The next move was to declare war, but here the Chinese statesmen hesitated, and their hesitation arose through their feeling toward Japan.
They sympathized with the Allies, but to Chinese eyes Japan had stood for all that Germany, as depicted by its worst enemies, stood for. The Japanese Government was professing friendliness to China, but that profession the Chinese could not reconcile with Japan's action in the Chino-Japanese War, and on many other occasions since that war. In Chinese hearts there was a strong feeling of distrust, fear and hatred for their Japanese neighbor. There were other reasons also why they hesitated to declare war. Indeed the devotion to peace, which is deep-rooted in the nation, would be a sufficient reason in itself.
Moreover, China, like other neutral nations, was a strong center for German propaganda. German consuls and diplomatic officers, who were scholars in Chinese literature and philosophy, and who also had sufficient funds to entertain Chinese officials as they liked to be entertained, were actively endeavoring to influence Chinese statesmen.
The Chinese Government, however, was determined to declare war, and to secure sup-port the Chinese Premier summoned a council of military governors to consider the question. The majority of the conference agreed with the Premier, but a vigorous opposition began to develop. On May 7th the President sent a formal request to Parliament to approve of a declaration of war. Parliament delayed and was threatened by a mob. The Premier was accused of having instigated the riot and sup-port began to gather for Parliament, and an attack was made on the Premier as being willing to sell China.
Day by day the differences between the militants and democrats became more bitter. The question of war was almost lost in the differences of opinion as to the comparative powers of Parliament and the Executive. A demand was made that the Premier resign. He re-fused to resign and was dismissed from office by the President, who was supported in his action by the Parliament. This was practically a success of the Parliamentary party, when suddenly several of the northern generals and governors declared their independence, and the movement gradually developed into a revolution in favor of the restoration of the Manchu Dynasty. This revolution was finally suppressed.
The Japanese declared themselves, not the enemies, but the protectors of China in terms that suggested the appearance of a Monroe Doctrine for Asia. They pledged themselves not to violate the political independence or territorial integrity of China, and declared strongly in favor of the principle of the open door and equal opportunity.
On August 14th China formally joined the Allies and declared war on Austria and Germany. She took no great part in the war, except to invade the German and Austrian settlements in Tientsin and Hankow, which were taken over by the Chinese authorities. The Chinese officials also seized the Deutsche Asiatische Bank which had been financing agent in China for the German Government, and fourteen German vessels which had been interned in Chinese ports. Thousands of Chinese coolies were sent to Europe to work in the Allied interests behind the battle lines, and China has in all respects been faithful to her pledges.
The official war proclamation of China which was signed by President Feng-kuo-chang re-viewed China's efforts to induce Germany to modify her submarine policy. It declared that China had been forced to sever relations with Germany and with Austro-Hungary to protect the lives and property of Chinese citizens. It promised that China would respect the Hague Convention, regarding the humane con-duct of the war, and asserted that China's object was to hasten peace.
On July 22d Siam officially entered the war and all German and Austrian subjects were interned and German ships seized. The Prince of Songkla, brother of the reigning monarch, declared that natural necessity and moral pressure forced Siam into the war on the side of the Entente. Neutrality had be-come increasingly difficult, and it had become apparent that freedom and justice in states which were not strong from a military stand-point were not to be secured through the policy of the Central Powers. Sympathy for Belgium and the popular aversion to Teutonic methods had left no doubt as to the duty of Siam. The motive of Siam had a curious fitness, though there was a certain quaintness in her expression of a desire to make, "the world safe for democracy."
The native name of Siam is Muang-Thai, which means the Kingdom of the Free. Siam is about as large as France, and has a population of about eight millions. Its people, who are of many shades of yellowish-brown, have descended into this corner of Asia from the highlands north of Burma and east of Tibet. The tradition among these people was that the further south they descended the shorter they would grow, that when they reached the southern plains they would be no larger than rabbits, and that when they came to the sea they would vanish altogether. As a fact the north-ern tribes are much taller than the southern.
The original population of the Siamese peninsula was a race of black dwarfs, remnants of whom still dwell in caves and nests of palm leaves, so shy that it is almost impossible to catch a glimpse of them. The literary and religious culture of Siam comes mainly from southern India. Buddhism is the dominant religion, but there are many Mohammedans also.
The accession of Siam to the ranks of the Allies did not make any great difference from a military point of view, but it was another evidence of the general world feeling with regard to the Germans and their encroachments in all parts of the world. Germany had tried its best to keep these nations from participation in the war, but not only had her propaganda failed but the feeling of these Oriental peoples was strongly anti-German. Much of this feeling, it is readily seen from their statements and their private letters, comes from a personal resentment of the boorish attitude of the individual German. By the end of 1918 the Teuton influence in the Orient had completely disappeared.