The Twenty-one Demands

  • Peter Lowe

Abstract

The term ‘twenty-one demands’ refers to five groups of items which collectively totalled twenty-one and which were presented by Japan to China in January 1915. In twentieth century Far Eastern history, the demands have occupied a significant position, most historians regarding them as one of the first Japanese attempts to dominate China rnd thus constituting a sombre warning of the developments that came two decades later, culminating in full-scale war between the two countries from 1937 onwards. Like most generalisations this contains both accurate and misleading elements. From a panoramic viewpoint, the demands were important as a further advance on the road to Japanese hegemony over the Far East, in the same sense as the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–5, the signing of the Anglo-Japanese alliance in 1902, the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–5, and the annexation of Korea in 1910 were milestones — all illustrate the gradual growth of Japanese power. The ‘twenty-one demands’ fundamentally comprised an attempt by Japan to dictate to China, with the ultimate threat that if China did not promise to accept certain minimum demands, war would ensue. This was naked power politics by any criterion.

Keywords

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See Gerard M. Friters, Outer Mongolia andits International Position (1951) pp. 55–61 and 218–21;Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    also Peter S. H. Tang, Russian and Soviet Policy in Manchuria and Outer Mongolia, 1911–1931 (Durham, N. C, 1959) pp. 289–327 for observations on Russian policy in Mongolia. Sazonov, the Russian foreign minister, opposed a militant policy in the Far East but there was always the possibility, given the weakness of Tsar Nicholas II, of a sudden change in policy. In the 1930s clashes did occur between Japanese and Russian forces on the Manchurian-Mongolian border, culminating in full-scale undeclared war at Nomonhan (May–September, 1939).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    See J. W. Morley, The Japanese Thrust into Siberia, 1918 (New York, 1957) p. 13Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    and Hugh Borton, Japan’s Modern Century (New York, 1955) pp. 255–6. Borton’s comments are based on research carried out by Morley. The first chapter of Morley forms a brief but valuable background account of Japanese attitudes during the war. See also Appendix VII.4 (pp. 265–6) for a document which, if genuine, shows the close interest taken by the general staff in the formulation of the demands and in the development of the negotiations.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    For the background see M. B. Jansen, ‘Yawata, Hanyehping and the Twenty-one Demands’, in PHR XXIII (1954) 31–49.Google Scholar
  6. 1.
    This refers to when Kato was foreign minister in 1900. I am grateful to Dr I. H. Nish for drawing this to my notice: see I. H. Nish, The Anglo-Japanese Alliance: The Diplomacy of Two Island Empires (1966) pp. 109–10.Google Scholar
  7. 1.
    For the reference to 1915–16, see Kwanha Yim, ‘Yuan Shih-k’ai and the Japanese’, in JAS XXIV (1965) 65.Google Scholar
  8. 2.
    This paragraph is largely based on the succinct summary by M. B. Jansen, The Japanese and Sun Yat-sen (Cambridge, Mass., 1954) ch. VIII, especially pp. 179–82. As Jansen points out, the memorandum of the Kokuryukai is essentially the same as that translated and published byGoogle Scholar
  9. 2.
    B. L. Putnam Weale, The Fight for the Republic of China (1918) pp. 93–8, although Putnam Weale greatly exaggerated the importance of the memorandum.Google Scholar
  10. 2.
    Cited by Paul S. Dull, ‘Count Kato Komei and the Twenty-one Demands’, in PHR XIX (1950) 156.Google Scholar
  11. 3.
    See Junesay Iddittie, The Life of Marquis Shigenobu Okuma (Tokyo, 1956) pp. 388–9, and Dull, in PHR XIX 151–61. Dull’s article is useful for stressing the considerable difficulties facing Kato but takes too generous a view of his diplomacy as a whole, as it is hoped this chapter will demonstrate.Google Scholar
  12. 1.
    See P. S. Reinsch, An American Diplomat in China (New York, 1922) pp. 132–4. I am grateful to Dr I. H. Nish for giving me the information on Morrison. I am highly sceptical of both claims. Morrison and Reinsch may have encouraged Yuan but I am convinced that Yuan himself determined the Chinese strategy, although this cannot be proved at present.Google Scholar
  13. 1.
    Note that Cyril Pearl, Morrison of Peking (1967) pp. 307–10 states th1at Morrison felt Yuan could have consulted him more but this was a persistent, seemingly exaggerated complaint on Morrison’s part.Google Scholar
  14. 3.
    For a fuller account of the negotiations see Thomas La Fargue, China and the World War (Stanford, 1937) ch. III.Google Scholar
  15. 1.
    This paragraph is based partly on Jansen, pp. 183–4 and on A. S. Link, Wilson: The Struggle for Neutrality, 1914–1915 (Princeton, 1960) pp. 303–4. Professor Link draws on Professor Roger F. Hackett’s unpublished biography of Yamagata and on the Japanese life of Matsukata.Google Scholar
  16. 4.
    Ishii, Diplomatic Commentaries, ed. W. R. Langdon (Baltimore, 1936) p. 92.Google Scholar
  17. 1.
    Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Twenty-Five Years, 2 vols (1925) II 99–100.Google Scholar

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© Peter Lowe 1969

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  • Peter Lowe

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