“The European war made possible Japanese aggression on China.” An American’s view from 1916.

The European war made possible Japanese aggression on China. The War Party in Japan assured their compatriots that all Europe was engrossed in a life-and-death struggle; and no European nation would or could interfere with Japan’s realization of her ambitions; that the United States was isolated, and the protection of China would not furnish her a sufficient motive for going to war with Japan; that the United States could not transport troops five thousand miles and conquer Japan; that her failure might cost her the Philippines, and in any case would add immensely to her own humiliation and to the prestige of Japan.

Hence the War Party maintained that the United States would do nothing more than protest, and Japan would be left free to deal with China as she might wish. Japan had won her first and only real recognition from the Western world by her defeat of Russia ; hence, the War Party argued, she would win further recognition by the Western world only through the further display of military power. China had not yet become a military power. She was weakened by the revolution, by the rebellion of Sun Yat Sen and that of White Wolf. She had employed German officers to train her army, and they had introduced German guns and induced China to buy German ammunition, which ceased to be shipped to China some three months before the outbreak of the European struggle; and the Chinese government had used up her supplies in the suppression of the White Wolf uprising and had not yet completed an arsenal for the manufacture of her own ammunition. In a word, it was now possible, so the War Party argued, for Japan to take possession of Manchuria, to dominate the whole of China, and in case of violent opposition to overthrow the Chinese government; and in any case thoroughly intrench herself as a great continental Power in Asia. Never did military glory and worldliness appeal more powerfully to a nation.


China: An Interpretation, (1916) pp391-392
James W. Bashford
Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church
Resident in China



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