Encyclopedia - The Twenty-One Demands

Japanese artillery in Shantung province enroute to Tsingtao On 18 January 1915 the Japanese government secretly presented to its Chinese counterpart a list of twenty-one grievances of which it required immediate resolution, such resolution to be specified by the Japanese government upon pain of war.

In practical terms Japan was taking advantage of its wartime status as an Allied power to seek to extend its influence in the Pacific, chiefly at China's expense.  It relied upon its status as an ally of Britain to reduce the likelihood of intervention from that quarter.  Already by the time the Twenty-One Demands were published (click here to read a transcript) Japan had successfully invaded the German base at Tsingtao.

Among other grievances the Twenty-One Demands required that China immediately cease its practice of leasing out territory to foreign powers.  Japan also demanded that it be given ascendancy over Manchuria and Shantung and that China accept so-called 'advisors' to assist with many aspects of government policy.

Having prevaricated, and in the wake of a revised set of demands published on 26 April 1915, China finally capitulated to a Japanese ultimatum of 7 May 1915 which threatened war in the absence of Chinese agreement.  Thus on 8 May 1915 China reluctantly acquiesced to Japan, although Britain and the U.S. succeeded in removing the requirement for China to accept government advisors.  The Chinese legislature did not however ratify the treaties signed between the two countries.

Japanese hegemony over China was merely temporary however.  Although the Treaty of Versailles granted Japanese control over former German territories in Shantung the Washington Conference of 1921-22 resulted in Japanese agreement to withdraw its forces from Shantung and full restoration of sovereignty to China.

Photograph courtesy of Photos of the Great War website

A "Bangalore Torpedo" was an explosive tube used to clear a path through a wire entanglement.

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