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THE SHANTUNG QUESTION
In the great Province of Shantung lies the little village of Chefoo, the birthplace of Confucius, to which hundreds of thousands of Chinese make an annual pilgrimage. It is what Mecca is to the Mohammedan, Jerusalem to the Christian. Shantung is the Chinese sacred province, the place to be protected from foreign intrusion.
The questions raised by the Shantung sections of the treaty with Germany must be considered in the light of America's past relations with China and Japan's general Oriental policy. For nearly a century we have posed as the particular friend and guide of China. The Treaty of Peace, Amity and Commerce between the United States and China, proclaimed January 26, 1860, provided that, “if any other nation should act unjustly or aggressively (towards China] the United States will exert their good offices, on being informed of the case, to bring about an amicable arrangement of the question, thus showing their friendly feeling.” China's first serious attempt to enter into voluntary relations with the Western world was under the guidance of American statesmen. For many years John W. Foster, a trained and experienced international lawyer and diplomat, acted as her legal and confidential adviser. We have sent her many devoted missionaries and professors who, in recent years, seem to have supplanted the jurists and statesmen as advisers and diplomatic experts.
The United States took no part in the scramble for territory and spheres of influence and refused concessions voluntarily tendered to her in Canton, Peking and Tientsin. She established the policy of the open door and has consistently refused to recognize the right of any nation to secure preferential trade privileges in any part of China.
When the Chinese rose in blind fury against the foreigners who were carving up their country and commenced to hack and slay indiscriminately friend and foe alike, the United States aided in restoring order and punishing the guilty, and then used her influence to restrain those who sought vengeance in place of justice. Within a few years she released her share of the punitive indemnities, and China in gratitude appropriated the amount of the unpaid balance for the education of Chinese youth in America. China became a republic, and when the World War commenced she naturally looked to America for guidance. At the request of President Wilson she severed diplomatic relations with Germany and later declared war against the Central Powers and joined in the struggle in the name of democracy. Her war activities were restricted by Japan, and the United States refused her the financial aid so freely granted to other Powers which would have enabled her to make her enormous man power available. Nevertheless, approximately one hundred and fifty thousand of her sons were sent to France where they served principally as laborers back of the lines, thus releasing an equal number of men for use at the front. Distracted by internal dissensions, almost disintegrated by the penetrating activities of her powerful, skillful and aggressive neighbor and humiliated by demands and entangled in treaties signed under moral and physical duress, China sent a delegation to France to present her claims for consideration to the Peace Conference.
When it was announced that the world was to be reorganized in accordance wtih the principles of justice, the Chinese very naturally desired to take advantage of the occasion to secure a revision of her treaties and a reconsideration and readjustment of her complicated foreign relations. Upon the advice of her American friends she abandoned this plan and elected to concentrate her efforts on the attempt to save Shantung from the Japanese. The result was a bitter disappointment for the Chinese. The Council of Four recog. nized the justice of China's claims, but sustained the demands of Japan, and in the treaty, as signed and sent to the Senate, Germany renounces in favor of Japan—"all her rights, title, and privileges
1 Hearings before the Senate Committee on foreign affairs. Statements of Dr. J. C. Ferguson, T. F. Millard, and C. F. Williams.
particularly those concerning the territory of Kiaochow, railways, mines and submarine cables—which Germany acquired in virtue of the treaty concluded by her with China on March 6, 1898, and of all other arrangements relative to the Province of Shantung.”
A very remarkable situation developed at Paris. It appeared that early in 1917 Japan had secured promises from Great Britain, France, Russia, and Italy to support the demands which she intended to make at the Peace Conference to succeed to the German rights in Shantung. As President Wilson informed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the famous White House meeting, August 19, 1919, the representatives of Great Britain and France felt that they could not recede from these pledges—“that they were bound by them, but when they involved general interests such as they realized were involved, they were quite willing, and I think desirous that they should be reconsidered with the consent of the other party.” President Wilson and the entire American Commission and their advisers on Far Eastern affairs believed that the German rights and privileges in Shantung should be transferred and released to China. But the Japanese demand was presented at the proper psychological moment. President Wilson felt constrained to accede to the Japanese demands in order to secure the signature of Japan to the treaty and thus save the League of Nations. The action of the American Commission was determined by the President contrary to the advice of Secretary Lansing, General Bliss, Henry White, and all the American experts on the Orient,2 because in his judgment, “it was the best that could be got, in view of the definite engagements of Great Britain and France." 3
Secretary Lansing informed the Committee that he believed that the Japanese delegates would have signed the treaty even though the demand for Shantung had been denied, and this seems to have been the opinion of everyone except the President and possibly Colonel House.
The treaty as signed and submitted to the Senate contains no provisions with reference to the future disposition of the Shantung 2 Senate Hearings, p. 549.
3 Ibid., pp. 531, 532. 4 Ibid., pp. 182, 531.
interests. The transfer to Japan is absolute, but President Wilson states that the representatives of Japan promised the Council of Four that if their demands were acceded to, Japan would, upon certain conditions and with designated reservations, convey to China what she acquires under Articles 156, 157, and 158. This statement of intentions, or promise, rests in parole, but it appears in substance in the secret procès-verbal, which however is not and probably never will be made a public record. The Chinese commissioners were not permitted to sign the treaty with reservations, and therefore did not sign.
The transfer of the German rights in Shantung to Japan is almost universally disapproved in America, and the feeling is strong that the President yielded unnecessarily to the demand of Japan, and consented to the perpetration of a moral wrong on an ally which had placed its faith in him and his country. This action, in connection with the Lansing-Ishii recognition of Japan's “special interests" in China, has strongly impressed the Chinese mind with the belief that the United States has abandoned the policy of the open door and acquiesced in Japan's claim of political and economic paramountcy in China. The opinion among all classes seems to be “that China has not only in this instance been forced to a specific act by one foreign nation, but that by the treaty for the first time a union of nations comes in to give sanction to a thing which she feels is wrong, and is an outrage on her sovereign rights. In every former instance where such concessions have been wrung from her the balance of power among nations has always made it possible that some Powers would come to her and say: 'We are sorry for you and we will help you out as much as we can.' In this instance China feels that she has been robbed of her rights in Shantung by one nation, originally by Germany, and those rights transferred to Japan, and that all the other nations have come along and have joined in approval of what seems to her an infamous act; and among those Powers that are approving it is the nation which she has always counted as her most disinterested friend." 5
5 Statement of Dr. J. C. Ferguson, official adviser to the President of China, to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Senate Hearings, etc., pp. 565-6.
On August 23 the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, after hearing the statements of President Wilson, Secretary of State Lansing, and persons familiar with Far Eastern conditions, by an eight to seven vote, recommended that the Treaty of Peace be amended by. striking out the word Japan where it appears in Articles 156, 157, and 158, and inserting in lieu thereof the word China.
The following statements may be taken as fairly expressing the reasons which actuated the members of the committee in voting for an amendment which if accepted by the Senate requires that the treaty be sent back for further consideration by the other signatory powers. Said Senator Johnson of California:
One of the outstanding iniquities of the treaty, neither excused nor justified except upon the Prussian philosophy, was the Shantung question. Every American Commissioner, including the President, has condemned it. And every witness before the Foreign Relations Committee has denounced it. It presented, with none of the prejudices in dealing with an enemy, a clean cut moral issue. The members of the Foreign Relations Committee had to decide whether a friend and an ally should be despoiled upon the sole ground of expediency and fear, and they have decided for the right. All we could do was to disapprove an admitted wrong and fraud practiced upon a weak, friendly, defenseless people, and this we have done. It may be true, as asserted by our opponents, that we cannot remedy the wrong. At least we are not parties to it.
The Democratic senators opposed the amendment on the ground that such action at this time would not help China and might injure her chances ultimately to recover the province through the League of Nations. "If the treaty be rejected finally by us,” said Senator Pomerene, "all opportunity for China to recover in this way will be ended. If we ratify the treaty Japan may be expected to restore it as she has promised.”
Senator McCumber, a Republican, voted with the Democratic minority and issued a statement in explanation of his vote, which suggests that whatever Japan demands is sacrosant and that the amendment of the treaty by the Senate in the exercise of its constitutional power would be an affront to a proud and high-spirited
6 Included in the Report of the Committee, Sept. 10, 1919.