Great Britain, Japan and the Yangtze, 1913–14 January 1913—August 1914

  • Peter Lowe


Britishh economic interests in China were largely centred in the great Yangtze valley, involving the provinces of Kiangsi, Hupei, Anhwei and Kiangsu (see map 1). This vast region had been opened up by British traders from the middle of the nineteenth century onwards and British trade was still dominant in 1913. The challenge of foreign traders increased rapidly in the 1890s, German traders being especially formidable. The doctrine of the ‘open door’, agreed upon in 1899 and 1900 largely at American instigation, stated that throughout China traders of all nations might compete on equal terms. In reality the door was only half open, for it was tacitly understood that each of the great powers except the United States had its own sphere of interest which the other powers were expected to respect. It involved refraining from active intervention in the sphere of another power. Thus Great Britain was understood to dominate the Yangtze valley and eastern Kwangtung, the province in which Hong Kong was situated; France to dominate Yunnan, Kwangsi and western Kwangtung; Germany to dominate Shantung, Russia to dominate Sinkiang, Outer Mongolia and north Manchuria; and Japan to dominate Fukien (opposite Formosa) and south Manchuria.


Japanese Government Open Door Foreign Minister Chinese Corporation Japanese Approach 
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  1. 1.
    See M. B. Jansen, The Japanese and Sun Yat-sen (Cambridge, Mass., 1954) ch. IV;Google Scholar
  2. I. H. Nish, ‘Japan’s Indecision During the Boxer Disturbances’, in JAS XXI (1961) 449–61, andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. J. A. White, The Diplomacy of the Russo-Japanese War (Princeton, 1964) pp. 80–1.Google Scholar
  4. 1.
    Se M. B. Jansen, ‘Yawata, Hanyehping and the Twenty-one Demands’, in PUR XXIII (1954) 31–49.Google Scholar
  5. 2.
    Okuma’s re-emergence into active politics at the age of seventy-six was a surprise, since he had been chiefly involved in running Waseda University following his retirement in 1898. He was untypically Japanese in his loquacity and in his penchant for making frequent contradictory statements. The genro Marquis Inouye Kaoru was instrumental in securing Okuma’s return to politics, believing that he could best placate popular wrath, against the bitter opposition of the other leading genro, Prince Yamagata Aritomo, whose dislike of Okuma was exceeded only by his detestation of Kato. See Jansen, pp. 178–9 and Junesay Idditie, The Life of Marquis Shigenobu Okuma (Tokyo, 1956) pp. 366–70.Google Scholar
  6. 2.
    Kato complained, on becoming foreign minister, that the issues on which he had urged action over a year before, after the fall of the short-lived Katsura government in which he had been foreign minister, had not been pursued by Yamamoto and Makino. The question of the Yangtze was one of them. See P. S. Dull, ‘Count Kato Komei and the Twenty-one Demands’, in PHR XIX (1950) 151–61, and Ch. VII below.Google Scholar

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© Peter Lowe 1969

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  • Peter Lowe

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