Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
Into this lively academic atmosphere came a protest against Japanese
aggression on May 4, 1919. At the center of the upheaval was the fate of
Shandong, a Chinese province. Shandong had more or less been a
German colony since 1898, when Germany leased Jiaozhou as a naval
base for 99 years and set up beer breweries in nearby Qingdao. When
World War I broke out, China at first remained neutral. This changed
in September 1919, when the warlord-dominated government in Beijing
entered into secret discussions with Japan about Shandong.
The Japanese, who sensed Germany's impending defeat in the war,
had begun to covet the German holdings in Shandong and were soon
scheming for a way for them to be transferred to Japan at war's end.
TheJapanesemadeasubstantialloan to the Beijing government in
exchange for Beijing's recognition of Japan's claims to Shandong and
for granting rights to Japan for constructing railroads and stationing
troops throughout the province. All of this was unknown to the Chinese
Meanwhile, Chinese students and intellectuals at Beida and other
universities had high hopes for the Versailles Peace Conference at the
end of World War I. They hoped that the idealistic principles voiced by
U.S. President WoodrowWilson and other international leaders would
result in the righting of wrongs China had suffered at the hands of
foreign powers ever since the Opium War. The Chinese delegation to
Versailles was bitterly disappointed to learn that the conference would
address only matters immediately pertaining to World War I, and it
was outraged to learn of its own government's secret negotiations with
Japan that would even deprive China of the Shandong territory it had
lost to the Germans in 1898. The final adjudication of Shandong's fate
came at Versailles on April 28, 1919, in Japan's favor.
When word of this adjudication reached China, the Chinese public
was enraged. Student hotheads began calling for the defense of
Shandong and cabled the Chinese delegation in Versailles with impas-
sioned pleas not to sign the final peace agreement. On May 4 a major
demonstration was organized. Angry crowds marched past the house
of the foreign minister who had approved the secret agreement, and
police responded by arresting several student demonstrators. This
arrest, in turn, led to a larger general strike in Beijing, and a boycott
of Japanese goods followed. Unprepared for the magnitude of public
indignation at its actions, the Beijing government released the students
a few days later and informed the delegation in Versailles that it could
decide for itself whether or not to sign the final peace treaty. When
Search WWH ::

Custom Search