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Yüan Shih-k'ai and the Japanese

  • Kwanha Yim


The fall of Yüan Shih-k'ai in the summer of 1916 came as a result of an abortive attempt to set up a monarchy. This was one of the turning points in the Chinese revolution. The revolutionary tide which had been held back by his authoritarian rule was unleashed after its collapse. There followed a deluge. The focus of this paper is on the Japanese policy which, it is submitted, was primarily responsible for the defeat of the monarchical plan.



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1 Japanese Foreign Ministry Archives (abbreviated hereinafter as JFMA), PVM 12, pp. 6072–6076. The documents used for this article are from the microfilms kept in the Library of Congress. PVM series consists of the papers of Matsumoto Tadao, Parliamentary Vice Minister of the Japanese Foreign Ministry for several terms. For further comment on the nature of these documents, see Uyehara, Cecil H., Checklist of Archives in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (Washington, 1954), viii.

2 Frank J. Goodnow, in his memorandum to Yüan, had listed the support of foreign powers as one of the conditions to be met for the success of the monarchical plan. Foreign Relations, 1915, pp. 53–58.

3 ōkuma to Inouye, September 29, 1915, JFMA, PVM 12, pp. 6077–6080.

4 Ibid., pp. 6085–6086.

5 Chōjō, Koike, the Chief of the Political Affairs Bureau, played a prominent role in drawing up the plan. Kei'ichirō, Hara (ed.) Hara Kei Nikki, 10 vols. (Tokyo, 19501952), VI. 340.

6 The new turn in Japanese policy has been linked—in my view, erroneously—with Foreign Minister Ishii. See Ch'en, Jerome, Yüan Shih-k'ai, (Stanford, 1961), p. 216. The plan for the démarche, however, was prepared before Ishii's arrival in Tokyo. It was waiting for his formal approval when he assumed office on October 13, 1915. See JFMA, PVM 12, pp. 6093–6095.

7 Ibid. A similar explanation is given by Foreign Minister Ishii in his book, Diplomatic Commentaries, translated by Langdon, William, (Baltimore, 1936), p. 94.

8 Obata to Ishii, October 21, 1915, JFMA, PVM 12, pp. 6135–6136; MacMurray to Lansing, September 24, 1915, Foreign Relations, 1915, pp. 62–63.

9 Obata to Ishii October 16, 1915, JFMA, PVM 12, p. 6117.

10 Jun'ichirō, Ōtsu, Dai Nihon Kensei-shi, 10 vols., (Tokyo, 1927), p. 676.

11 The rōnin had been involved in various anti-Yüan plots either in conjunction with their support for the Kuomintang or for the Manchu royalists. Their activities are documented in the Koguryūkai's official history, Tōa Senkaku Shis hi Kiden, compiled by Yoshihisa, Kuzuu, (Tokyo, 19331936).

12 This is based on the author's interpretation of Uchida Ryōhei's memorandum, submitted to Prime Minister ōkuma on October 17, in which Uchida argued that Yüan's opponents would take up arms against Yüan when he ascended the throne. In Uchida's opinion, this would be a good opportunity to destroy Yüan; he suggested that the Japanese government should not indicate approval or disapproval until Yüan actually became the Emperor and his opponents arose against him. (ōtsu, pp. 680–682).

13 Hara Kei Nikki, VI, 340. Entry for October 29, 1915. The source of information was Nekishi Kitsu, a correspondent of Asahi Shimbun.

14 Ibid., entry for November 6, p. 343.

15 Ibid., entry for October 29, p. 340; entry for November 2, p. 342. The source of information is Takahashi Korekiyo.

16 Ibid., entry for October 19, 1915, p. 336. The source of information is Yamagata himself, who spoke with Hara.

17 Obata to Ishii, October 21, 1915, JFMA, PVM 12, pp. 6135–6136.

18 Obata to Ishii, October 28, 1915, ibid., pp. 6212–6215.

19 Obata to Ishii, November 4, 1915, ibid., p. 6257

20 Tara Kei Nikki, VI, 393.

21 JFMA, PVM 12, pp. 6318–6319.

22 Ibid., and also see Hara Kei Nikki, VI, 393.

23 JFMA, PVM 12, p. 6317.

24 Lansing's reaction to the Japanese proposal is described by Li, Tien-yi as follows: “Later he confessed to Wilson that he was puzzled about the real purpose of the Japanese action. Personally he thought that if the Japanese protest to China accomplished its avowed aims, it would produce good effects. …. However, he did not find it advisable to intervene in the matter.” Woodrow Wilson's Far Eastern Policy, (New York, 1952), p. 151.

25 Reinsch to Lansing, December 18, 1915, Foreign Relations, 1915, pp. 78–79.

26 Jordan to Langley, December 20, 1915, quoted in Ch'en, Yüan Shih-k'ai, p. 217.

27 Ishii to Motono and Inouye, December 16, 1915, JFMA, PVM 12, pp. 6416–6419; Tanaka to Banzai, December 18, 1915, ibid., pp. 6408–6410.

28 The word used in the original text is kensei saudō.

29 Tesuichi, Takakura (ed.), Tanaka Giichi Den (Tokyo, 1958), p. 629.

30 JFMA, PVM 12, 6545–6546.

31 Aoki's name appears in the Gaimushō documents concerning the sale of weapons and ammunition to China as far back as in 1901. See JFMA, MT (Meiji and Taishō) 51517.

32 Ibid., pp. 422–433.

33 Aoki to Chief of Staff, April 28, 1913, JFMA, PVM 12, pp. 718–720.

34 Chien-nung, Li, The Political History of China, 1840–1928. Translated by Teng, Ssu-yu and Ingalls, Jeremy (Princeton, 1956), p. 220.

35 Ch'en, Yüan Shih-k'ai, p. 221.

36 Li, The Political History of China, p. 328.

36a Ibid., 329.

37 Ibid., p. 222.

38 Hara Kei Nikki, VI, 383.

39 Ch'en, Yüan Shih-k'ai, p. 223.

40 Li, Tien-yi, Woodrow Wilson's Far Eastern Policy (New York, 1952), p. 154.

41 Jordan to Langley, January 14, 1916, quoted by Ch'en, p. 225.

42 Reinsch to Lansing, January 19, 1916, Foreign Relations, pp. 53–55.

43 Hara Kei Nikki VI, pp. 369–370.

44 JFMA, PVM 12, pp. 6508–6509.

45 See “Documents Relating to the Conflict Between Northern and Southern Factions in China,” JFMA, PVM 12, pp. 666–1130.

46 JFMA, PVM 12, pp. 6526–6527.

47 Hicki to Ishii, January 22, 1916, JFMA, PVM 12, pp. 6545–6548.

48 Ibid., pp. 6577–6579.

49 For a more detailed description of this incident, see the author's dissertation, “Japanese Policy Toward China, 1914–1918,” Chapter 4, pp. 125–129. A copy of the thesis may be obtained from the Edwin Ginn Library of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

50 JFMA, PVM 12, pp. 6900–6915.

51 Reinsch to Lansing, April 17, 1916, cited in Kenneth W. Grisingher, “The Policy of the United States toward the Early Republican Movement in China,” (doctoral dissertation at the Claremont Graduate School, 1950), p. 263.

52 North China Herald, January 29, 1916.

53 Inouye to Ishii, November 26, 1915, JFMA, PVM 12, p. 6351.

54 Reinsch, Paul S., An American Diplomat in China, (New York, 1922), p. 187.

55 Ibid., p. 191.

56 Ch'en, Yüan Shih-k'ai, pp. 229–230.

57 Ibid., p. 229.

58 JFMA, PVM 12, pp. 6598–6600.

59 Li, The Political History of China, p. 291.

Yüan Shih-k'ai and the Japanese

  • Kwanha Yim


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