Tuesday, January 5, 2016

100 Years Ago: Ominous Overtones

Let America Beware: Some Day the Sun will
Rise Above the Stars
Kladderdatsch, 1916
On August 14, 1914 Japan entered World War I, formerly declaring war on Germany at the request of the British government. For doing so, the Japanese government had been promised possession of all German colonial territories in the Pacific should the Allies win the war. Japanese forces took possession of Shandong province in China and cut off the German settlement at Tsingtao by October and went on to seize the Mariana, Caroline, and Marshall Islands.

In 1915 Japan presented China with what would become known as the Twenty-One Demands. These saw Japan as the new and most important power in the Pacific. China would become little more than a Japanese protectorate and the colonial privileges enjoyed by the European Allies and United States would be rescinded in favor of Japanese interests.

This little propaganda cartoon printed in 1916 by the German paper Kladderdatsch (a paper that would later be a major promoter of the Nazi party) was meant to stir up animosities between the U.S. and the Allies. The hope (seemed to be) that the threat to American colonial concerns in China and the Pacific would be enough to fracture the alliance and stop arms shipments to Europe. Instead, the Twenty-One Demands proved so unpopular with the Allies that Japan withdrew the final group of them, leaving colonial possessions in the Pacific and China in tact until World War II. The damage done to the Japanese reputation, though, was irreversible...they had become a naval power, but would never have the close relationship with Europe they'd enjoyed before. Strange how, in a way, Kladderdatsch predicted the eventual strike on Pearl Harbor, though...

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