"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] The Secretary of State to the Japanese Ambassador. (Memorandum of U.S. Secretary of State on Japan's 21 Demands)

[Date] March 13, 1915
[Source] Papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States with the address of the President to Congress December 7,1915 ,Nihon gaiko nenpyo Narabi Shuyou bunsyo Jyo, Gaimusyo, pp.385-394.
[Full text]


Washington, March 13, 1915.

EXCELLENCY : On February 8 last your excellency left with me at the Department a memorandum setting forth the demands which the Imperial Japanese Government felt obliged to make upon China, and on the 22d of the same month your excellency delivered to me an additional memorandum presenting certain "requests" affecting the relations between the two countries which the Imperial Government has urged China to consider.

The American Government is glad to learn from these two communications of the Imperial Government that the "requests" were not presented to China as "demands" but that they were but "wishes" for which "friendly consideration" was asked on the part of China. The American Government understands from this distinction between the "demands" and the "requests" that the latter are not to be pressed if the Chinese Government should decline to consider them.

Inasmuch as these requests appear to have a bearing upon the traditional attitude of both the United States and Japan towards China, I desire to present to your excellency the following considerations of the Government of the United States relative to the effect which, it is thought, these demands and requests may have upon the relations of the United States with the Chinese Republic.

Reciprocating the frank and friendly character of the statements of the Imperial Japanese Government, the Government of the United States of America believes that an expression of its views with respect to these matters will be received by the Imperial Government in the same friendly spirit in which it is offered.

It will be recalled that in the year 1899 the Government of the United States requested the Governments of France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Russia and Japan to give their formal consent to three proposals :

First. They will in no way interfere with any treaty port or any vested interest within any so-called "sphere of interest" or leased territory they may have in China.

Second. The Chinese treaty tariff of the time being shall apply to all merchandise landed or shipped to all such ports as are within said "sphere of interest" (unless they be "free ports"), no matter to what nationality it may belong, and that duties so leviable shall be collected by the Chinese Government.

Third. They will levy no higher harbor dues on vessels of another nationality frequenting any port in such"sphere" than shall be levied on vessels of their own nationality, and no higher railroad charges over lines built, controlled, or operated within such "sphere" on merchandise belonging to citizens or subjects of other nationalities transported through such "sphere" than shall be levied on similar merchandise belonging to their own nationals transported over equal distances.

On December 26, 1899, the Minister for Foreign Affairs addressed a note to the American Minister at Tokyo assuring the Minister- that the Imperial Government will have no hesitation to give their assent to so just and fair a proposal of the United States, provided that all the other Powers concerned shall accept the same.

A similar acceptance was given on behalf of the other Powers approached.

On July 3, 1900, having been consulted by other Powers as to the course to be pursued in China as a result of the Boxer disturbances, this Government expressed its views in a circular communication to Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and Russia, stating that- the policy of the Government of the United States is to seek a solution which may bring about permanent safety and peace to China, preserve Chinese territorial and administrative entity, protect all rights guaranteed to friendly Powers by treaty and international law, and safeguard for the world the principle of equal and impartial trade with all parts of the Chinese Empire.

In reply the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Imperial Government expressed through the American Minister at Tokyo views in accord with those of the United States Government.

In the following month Great Britain and Germany signed an agreement defining their mutual policy in China:

I. It is a matter of joint and permanent international interest that the ports on the rivers and littoral of China should remain free and open to trade and to every other legitimate form of economic activity for the nationals of all countries without distinction, and the two Governments agree on their part to uphold the same for all Chinese territory so far as they can exercise influence.

II. Her BritannicMajesty's Government and the Imperial German Government will not on their part make use of the present complication to obtain for themselves any territorial advantages in Chinese dominions and will direct their policy towards maintaining undiminished the territorial conditions of the Chinese Empire.

This agreement being communicated by those Powers to Japan was acknowledged by the Imperial Government in a note containing the following Ianguage :

The Imperial Government having been assured by the contracting Powers that in adhering to the agreement in question they would be placed in relation to it in the same position as if they had been a signatory thereto, do not hesitate to declare formally their adherence to the said agreement and their acceptance of the principles embodied therein.

In 1901, when the Manchurian Convention was being negotiated by the Russian and Chinese Governments, involving the grant of certain exclusive privileges relating to the opening of mines and the building of railroads in Manchuria, the Japanese Minister called on the Secretary of State of the United States and said that the Japanese Government considered that the convention was a most undesirable thing because it was a violation of the understanding among all the Powers that the integrity of the Chinese Empire should be preserved, and that the Japanese Government was anxious that some means should be taken by the different Powers to induce China to delay the final signature of the convention beyond the period assigned by Russia as an ultimatum for signing.

On the same subject a circular note was sent by the United States to Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia and Spain, as follows :

An agreement by which China cedes to any corporation or company the exclusive right and privilege of opening mines, establishing railroads, or in any other way industrially developing Manchuria, can but be viewed with the gravest concern by the Government of the United States. It constitutes a monopoly, which is a distinct breach of the stipulations of treaties concluded between China and foreign Powers, and thereby seriously affects the rights of American citizens; it restricts their rightful trade and exposes it to being discriminated against, interfered with or otherwise jeopardized, and strongly tends towards permanently impairing the sovereign rihgts of China in this part of the Empire, and seriously interferes with her ability to meet her international obligations. Furthermore, such concession on the part of China will undoubtedly be followed by demands from other Powers for similar and equally exclusive advantages in other parts of the Chinese Empire, and the inevitable result must be the complete wreck of the policy of absolute equality of treatment of all nations in regard to trade, navigation and commerce within the confines of the Empire.

On the other hand, the attainment by one Power of such exclusive privileges for a commercial organization of its nationality conflicts with the assurances repeatedly conveyed to this Government by the Imperial Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Imperial Government's intention to follow the policy of the open door in China, as advocated by the Government of the United States and accepted by all the Treaty Powers having commercial interests in that Empire.

It is for these reasons that the Government of the United States, animated now, as in the past, with the sincerest desire of insuring to the whole world the benefits of full and fair intercourse between China and the nations on a footing of equal rights and advantages to all, submits the above to the earnest consideration of the Imperial Governments of China and Russia, confident that they will give due weight to its importance and adopt such measures as will relieve the just and natural anxiety of the United States.

The foregoing constitute the beginnings of the policy of the United States and other Powers interested in the welfare of China for the maintenance of the territorial integrity and administrative entity of China, and equal opportunities in commerce and industries in her behalf. To this policy the Powers have generally given their formal acceptance and support.

It is only necessary to refer to the British-Japanese Treaty of 1902, the Japanese Declarations at the opening of the Russo-Japanese war, the British-Japanese Treaty of 1905, the Russo-Japanese Treaty of Portsmouth, of 1905, the Franco-Japanese Entente of 1907, and the Russo-Japanese Treaty of 1907, in which Japan confirmed her special interest in maintaining the political independence and territorial integrity of the Empire of China, and in securing equal opportunities to all nations in the commercial and industrial development of China.

Finally, the United States and Japan declared their policy in the Far East by an exchange of notes on November 30, 1908, between the Honorable Elihu Root, then Secretary of State, and Baron Kogoro Takahira, the Ambassador of Japan. These notes contain the following language:

4. They are also determined to preserve the common interest of all Powers in China by supporting by all pacific means at their disposal the independence and integrity of China and the principle of equal opportunity for commerce and industry of all nations in that Empire.

5. Should any event occur threatening the status quo as above described or the principle of equal opportunity as above defined, it remains for the two Governments to communicate with each other in order to arrive at an understanding as to what measures they may consider useful to take.

I assume that it is because they wish to act in the spirit of this agreement to communicate with each other in reference to any event which may threaten these principles that your excellency's Government has informed this Government of the above-mentioned proposals which have been made to China. It is with the same purpose also, and on the further ground that the United States feels itself under a moral obligation to the Powers whose pledges are deposited with it not to pass over in silence any threatened violation of these pledges, that I address this communication to you with a view to carrying out the agreement of 1908 in accordance with that mutual regard and friendship which inspired it.

The United States, confident that the principle of mutuality will be preserved by Japan, believes that it may rely upon the often repeated assurances of your excellency's Government relative to the independence, integrity and commerce of China, and that no steps will be taken contrary to the spirit of those assurances.

For two generations American missionaries and teachers have made sacrifices in behalf of religious and educational work in China. American capital has been invested and industries have been established in certain regions. The activity of Americans has never been political, but on the contrary has been primarily commercial with no afterthought as to their effect upon the governmental policy of China. As an outgrowth of these two interests Americans have become concerned in the legitimate participation in the economic development of China along broader lines. Many projects which in other countries are left to private enterprise are in China conducted necessarily under government direction. United States citizens and capital are thus engaged in certain public improvements, such as the Huai River conservancy, the Hukuang Railway project, etc. A fourth matter of great moment to the United States is its broad and extensive treaty rights with China. These in general relate to commercial privileges and to the protection of Americans in China. In view of these treaty rights and its increasing economic interests in China, this Government has noted with grave concern certain of the suggestions which Japan has, in the present critical stage of the growth and development of the new Republic, considered it advisable to lay before the Chinese Government. While on principle and under the treaties of 1844, 1858, 1868 and 1903 with China the United States has ground upon which to base objections to the Japanese "demands" relative to Shantung, South Manchuria, and East Mongolia, nevertheless the United States frankly recognizes that territorial contiguity creates special relations between Japan and these districts. This Government, therefore, is disposed to raise no question, at this time, as to Articles I and II of the Japanese proposals.

Further, as to Article IV, and Article V, paragraphs 2, 5 and 7, this Government perceives no special menace to the existing rights and interests of the United States or of its citizens in China. On the other hand Article V, paragraph 4, restricting the purchase of arms and ammunition to purchase from Japan, and paragraph 6 contemplating a monopoly of the development of the province of Fukien, the United States Government considers, would, if they should become operative, be violations of the principle of equal opportunity for the commerce and industries of other nations. American citizens may claim a right to share in the commercial development not only in Fukien but in other provinces as well. The United States is not unmindful that many serious disadvantages would result to its commercial and industrial enterprises if special preference is given to one nation in the matter of concessions. An example is shown in the operation of the South Manchuria Railway whereby discriminations have been made for some time against freight brought into Manchuria in other than Japanese vessels. This case indicates the embarrassing results of concessions of a broad preference or option. The United States, as well as every other nation, has the right to have its citizens free to make contracts with the Central and Provincial Governments without having the exercise of their rights interrupted or regarded as unfriendly by a third power ; for each American enterprise in China is treated on its own merits as to its usefulness and prospective benefit, and without any regard to the possible effect it might have on China's future political status in the Orient.

The rights and privileges, which are set forth in these two paragraphs and which Japan seeks to obtain from China, are in conflict with rights of Americans secured by treaties between the United States and China.

Article XV of the Treaty of 1844 reads as follows:

The former limitation of the trade of foreign nations to certain persons appointed at Canton by the Government and commonly called Hong-merchants, having been abolished, citizens of the United States, engaged in the purchase or sale of goods of import or export, are admitted to trade with any and all subjects of China without distinction ; they shall not be subject to any new limitations, nor impeded in their business by monopolies or other injurious restrictions.

Article XXX of the Treaty of 1858 reads as follows :

The contracting parties hereby agree that should at any time the Ta Tsing Empire grant to any nation or the merchants or citizens of any nation, any right, privilege or favor, connected either with navigation, commerce, political or other intercourse which is not conferred by this treaty, such right, privilege and favor shall at once freely enure to the benefit of the United States, its public officers, merchants and citizens.

Article VIII of the Treaty of 1868 reads as follows:

The United States, always disclaiming and discouraging all practices of unnecessary dictation and intervention by one nation in the affairs or domestic administration of another, do hereby freely disclaim and disavow any intention or right to intervene in the domestic administration of China in regard to the construction of railroads, telegraphs or other material internal improvements. On the other hand, his Majesty, the Emperor of China,reserves to himself the right to decide the time and manner and circumstances of introducing such improvements within his dominions. With this mutual understanding it is agreed by the contracting parties that if at any time hereafter his Imperial Majesty shall determine to construct or cause to be constructed works of the character mentioned within the empire, and shall make application to the United States or any other western Power for facilities to carry out that policy, the United States will, in that case, designate and authorize suitable engineers to be employed by the Chinese Government, and will recommend to other nations an equal compliance with such application, the Chinese Government in that case protecting such engineers in their persons and property, and paying them a reasonable compensation for their service.

Articles III and VII of the Treaty of 1903 read as follows:

Article III. Citizens of the United States may frequent, reside and carry on trade, industries and manufactures, or pursue any lawful avocation, in all the ports or localities of China which are now open or may hereafter be opened to foreign residence and trade ; and,within the suitable localities at those places which have been or may be set apart for the use and occupation of foreigners, they may rent or purchase houses, places of business and other buildings, and rent or lease in perpetuity land and build thereon. They shall generally enjoy as to their persons and property all such rights, privileges and immunities as are or may hereafter be granted to the subjects or citizens of the nation the most favored in these respects.

Article VII. The Chinese Government, recognizing that it is advantageous for the country to develop its mineral resources, and that it is desirable to attract foreign as well as Chinese capital to embark in mining enterprises, agrees, within one year from the signing of this treaty, to initiate and conclude the revision of the existing mining regulations. To this end China will, with all expedition and earnestness, go into the whole question of mining rules; and, selecting from the rules of the United States and other countries regulations which seem applicable to the condition of China, will recast its present mining rules in such a way as, while promoting the interests of Chinese subjects and not injuring in any way the sovereign rights of China, will offer no impediment to the attraction of foreign capital nor place foreign capitalists at a greater disadvantage than they would be under generally accepted foreign regulations ; and will permit citizens of the United States to carry on in Chinese territory mining operations and other necessary business relating thereto provided they comply with the new regulations and conditions which will be imposed by China on its subjects and foreigners alike, relating to the opening of mines, the renting of mineral land and the payment of royalty, and provided they apply for permits, the provisions of which in regard to necessary business relating to such operations shall be observed. The residence of citizens of the United States in connection with such mining operations shall be subject to such regulations as shall be agreed upon by and between the United States and China.

Any mining concessions granted after the publication of such new rules shall be subject to their provisions.

It is manifest that these articles including "most favored nation" treatment entitle Americans to claim from China the same rights as those which Japan now seeks to have granted exclusively to her subjects.

It remains to call attention to Article III forbidding the alienation or lease of any port, harbor or island on the coast of China, and to Article V, paragraph 1, requiring China to employ competent Japanese subjects as advisers for conducting administrative, financial and military affairs, and paragraph 3 suggesting the joint policing of China, "where it is deemed necessary."

With reference to the first of these three proposals,Baron Kato has explained to the American Ambassador at Tokyo that Japan has no desire for a naval station on the coast of China, either at Tsingtau, or south of that point, as it would be valueless to her, but that it would however object to another nation having such a station. With reference to the employment of advisers the United States believes it may be assumed that the Chinese Government will not discriminate unfairly in their selection, although it should be pointed out that this Government understands that Japan has six out of twenty-five advisers to the Republic represnting eight nations. In respect to the proposed joint policing of certain places where there has been some friction between Japanese and Chinese, this Government feels apprehensive that this plan, instead of tending to lessen such friction might create greater difficulties than those which it is desired to remove.

But what is more important is the fact that these proposals, if acceted by China, while not infringing the territorial integrity of the Republic, are clearly derogatory to the political independence and administrative entity of that country. The same is in a measure true of Paragraph 4 of Article V relative to the purchase of arms. It is difficult for the United States, therefore, to reconcile these requests with the maintenance of the unimpaired sovereignty of China, which Japan, together with the United States and the Great Powers of Europe, has reaffirmed from time to time during the past decade and a half in formal declarations, treaties and exchanges of diplomatic notes. The United States, therefore, could not regard with indifference the assumption of political, military or economic domination over China by a foreign Power, and hopes that your excellency's Government will find it consonant with their interests to refrain from pressing upon China an acceptance of proposals which would, if accepted, exclude Americans from equal participation in the economic and industrial development of China and would limit the political independence of that country.

The United States is convinced that an attempt to coerce China to submit to these proposals would result in engendering resentment on the part of the Chinese and opposition by other interested Powers, thereby creating a situation which this Government confidently believes the Imperial Government do not desire.

The United States Government embraces this opportunity to make known that it has viewed the aspirations of Japan in the Far East with that friendship and esteem which have characterized the relations of the two nations in the past. This Government cannot too earnestly impress upon your excellency's Government that the United States is not jealous of the prominence of Japan in the East or of the intimate cooperation of China and Japan for their mutual benefit. Nor has the United States any intention of obstructing or embarrassing Japan, or of influencing China in opposition to Japan. On the contrary the policy of the United States, as set forth in this note, is directed to the maintenance of the independence, integrity and commercial freedom of China and the preservation of legitmate American rights and interests in that Republic.

Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.