Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, a conflict which many of Asia’s current foreign policy headaches grew out of. It’s strange then that the role East Asia played in the Great War has often been overlooked by commentators. In that context, Frederick R. Dickinson’s “War and National Reinvention” is an important link in the chain for readers of modern Japanese history.
The events are well-known: In 1914, Britain urges Japan, its ally, to invade German colonies in Shandong, China, and stop resources being used by Imperial Germany. Having made inroads into the continent over the previous two decades, Japan was happy to help and, in 1915, issued its “21 Demands,” forcing China to acknowledge Japanese sovereignty in Shandong.