JULY, 1894 TO MAY, 1895

Source:  German Diplomatic Documents, 1871-1914, selected and translated by E.T.S. Dugdale, Volume III, "The Growing Antagonism, 1898-1910," (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1930), pp. 1-13.


Private letter. Extract (written in English).

For that is clearly the great task of the future for Russia to cultivate the Asian Continent and to defend Europa from the inroads of the Great Yellow Race. In this you will always find me at your side ready to help you as best I can. You have well understood that call of Providence and have quickly grasped the moment; it is of immense political and historical value, and much good 'will come of it. I shall with interest await the future development of our action and hope that, just as I 'will gladly help you settle the question of eventual annexations of portions of territory for Russia, you will see that Germany may also be able to acquire a port somewhere where it does not 'géne' you.


July 16th, 1894

As is known, owing to a rising which took place in Southern Korea, China and Japan sent troops to that country to restore order. When this task was accomplished, the Japanese Government refused to withdraw until the Korean Government should have introduced reforms there, which might prevent the recurrence of similar disturbances. China is ready to withdraw her troops simultaneously with Japan, but refuses so far to associate herself with the Japanese pressure for reform. Tension has thus arisen between the two East Asiatic Powers, and there is danger, for the Japanese are now in occupation of the capital, Seoul, whilst the Chinese troops, which remained up to the present in the South, are approaching the capital in order to resist any attempt by Japan at gaining a dominant influence with the Court and to maintain China's more nominal than actual suzerainty over Korea.

This being the situation, the Chinese Government has appealed to us to mediate and to persuade Japan to withdraw from Korea. Before this, the British Government also approached us with the request to join in intervention by the Powers in favour of a peaceful settlement of the differences that have arisen.

In consideration that England and Russia are deeply interested in the question of Korea's existence and that this affair might lead to a clash of interests between the two Powers, we have replied that it is not our business to intervene. Nevertheless it appears, as far as this clash is not imminent, that if the other European Powers are working for peace, we ought to take part in these joint efforts in consideration for our trade interests in Eastern Asia.

The Imperial Ministers in Pekin and Tokio have received instructions by telegram (copy enclosed).

You will please prepare a statement for His Majesty the Emperor in the sense indicated above after the pattern of the enclosed telegrams.

Minute by KIDERLEN.

His Majesty, to whom I communicated the contents of the despatch, was fully in favour of refusing our intervention in a matter which interested Russia and England alone, apart from China and Japan.


October 14th, 1894

On October 7th the British Ambassador, under instructions from his Government, wrote proposing intervention in the Chino-Japanese War. The basis was to be the independence of Korea under the guarantee of the Foreign Powers and an indemnity to be paid by China. An identical invitation was sent to St. Petersburg, Paris, Rome and Washington. We at once indicated the objections against such action and said further that at present intervention appeared scarcely opportune. In all probability Japan would reject it. What method should then be adopted? Was it intended to resort to action in that case ? The result of these objections, which had been raised elsewhere also, is that we are informed that in London they merely contemplate some sort of offer of ' advice to the belligerent Powers.

Russia has indeed declared herself in favour of the idea of mediation as a 'principle', but makes her agreement depend on the Tsar's consent, which does not seem to have been obtained so far.

I tell you this for your personal guidance. I shall be interested to learn the impression made in Pekin (and Tokio) by the British démarche, which is no doubt known of.


February 1st, 1895


Our Minister in Peking very lately suggested that, if other Great Powers used the Chino-Japanese War to acquire territorial possessions at China's expense, we too might well consider obtainmg a firm point d'appui for our fleet and commerce in Eastern Asia. He suggests first Kiao-Chow bay and after it the Pescadores Islands, which are on the line from Formosa, as points worthy of our consideration.

It must be admitted that it would make an impression to the disadvantage of German policy, if, when other Powers were tearing off pieces of the Chinese Empire, Germany alone went empty away.

On the other hand, the two points indicated by the Minister do not seem especially worth coveting. The possession of Kiao-Chau offers at present no trade advantages. There would be no question of these, until a branch of the Chinese Railway system reached that bay. A seizure of land there, i.e., on the Chinese mainland, might entail fortifying the place, and might under given circumstances draw a hostile attack on itself. The Pescadores are quite worthless; they offer no support for trade, and it seems very doubtful if they possess good enough harbours.

Even Formosa Island, for the possession of which there has for decades been a certain feeling in Germany, must be left out of consideration, for the subjection of the inhabitants, who are Chinese subjects in name only, and the defence of the Island against those Powers (France in particular) which are asserting a claim on the island, would demand sacrifices from us which we can scarcely afford.

It would best suit us, as far as can be seen now, to possess the Island of Chusan at the entrance of the Bay of Hangchow, South of Wusung. As early as 1869 and 1870 Professor von Richthofen, the authority on China, strongly recommended the acquisition of this island in detailed memorials addressed to Prince Bismarck. He praises it as having a good harbour, easy to protect and fortify, and still believes that it would be easy by suitable measures, such as establishing a Free Port there, to make it into an emporium, which would not only attract the trade of the neighbouring Ningpo, but would soon supersede the riverport, Shanghai, which is difficult of access, as a centre for the trade of all those districts.

Now, as you know, M. Hanotaux spoke not long ago of a right of possession of the Chusan Islands, which England claimed under certain conditions from China by a secret Treaty after the Opium War. With this corresponds the intelligence, which has frequently appeared in the papers lately, that England intends to occupy these islands very soon. At the end of December last year the London Correspondent of the Novoye Vremya claimed to have heard not only that British naval circles were taking a lively interest in the strategic importance of the islands, but that the China firms in the City were confidently awaiting the occupation, in order to establish factories and depots on the largest island.

If any fact underlay these rumours, and if England really had secured a right to Chusan by treaty, of which nothing definite is known, we should naturally have to drop all thoughts of acquiring it. In the opposite event it might be asked if we cannot take a hand in the affair. It would then, as far as we can see now, be a matter of entering with the least possible delay, at any rate before the conclusion of peace, into secret negotiations for the purchase of Chusan Island and to complete them as quickly as possible. China might not be very willing to hand the island over to an unpleasant neighbour, without getting any return for it, as indeed she might easily be obliged to do, but she might do so more willingly to Germany from whom she has no injury to fear, in return for a suitable price.

In order to find out whether Baron von Richthofen's views on the subject are unchanged, I have asked the Imperial Consul General at Shanghai for a telegraphic statement as to the importance commercially which would accrue to the island of Chusan in European hands.

Meanwhile I should like, before deciding on any further steps, to hear your views also, particularly on its probable reactions on politics in general.

Perhaps the news mentioned above as to the hopes of the City merchants may serve as an indication of the circles in which, among others, information on the true intentions of the British Government may be gathered.

I shall peruse your report with interest.


March 3rd, 1895

Cipher telegram.

In the name of the Chinese Government Li Hung Chang begs for a confidential application to Japan for moderate peace-terms. He considers it impossible to make concessions on the mainland, which would threaten China's existence. In view of Li Hung Chang's proved friendship, I promised to lay his request before Your Highness. Japan indicates Shimonoseki as the place for negotiations.


February 20th, 1895


As long ago as the beginning of the sixties we felt the need of a naval station of our own on the Chinese coast, and only lately His Majesty said the same. More than 30 years ago detailed enquiries were made on points touching the same question. The island of Chusan was shown to be the most suitable for the purpose, as it has a safe harbour, Tinghai, in a good position for trade, but hard to approach. The spots also mentioned, such as Mirs Bay, near Hong Kong, and the little Island of Ku Lang Su, near Amoy, are hardly worth mentioning now, as, apart from other objections, they are too insignificant for us; also the places recently suggested by our Minister in Peking, the Pescadores Islands, off Formosa, and the Bay of Kiao Chow, South of the Shan Tung range. Professor von Richthofen, the well-known expert on China, has already warned us against the Island of Formosa, which was also proposed, saying that it has not one serviceable harbour….

If we really contemplate claiming Chusan for ourselves, we shall certainly have to face a protest from England, who appears to have acquired rights over this island by a secret compact with China some time ago; whereas, if we demanded Formosa, we should come into collision with Japan and also with France, both of whom are aiming at this island.

In reference to a former report His Majesty stated that when dealing with causes of quarrel between England and France, and between England and Russia, our policy must be kept perfectly free and independent, so that when the moment arrives when England absolutely needs us and begs for our he!p, we can exact proper payment, and if a conflict takes place without our being involved in it, we can take what we want for ourselves.


March 19th, 1895


In reference to the telegram which has been submitted to Your Majesty, and in which the Emperor of China solicits Your Majesty's support in bringing about peace with Japan, I beg leave to submit the following statement of our position towards the Chino-Japanese conflict.

In accordance with Your Majesty's decision at the time, our attitude so far has been one of strict neutrality. Even before the struggle actually began, Your Majesty's representatives in Peking and Tokio were empowered to take part in any steps taken jointly by the representatives of the other Great Powers towards a peaceful settlement. . . . After hostilities broke out, we declared our readiness to join in common action by the Powers, so far as this was confined to the protection of persons and property.

On the other hand the repeated suggestions made both by England and China in favour of intervention and of our taking part in it, have been rejected by us on the grounds that we considered such a step taken beforehand to be premature.

The following considerations lay at the bottom of this: England and Russia are especially interested in the development of affairs in Eastern Asia, and England wishes to keep China as far as possible unharmed as a buffer State to protect India against a Russian advance, whilst Russia does not wish to see her alleged claims to Korea, or at least a part of it, prejudiced by further Japanese progress. But Germany on the other hand has no such great interests at stake, at least for the present, in the Far East. German trade has not noticeably suffered from the state of war up to now. On the contrary, our manufacturers, merchants and shippers have found good openings for profit by supplying and delivering war material By joint intervention with England and Russia, aimed solely at restoring peace, we should first and foremost be helping the affairs of these States, probably with considerable sacrifice to ourselves ; for it is quite likely that nothing would be successful in dealing with a victorious Japan but armed intervention or at least a demonstration of absolutely superior force at the theatre of war itself.

It follows from these considerations that our attitude would have to be altered if there were to be prospect of special advantages in compensation for the sacrifices we should offer. And first of all we should expect to acquire certain points of the coast of China to serve as stations for our fleet and commerce. We have felt the need of these for decades past.

It is naturally no business of Germany's, as the Power least directly interested in proportion, to give the signal for the partition of the Chinese Empire by coming forward with claims of this kind. We ought rather to wait until other Powers show signs of intending to realise similar aims.

All this will depend on the course of the coming peace negotiations. Japan still withholds the conditions, which she means to impose, and seems to wish only to produce her final demands gradually. But there are indications that these will bear very hardly on China. A few days ago the Japanese Minister here communicated in strict confidence and with a request for secrecy, the fact that at the end of last month his and the Russian Governments held a conference, and that Japan agreed to the Russian demand of complete independence for Korea, whilst Russia promised to support Japan at the peace negotiations in the matters of indemnity, territorial concession and readjustment of the commercial relations between Japan and China. The above agrees with the Report of Your Majesty's Ambassador in London--that Russia and England have agreed that Korea's independence must be maintained.

To this Mr. Aoki added in confidence that the Japanese military authorities regard the cession of Port Arthur with a part of the country behind it as indispensable, whilst in their eyes the cession of an island, e.g., Formosa, is of the first importance. (The EMPEROR: 'We could then claim it.')

Now I consider that Port Arthur in Japanese hands would mean Japanese control of the Gulf of Chi-li, and with it a permanent menace to the Chinese Capital. It is therefore probable that the Chinese will resist this cession to the utmost.

China's military situation is well-nigh hopeless. In reply to a telegraphic enquiry Your Majesty's Minister in Peking has stated that he does not believe that the Chinese forces could hold the Japanese back from Peking. The seizure of the Capital would certainly not be followed precisely by a general collapse of the Government organisation, but Li Hung Chang does not think it possible to remove the Court from Peking now. On the other hand, Baron von Gutschmid telegraphs from Tokio that Japan could carry on the war till next winter without fear of exhausting her man-power, money or war-material, and that the war-spirit of the Japanese nation is as high as ever.

Up to now the Chinese Statesmen have shown a tendency towards self-deception as to the true state of affairs, and it seems that if Japan does not give up her claim to Port Arthur and content herself with Formosa, it is not impossible that they will renew the unequal struggle.

If so, it might well come to intervention by the Powers in spite of their divergent interests, and the Chinese question might have to be dealt with by us also.

I humbly consider that the right line for our policy would be to avoid being drawn into any action which would serve foreign interests in the first place, but on the other hand to be open to take part in any enterprises which might lead to delays in establishing the influence of the Great European Powers in the Far East. (The EMPEROR: 'Correct.')

I request Your Majesty's authority to instruct the Imperial Ambassador in London, who has been given provisionally a general idea of the above point of view, to indicate to the Government there orally, and without committing us, that Your Majesty's Government is not by way of rejecting in advance the idea of joint intervention, and 'will not hesitate to fight for German Interests (The EMPEROR: ' Yes, but not Chinese.') with all energy, if the settlement in the Far East is really delayed.

According to utterances by British Statesmen up to the present, England appears to wish earnestly to draw us in as a make-weight against France and Russia and will certainly meet our wishes to some extent. (The EMPEROR: ' We must make our price a dear one.')

We can hardly tell now what and how much we shall demand for our co-operation. It will depend partly on what the other Powers claim for themselves. As regards this, a remark by Sir Frank Lascelles, the British Ambassador in St. Petersburg, as reported by our Ambassador, indicates that England would raise no objection if Russia were to annex a part of Northern China for the sake of her railway and some port in Korea. What England would take for herself is unknown; (The EMPEROR: 'Shanghai!') but former experience causes one to think of the islands of Chusan opposite Ning-po, amongst other places….


April 4th, 1895

Cipher telegram

Lord Kimberley shares the view personally that the cession of Port Arthur would result in a Japanese protectorate over China and endanger its existence, and also lead to seizure of territory by other Powers. But so far he is not at all convinced that Russia will look on the collapse of China as a serious menace to her own interests and would not prefer to let things run their course. He anticipates that France would not mind seeing China weakened.

My impression that there is so far no arrangement between England, Russia and France, either about acquisitions or an agreed joint attitude.

If they agree in St. Petersburg to urge moderation on Japan and to treat the acquisition of Port Arthur as out of the question, they will not leave themselves out here, as far as I can judge. But if they show indifference in St. Petersburg, it is very doubtful if the British Government will act alone. All that would remain would be an understanding between the interested Powers on the acquisitions they mean to make


April 8th, 1895


Under instructions from his Government the Russian Chargé d'Affaires proposed that the views of the European Powers (The EMPEROR: 'Possibly without England.') should be communicated to Japan in a friendly form-to the effect that ' the annexation of Port Arthur is a permanent hindrance to the establishment of good relations between China and Japan and a standing menace to peace in the Far East.' On receiving His Majesty's commands, the Imperial Government is ready to instruct its representative at Tokio to deliver this declaration jointly with the Russian representative. Inform Prince Lobanoff of the above. (The EMPEROR: 'Yes.')


April 10th, 1895

Cipher telegram.

Lord Dufferin informed me confidentially, that yesterday, under instructions from Lord Kimberley, he had stated to M. Hanotaux tliat the British Cabinet considered the Japanese peace terms favourable to European interests (The EMPEROR: 'British!') and would not intervene. (The EMPEROR: 'That means that the British have made themselves secure by a secret private Treaty with Japan. The above alters nothing of my directions. The British want of foresight will cost them dear.')


April 17th, 1895

Cipher telegram.

Prince Lobanoff made me the following proposal:

England's defection makes it Russia's duty to take in hand the protection of her own interests in the Far East. These coincide with those of Europe. The Russian Government has decided to request Japan, first in a friendly form, to abstain from occupying the Chinese mainland in permanence. He distinctly hopes that Germany and France will associate themselves with this démarche, and he has instructed the Russian representatives in Paris and Berlin to this effect. If Japan should reject this friendly advice, Russia contemplates joint war4ike operations of the three Powers by sea against Japan, the first aim being to isolate the Japanese forces on the mainland by cutting off their home communications.


April 17th, 1895


For your guidance. Germany rejected the British proposal of October 7th, 1894, to intervene in the Chino-Japanese dispute out of friendship for Japan.

But the present Japanese peace terms are too stringent. They injure European interests, including Germany's, though in a lesser degree.

We have cause, therefore, to join in protesting and shall, if necessary, do so with sufficient force.

Japan must give in, as a struggle against three Powers is objectless. If the Japanese Government regards a Conference as the only non-humiliating form of submission, telegraph here at once.


April 20th, 1895

Cipher telegram.

The Count of Montebello told me that yesterday morning he had communicated officially to Prince Lobanoff France's adherence to the Russian programme. A joint démarche at Tokio is to follow to-day. Baron de Courcel's most recent reports mention Lord Kimberley as being very nervous and irritable at England's complete isolation; it seems also that public opinion in England is about to swing round.

Last evening Sir Frank Lascelles, under instructions from his Government, made Prince Lobanoff the following proposal: 'In consideration of the Entente hitherto existing between the European Powers, England proposes to Russia to request Japan to communicate the authentic text of the peace conditions to the Cabinets. Prince Lobanoff replied that he sees no reason for this démarche, which would gain nothing and only waste time. The main points of the text are quite sufficiently known to him through the Russian representative at Tokio and the Japanese Minister here. Now that Russia has adopted an attitude in agreement with France and Germany, she could not enter into a discussion of the peace terms. If England would join with them, he and the other two Powers would certainly welcome it with pleasure.

Sir Frank Lascelles returned no reply to the above.

Prince Lobanoff and Count Montebello think that England is beginning to realise that she has made a mistake in her judgment of the economic results of the peace terms and that, if the three Powers remain firm, she will finally return to her original programme.


May 12th, 1895

Cipher telegram. Extract.

Prince Lobanoff would regret the plan of including England. What he had wished to avoid was additional participation, and for this reason he had only spoken of propounding an Article. England retired when she might have been useful. Prince Lobanoff thinks it desirable that as the three Powers have achieved the success without England, they alone should reap the fruits of it.1 So far England has not claimed to participate; if she does so, the matter can be discussed again. Moreover the prestige of the three Powers would suffer in the East, if England were let in in addition. Japan would conclude that the Powers can do nothing without England. The British Press is trying to create this impression.


May 12th, 1895

Telegram. Extract.

This further action on a changed and extended basis (the demand that the Pescadores should not be fortified) would be impossible without the participation of other Powers. It was out of respect for Prince Lobanoff's objections against England's participation that it appeared essential to drop this point, and all the more so because even to combine temporarily the Liaotung question with that of the fortifying of the Pescadores was enough to endanger anew what has been achieved.


June 19th, 1907


In the course of conversation Viscount Hayashi told me that the feeling in Japan against Germany dated from the time of Germany's joint intervention with France and Russia in 1895. It was a misfortune that Baron Gutschmid, with his violent character, was the German representative just then. He enjoyed the opportunity for humiliating Japan. He, Hayashi, had been Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, and had received the declarations from the three Ministers, as representative of the sick Count Mutsu. The declarations were identical in form, but the French Minister, Harmand, and even the Russian, Hitrovo, had used conciliatory expressions throughout, when they delivered their declarations, whilst Baron Gutschmid added to his own a long written statement, in which he--and he alone--baldly threatened war. (The CHANCELLOR: 'Was Gutschmid ordered to do this ? Were his instructions as harsh as this? I wish to see the records.') When he, Hayashi, called Baron Gutschmid's attention to this variation from the declarations of his colleagues, he finally declared his readiness to withdraw formally that expression--the threat of war. He, Hayashi, however had said that the oral declaration of readiness to withdraw was quite sufficient. The document was in the Foreign Office Records, but in the interests of friendly relations with Germany, the Japanese Government had always taken care to keep it secret. (The CHANCELLOR: 'Gutschmid remains in my memory as an irritable and rather incompetent agent. It would be well to let Hayashi know that Gutschmid exceeded his instructions.')