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Created by Sal Khan.
Video transcript
Japan was not a major actor in World War I, but it did play a role. Right as war broke out in August of 1914, the Japanese were interested in taking control of German possessions. And they were already allies with the British, so they communicated with the British, and they came to an agreement that if Japan were to attack German possessions in the Pacific and in China, then Japan could take control of them. And so Japan proceeded to do this. In particular, it took a siege of Tsingtao, which we already talked about, was a German possession. These are Japanese boats landing there, Japanese troops. And this was actually of technological significance. It was the first time that you had a naval-based aerial assault. This wasn't really using what we would consider aircraft carriers, although they did carry the aircraft. But they would place them into the water, and then the aircraft would take off from the water as they tried to take the town of Tsingtao, which they were eventually able to do by the end of 1914. On top of that, they were able to take control of many of Germany's other possessions in the Pacific, specifically the Pacific Islands. And on top of that, Japan did send some aspects, or some parts of its navy, to help protect Allied fleets as far away as the Mediterranean. So Japan did play a role here. The other interesting historical note, because of Japan's involvement in World War I, is what came out of the negotiations. First of all, by being involved, it kind of put Japan at the seat of major powers. And as we'll see, in World War II, Japan ends up being one of the major players in World War II, and it's essentially going on the other side by that point. But because of its help of the Allies, Japan does have a seat at the table at the Paris Peace Conference. And as they are negotiating the Treaty of Versailles and coming up with the League of Nations, Japan is eager to kind of have an equal footing with all of the other European powers. And so it attempts to place this in the charter for the League of Nations. "The equality of nations being a basic principle of the League of Nations, the High Contracting Parties agree to accord as soon as possible to all alien nationals of states, members of the League, equal and just treatment in every respect"-- let me underline that-- "equal and just treatment in every respect, making no distinction either in law or in fact, on account of their race or nationality." Essentially the Japanese were saying, hey, look, you Europeans, you guys have to view us and-- based on the way this is phrased-- other people as equals. Just to get a sense of what the world was like then, this was not passed. Even though the League of Nations was the product of these very idealistic thoughts by Woodrow Wilson, it did not get passed. Obviously the British, they had subjugated many people in their empires. Woodrow Wilson was afraid that if this were to be included in the League of Nations, it would have trouble passing-- getting ratified in the segregated South. We now know later that the League of Nations wasn't ratified anyway. And so this essentially does not happen. And even the Japanese themselves, they were eager for equality for themselves. But as we'll see as we enter into World War II, they themselves had a sense of racial superiority and they subjugated many of the other people in Asia, especially the Chinese and the Koreans. This is an interesting quote from the Chinese delegation. "We are not too proud to fight but we are too proud to accept a place of admitted inferiority in dealing with one or more of the associated nations. We want nothing but simple justice." So it tells you how different the world was. This is not even 100 years ago. And the real relevance of World War I for Japan was it elevated it to becoming one of the powers of the world.