Asia Pacific 1917: Russian Revolution
Yuan Shikai's successor, Duan Qirui, failed to retake the south or rein in the growing power of rival factions in the north. Opposition to Duan's desire to join World War I caused such chaos that royalists were able to briefly seize Beijing. Entry into the War gave him Japanese support, but only a few months later the Russian Revolution broke out, bringing even more instability to the East.
Treaty ports were towns opened to foreign trade by unequal treaties in China. Foreigners operating within treaty ports enjoyed extraterritoriality, being subject to their home country’s laws. Unlike concessions such as Hong Kong, these territories were not directly leased by the foreign powers and did not have sizable foreign garrisons.
Treaty ports are not shown in the maps after the 1911 Chinese Revolution in order to give a clearer picture of the chaos in China itself and as by that point their numbers had stabilized. After the revolution, some of the smaller ports were phased out while the others became less important as the situation in China meant that only the concessions could provide foreigners with security. Most, however, still continued on into the 1940s when the Japanese entry into World War II and foreign agreements with China brought them to an end.
See this map for treaty ports in 1907, when the system was at its peak.
By the terms of the Treaty of Tientsin (1858), foreign vessels including warships had the right to free navigation on the Yangtze River. In practical terms, this right extended only as far as Yichang until 1900, when advances in steam navigation allowed access as far inland as Chongqing.
? Jul 1917 Anhui and Zhili cliques▲
Following the death of Yuan Shikai, the Chinese government began polarizing into two factions: the Anhui clique—which supported Premier Duan Qirui—and the Zhili clique—which rallied behind Vice President Feng Guozhang. Duan wanted China to enter World War I on the side of the Allies and militarily suppress the rebellious southern provinces; Feng initially opposed entry into the War and wanted to peacefully resolve the southern conflict.
1–12 Jul 1917 Manchu Restoration▲
Taking advantage of unrest in China caused by the debate over whether or not to join the Allies in World War I, royalist general Zhang Xun entered Beijing and proclaimed the restoration of Puyi—the last emperor of the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty—on 1 July 1917. Although Zhang quickly gained control of Beijing, he was opposed by the rest of China. Republican troops stationed in Tianjin marched on the capital, overthrowing the new regime on 12 July.
22 Jul 1917 Siam enters World War I▲
The Kingdom of Siam declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary, immediately seizing twelve German vessels docked in Siamese ports. Siam entered the war in the hope of revising the unequal treaties it had been forced to sign with the foreign powers and assert its independence among the nations. It sent a volunteer expeditionary force to France in 1918, taking part in the Champagne and Meuse-Argonne Offensives.
14 Aug 1917 Entry of China into World War I▲
The Republic of China, under Premier Duan Qirui, declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary, entering World War I on the side of the Allies. Duan hoped that this action would lead the Allies to look favorably on China and revoke many of the unequal treaties it had been forced to sign in the past. The Chinese government immediately terminated the German and Austro-Hungarian leases in Tianjin.
? Nov 1917 Duan Qirui’s Hunan debacle▲
Chinese Premier Duan Qirui launched a military offensive against the self-declared Constitutional Protection Army in southern China. In November, the southerners defeated Duan’s attack on Hunan province—a situation not helped when Duan’s leading general, Wu Peifu, refused to fight and insisted on a peaceful reconciliation. The debacle led Duan to resign as premier for a second time on 16 November.
7–8 Nov 1917 October Revolution▲
On 7 November (25 October Old Style) 1917, Bolshevik Red Guards, led by Leon Trotsky, mounted an armed insurrection in Petrograd, capital of the Russian Republic, capturing several government buildings. The following day they seized the Winter Palace, the seat of Alexander Kerensky’s Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks declared a new government, the Council of People’s Commissars, with Vladimir Lenin as its head. Simultaneously and over the following days, other Bolshevik uprisings took place in towns and cities across Russia.
Nov 1917–?? 1919 Spanish Flu in East Asia▲
In late 1917 a respiratory illness broke out in northern China and traveled with the 96,000 Chinese laborers shipped to Canada, Britain, and France; it is theorized that this was the origin of the so-called Spanish flu which would kill some 50 million worldwide. Regardless, the mortality rate in China seemed lower than elsewhere. The influenza pandemic would go on to kill 390,000 in Japan and perhaps 1.5 million in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia).