Washington Naval Conference

Warlords and Revolutionaries

East Asia 1922.0206

Washington Naval Conference

The Xinhai Revolution, World War I in Asia, the Warlord Era in China, the Russian Revolution and the Siberian Intervention (6 February 1922)

Historical Map of East Asia & the Western Pacific

Growing tensions between the U.S., Britain, and Japan over fleet construction led to the Washington Naval Conference, the world's first disarmament conference. The participants agreed to limit their fleet sizes, maintain the status quo in the Pacific, and guarantee China's independence. Britain also ended the Anglo-Japanese Alliance while Japan agreed to restore Kiautschou Bay to China.


Treaty Ports

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.

Yangtze River

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.

Warlord China

From the Zhili-Anhui War (1920) to the Nationalist recapture of Beijing (1928), control over China fluctuated as various warlords fought for power. The foreign powers handled this situation by regarding whichever warlords controlled Beijing as the legitimate government of China, even though these warlords often had no influence outside the city.

To depict this situation, this atlas shows the recognized government of China as warlord-controlled rather than as an independent entity, with its size changing depending on how much authority the government had outside of Beijing. However the actual recognized borders of China itself did not change during this period.

Main Events

Outer Mongolian Revolution of 1921

Discontent with Ungern-Sternberg's occupation, the ascendant Mongolian People's Party joined forces with the Soviets to oust the White Guards. Henceforth, Mongolia would be a Soviet Satellite.

Washington Naval Conference

Washington Naval Conference attended by the United States, Great Britain, Japan, France, Italy, China, Belgium, Netherlands, and Portugal; parties agree to limit fleet sizes, maintain status quo in Pacific, and guarantee China's independence

Sun Yatsen launches northern expedition, invading southern Hunan.

Washington Naval Conference

The Treaty of Versailles had stipulated that Germany cede Kiautschou Bay to Japan. This, in addition to Japanese dominance over the Qingdao-Jinan railway, offended the Chinese government, who refused to relinquish their claim to the birthplace of Confucius. At the Washington Naval Conference, the United States mediated the dispute and decided in favor of China.

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