British Naval Strategy East of Suez, 1900-2000: Influences & Actions

By Greg Kennedy | Go to book overview

1

'WEE-AH-WEE'?: BRITAIN AT WEIHAIWEI, 1898-1930

T.G. Otte

Ye Jingoes shout your very best,
Ye grumblers cease to cry;
The East is conquered by the West,
We've taken Wei-Hai-Wei.
We none of us know where it is,
But that's no reason why
We should not feel heroic zeal
At taking Wei-Hai-Wei.
George Curzon once has seen the spot,
And George is pretty spry,
And George declared that it must be got -
We must have Wei-Hai-Wei.
German and Russian fleets, Ah ha!
Who cares for you, small fry?
We laugh at all your warlike feats,
We're safe in Wei-Hai-Wei.

Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Easter 1898. 1

The Chinese Empire's defeat in the war with Japan of 1894-95 marked a turning point in China's relations with the outside world. Its rout at the hands of the smaller island power brought before the chancelleries of Europe the full extent of China's internal and external weakness. The Middle Kingdom, it seemed, had joined the ranks of - in the Social Darwinian parlance of the day - 'dying nations'. 2 Its moribund condition raised the prospect of dividing the spoils of the Chinese carcass, and so made it an object of Great Power politics. In the immediate aftermath of the Sino-Japanese War the foreign powers competed for loan agreements, or railway, mining and other commercial concessions. The pace and character of Far Eastern developments, however, changed at the end of 1897, when Germany exploited the murder of two German missionaries to seize Kiaochow Bay in Shantung province, and turned the port of Tsingtao into a naval base. Weakened

-4-

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