Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Forgotten Army of Chinese Laborers in WWI

The South China Morning Post has a terrific story with charts, graphs, and images about the tens of thousands of Chinese laborers who helped rebuild war-torn Europe.

China wanted to enter the war against Germany so it could retake the colony of Qingdao but Britain rejected the overture. Chinese leaders next suggested they would enter the war if Britain, France and Russia would let them have a seat at Versailles.

The Allies eventually agreed and China began sending thousands of laborers to Europe.  Many died along the way to the Western front, others (some 30,000) died on the Russian front.

Once in France,  "workers went to ports, mines, farms and munitions factories. They repaired roads, transported supplies and dug trenches near the front lines, risking German artillery shells."

China got its promised seat at the negotiating table but little else. The Allies refused to return Shangdong which was China's main demand.

This is a fascinating story and good a review of Chinese history in the years just before the war when Yuan Shikai was China's president. The charts and graphs at the end of the story are terrific.

Thanks to Judy Hirshey‎ for post the link on Facebook.

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