Final event of World War I lecture series shares view from the East

Aprille Mohn November 17, 2017 0

Monday, Nov. 13, the High Library hosted the last installment of the World War I and America program for the fall 2017 semester. The lecture featured Dr. David Kenley, the Director of the Center for Global Understanding and Peacemaking and professor of history at Elizabethtown College.

Dr. Kenley’s area of expertise is Asian studies, with a focus on China. Kenley is an expert in Chinese migration and overseas identity. He has authored three books about Chinese migration and history, and numerous chapters and articles on similar subject matters.

Kenley’s lecture allowed for a more global perspective on World War I, in contrast to the American and European-centered content of the previous lectures. Kenley first discussed the United States’ goals in the war, then the involvement of the East in the war and their view of the stated U.S. goals.

“Only through looking at their experience can we reach a global understanding,” Kenley said.

During the First World War, the goals of the U.S. were made public through President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Kenley highlighted three points of the 14; the U.S. intended to make the world safe for democracy, allow for national self determination and form a League of Nations.

Some of Wilson’s points resonated with Asian countries involved in the war due to the discrimination they faced at the time. Kenley then went into detail on four countries’ involvement in the war: Japan, Vietnam, India and China.

Japan, prior to WWI, had an alliance with Great Britain. Therefore, Japan got involved in the war. However, Japan was primarily interested in expanding its territory. Near Japan were several German-owned island colonies and a portion of China with a strong German presence.

Japan seized control of all these territories, and was permitted to keep them after the war. While at the Paris Peace Conference, the Japanese representatives proposed a racial equality clause in the Treaty of Versailles, which was defeated by the western countries. The inconsistency to the U.S.’s war goals provoked outrage.

Vietnam and India served similar roles during WWI. At the time, Vietnam was a French colony, and India was the most important colony of Britain. For this reason, 100,000 Vietnamese soldiers and 800,000 Indian soldiers were sent to serve in the war. Twelve thousand Vietnamese and 48,000 Indian soldiers were killed during the war.

Both colonies expected expanded civil rights or self determination as promised in the Fourteen Points. However, this would be denied on both accounts, much to the distress of the colonized.

China’s position in the war was slightly different. There were high populations of Chinese students in France at the time of the war, and many worked in munition factories or construction.

After the war, China expected the portion of its land that had been seized by Japan to be returned to its control. When this did not happen, there were widespread demonstrations against the Japanese, including boycotts on Japanese goods and the violent destruction of Japanese products.

Additionally, the lack of justice at the Paris Peace Conference would inadvertently assist in the rise of the Chinese Communist Party.

The conclusion of the lecture was that there was significant military involvement and intellectual contribution from Asia during World War I. However, all parties involved were dissatisfied with the hypocrisy of the West. This dissatisfaction would lead to the launch of many prevalent figures involved in Asian political movements, including Mohandas Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong.

Kenley would like to remind Etown students of an upcoming opportunity to study abroad in China from May 12-27, 2018. Kenley is co-leading the excursion with Director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies Dr. Jeffrey Bach.

Highlights of the trip include visiting Beijing to see sights, such as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall; Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors and the Muslim Bazaar; Shanxi, the location of several Brethren missionary sites; and Shanghai to visit significant landmarks, such as the Bund International Architecture Exhibition and the Jade Buddha Temple.
Kenley encouraged students to enroll in the Spring 2018 course Brethren in China: a History of Peacemaking, but students are not required to take the course in order to travel abroad with the group.

To register, students should contact Bach or Kenley by Feb. 16, 2018.

Comments are closed.