Shirley Frey

Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Advisor

Thomas Adam


By the beginning of the twentieth century, China was considered the "Sick Man of Asia." Almost eighty percent of its territory and infrastructure were controlled by European powers and Japan. Although many anticipated China's demise, the Chinese people were determined for China to remain intact as an independent nation. The First World War was an opportunity for the Chinese to regain sovereignty of their territory. Chinese officials believed they could successfully plead their case for the restoration of Chinese sovereignty at the post-war peace conference, but China first had to become a participant in the war. Most of the European belligerents controlled concession territory in China and it was feared war might erupt in Asia. Believing the Chinese army was too weak to defend against Western armies, the Chinese government quickly declared neutrality at the outset of the war. Nevertheless, they began to search for a way to participate in the war without violating China's neutrality, and eventually, a scheme was devised in coordination with the British and French governments to establish the Chinese Labor Corps (CLC). Approximately 200,000 Chinese laborers were sent to Europe to assist the Allies. This thesis recounts the story of the Chinese Labor Corps by first exploring the events that led to China's involvement in the First World War, including Germany's establishment of Kiautschou (Kiaochow) leasehold in Shantung Province. It describes conditions in China leading up to the war, including the overthrow of the Ch'ing Dynasty and the creation of the first Chinese republic. It also discusses the creation of the CLC and the Chinese laborers' experiences in Europe, including the invaluable services rendered by the YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) that made life during the war bearable for the CLC. To conclude, this thesis explores the repercussions of the decisions made at the Paris Peace Conference, including the May 4th Movement and China's subsequent turning away from the West.


Arts and Humanities | History


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

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