The European colonial era Jaffna reminded one of how the European powers established their colonial empires in Asia, Africa and Americas with a long and hazardous past.
Germany also colonised many of the Asian and African countries with other European nations after the development of imperialism and the awareness of having colonies around the world.
The colonialist thinking was that colonies were ideal to support the economy in the motherland. So, densely populated China came into view as a potential market. Thinkers like Max Weber demanded an active colonial policy from the German government. In particular the opening of China was made a question of life or death, because it was thought to be the most important non-European market in the world.
But a global policy without global military influence appeared impracticable, so establishing a strong Navy came into the scene and the result was the German East Asia Squadron and the European stationed High Seas Fleet. This fleet was supposed to give German interests for a gunboat diplomacy keeping peace and to protect the German trade routes. They had in mind a powerful Navy might help to destroy the hostile enemy navy fleets during war by the cruiser war tactics. Germany wanted to establish a network of global naval bases having in mind the cruiser war tactics and acquired a harbour in China.
In 1860 a Prussian expedition fleet arrived in China and explored the region around Jiaozhou Bay. The following year a Chinese-Prussian trade contract was signed. In 1896 Admiral von Tirpitz, at that time commander of the German East Asia Squadron, examined the area personally.
When on November 1, 1897 two German missionaries of the Steyler Mission, which had been protected by the German Empire since 1890, were murdered in China, Kaiser Wilhelm II used this as a pretext to occupy the Bay.
Even before the Chinese government was informed about the murder, Admiral von Diederichs, commander of the East Asian Squadron, was ordered on November 7 to carry out the occupation. On November 14 German naval infantry landed on the strands and occupied the area without any possible confrontation.
After the German-Chinese negotiations which resulted into a settlement of the missionary incident and a few months later the German Empire leased the Bay for 99 years from the Chinese government. As a result of the German-Chinese lease contract the Chinese government gave up the exercise of all its sovereign rights within the leased territory other than the city of Jiaozhou. The “Government Kiautschou” remained part of China under imperial sovereignty but because of the duration of the lease turned it into a German Protectorate. Because of the importance, which the protectorate had, it was not put under the supervision of the Imperial colonial office but under that of the Imperial naval office.
In the middle of the First World War, on 23 August 1914, imperial China cancelled the German lease and on 7 November 1914, the bay was occupied by Japan.
The German colonies faced the same repercussion in other areas of the Pacific. The German New Guinea too was a strategic-zone for the German colonization in the Pacific from 1884 to 1914, consisting of the northeastern part of New Guinea and several nearby Pacific island groups including the German Solomon Islands with other smaller islands, the Carolines, Palau, most of the Marianas, the Marshall Islands and Nauru. A treaty with Spain ensured German control over the island groups.
But following the outbreak of World War I, Australian troops captured areas in New Guinea which was then known as Kaiser-Wilhelmsland and the nearby islands in 1914, after a short resistance led by Captain Carl von Klewitz and Lt. Robert von Blumenthal. The Australian Military and Naval Expeditionary Force attacked a wireless station where the Australians suffered six dead and the German forces fared much worse, with one German officer and 30 native police killed with the final surrender of Germans to Australians. Japan occupied most of the remaining German possessions in the Pacific later on. After the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Germany lost all its colonial possessions in the Pacific and New Guinea.
Rajkumar Kanagasingam is the author of the fascinating book – German Memories in Asia……A collection of memories by the author in his discussion with German university students who have been volunteering in Asia on the sensitive issues of Early Human Migration, Asian & European historical events especially the German since the Roman Empire era to the times of First & Second World Wars and about the Germans around the world and their Migrations, Life styles, Encounters and Assimilations since the ancient times, his experiences in an American NGO as an officer in the rebel-held war-torn jungles and then in a tsunami relief mission there with German students, and the German students’ life and fashion in Asia….
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