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The Role of Chinese Laborers during WWI and Consequential Effects

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DOI: 10.23977/jhrd.2021.030104 | Downloads: 14 | Views: 1387


Changwen Fang 1


1 Shanghai North America International School, Shanghai 201199, China

Corresponding Author

Changwen Fang


On July 28th, 1914, the Austrian Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, which became the catalyst for World War I. The war involved a total of 36 countries with 65 million soldiers in total from the two sides of the Allies (France, Britain, Italy, and America, among several others), and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria Hungary, Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria). The war was devastating for both Britain and France and placed both countries on the cusp of running out of human resources. To remedy this issue, in 1916, over 140,000 Chinese laborers arrived in the Western Front to support the Allies under the agreement between the Chinese, British, and French governments. However, despite the laborers' overall contributions, they received little respect from the Allies. They were discriminated against and often referred to as coolies, china men, and chinks. After seeing the ruins of Europe after the war, these laborers began to view the fall of Western civilization as imminent. Hence, once they returned to China, the laborers began to facilitate a shift in the opinions among the people. They instilled in the country the belief that for China to be truly sovereign it needed to maintain Chinese culture and identity, rather than relying on foreign aid and Western powers.


World war I, Chinese laborers, Nationalism, Cultural identity


Changwen Fang. The Role of Chinese Laborers during WWI and Consequential Effects. Journal of Human Resource Development (2021) 3: 20-22. DOI:


[1] Wenjiang Din and Fengtian Zhao, The Selection of Liang Qichao’s Work. Shanghai People’s Publishing House, no.06, pp.286, 1983.
[2] Jiao Bai, Shikai Yuan and the Republic of China, Shanghai Humanity Monthly Journal, no.08, pp.65-66, 1936.

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