A tale of betrayal

By Tom Clifford | China Daily | Updated: 2017-02-10 07:18

A tale of betrayal

A French cartoon shows France and Russia watching Britain "again betraying Europe" and plotting to carve up the Chinese cake with Japan. [Photo provided to China Daily]

China joined the Allies the same year as the United States but China stands accused, in some quarters, of opportunism-a harsh judgment, not as frequently passed on the US.

Almost 140,000 Chinese served in France, as laborers, doing essential maintenance work on roads, trenches, railways and tanks and making up for the drastic manpower shortage by working in French factories and fields.

They were mostly from the north, as it was presumed, by the Allies, that they would be better able to deal with the cold.

The Chinese offered to dispatch 340,000 men to France and Russia, along with 100,000 rifles.

Their work rate was renowned.

Trenches were dug faster than British troops and they carried the heaviest objects with the greatest of ease, earning the praise of Lloyd George, the wartime UK prime minister, in 1916.

The Chinese Labour Corps was pivotal to the Allied effort. Whether filling in for French industrial jobs, helping to dig trenches and dugouts, often within range of enemy artillery, and crucially, in manning the workshops of the Tank Corps, the CLC became an indispensable part of the war effort and an essential prerequisite of tank deployment in 1918.

At least 5,000-perhaps as many as 10,000-lost their lives, some at sea. Others served in Russia, and were caught up in the Russian Revolution. Their fate is mostly unknown.

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