First Sino-Japanese War
Even the smallest war can have a big impact. Perhaps, in the worldwide history, the First Sino-Japanese War was included as one short paragraph. However, for its participants, the results of the war had a significant importance. The main results of the war were the redistribution of territories, the redistribution of roles, and the definitions of new strategies for Japan, China, and Korea. In addition, the First Sino-Japanese War, to some extent, has become a prerequisite for the subsequent events in the international arena such as the Russo-Japanese war and even the First World War. They further explain the patterns of China and Japan’s behavior in the international arena and determine the fate of Korea for the next decades. Thus, the echoes of events that took place more than 120 years ago can be seen in today’s action-member countries since the tension in the region remains.
The Results of the War for the Three Countries
First, one should consider the short- and long-term results of the war for each of the participating countries. Japan fought against the Manchu Qin Empire, which included China, to establish control over Korea, which was nominally a vassal of the Qin, and penetration into Manchuria and China. Military operations lasted from 1894 to 1895 and ended with the defeat of China. An interesting observation showed that this war had helped Japan to get a new role in the political arena: “Japan has transformed itself from the object of imperialism into one of its perpetrators”. Treaty of Shimonoseki, which formally recorded the outcome of the war, consisted of 11 articles. According to the document, China recognized the independence of Korea, Japan received the island of Taiwan, Penghu Islands, and the Liaodong Peninsula, China also should pay a huge indemnity and open a series of seaports for trade; the document granted the right to build the Japanese industry in China and to import industrial equipment. Both countries should immediately send to high-ranking officials Taiwan and within two months to exchange documents on the final transfer of Taiwan to Japan.
One should note that this decision caused a massive protest in Taiwan. The local residents were unwilling to submit to Japan and they proclaimed the island an independent republic. However, they did not have enough strength to resist the 12 thousand soldiers who had landed on the island in May 1895. The self-proclaimed republic capitulated. However, guerrilla resistance did not cease until 1902; it lasted for seven years.
Russia, France, and Germany, for different reasons, were against the transfer of the Liaodong Peninsula to Japan. These countries did not want an excessive weakening of China and they had their interests in the Liaodong. Thus, these three powers put pressure on Japan, forced it to abandon the Liaodong merger in exchange for an increase in indemnity. According to the final version of the Shimonoseki Treaty, instead of passing the Liaodong, China should pay an additional 30 million Kuping taels of silver. As a result, Japan had a military victory, but it could not quite feel like a winner.
Outcome for Japan
Concessions, which had been forced onto the country because of the intervention of the Europeans, were perceived by Japanese society as a humiliation. Since then, Japan’s foreign policy had changed, moving from the idea of economic dominion to outright nationalism, militarism, and territorial expansion. Capturing Taiwan made Japan the only non-European colonial power in Asia. It also significantly accelerated the growth of the imperial ambitions of Tokyo and its colonial claims.
Generally, the result of the two years of war was very positive for Japan. It lost 1,700 people killed and wounded, and several thousand people died from diseases, but Japan had not lost any of the weaponry and a single ship, not counting several small destroyers. Much of China’s contribution had healed all financial deficiencies, and political, economic, and military significance of Japan increased significantly despite the humiliation inflicted on the country by European triple alliance.
Outcome for China
For China, this defeat meant the collapse of the old feudal order and the need for vital changes. Moreover, China lost not to the developed European powers but to the neighboring country that had recently been a medieval feudal state. “Imperial Japan upended the Asian hierarchy in 1894-1895, smashing the Qin Dynasty’s navy and seizing such choice sites as Port Arthur on the Liaodong Peninsula. It began making Asia safe for a Japanese empire,” says James Holmes, professor of strategy at the Naval War College. It would be possibly to say that the Chinese had been awaked by the defeat in the war. In November 1894, Sun Yat-sen established the Revive China Society. The chain of events that followed was as follows: in 1911, the Qin dynasty was overthrown. Ten years later, the Communist Party of China was founded. Mao Zedong, who was born in 1893, and Deng Xiaoping, who was born in 1904, spent their youth in an atmosphere of general frustration that prevailed in Chinese society after the defeat in the war. It led them to the idea of saving the country. In this sense, the defeat in the war had had a stimulating effect on China, setting a new motion vector for it.
Outcome for Korea
There is no single answer to the question about the importance of the Sino-Japanese War for Korea. Korea did not want this war, and it was not one of the warring parties but a subject to division. Although a substantial part of warfare activities took place on the Korean territory, Korea itself could not protect its sovereignty and China did not want to lose suzerainty over Korea. Thus, Japan, where the development of capitalist relations began, tried to oust China from Korea. Therefore, this war was the beginning of the change in the relations between Korea, China, and Japan. Japan’s victory in the war was followed by the collapse of the Korean state. From this point of view, Korea can be considered a victim of the war.
Meanwhile, there was another, a positive result that outweighed the first negative point. Through the intervention of the three European countries, Korea became an independent country, but this independence was short-lived. The consequence of the Sino-Japanese War was the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 –1905, after which Korea had lost its independence and again became the object of repeated attacks.
Prerequisites for the Important Events of the Late 19th – Early 20th Century
The Sino-Japanese War had a huge impact on Japan’s relations not only with China and other Far Eastern countries but also with the European powers, especially with Russia and Great Britain that at the end of the 19th century had the greatest political and economic influence in the region. The starting point was the diplomatic protest that Russia, France, and Germany had formally expressed to the Japanese side after the signing of the peace treaty of Shimonoseki. Russia participated in this demarche, while the United Kingdom did not as this was followed by the conclusion in 1902 the Anglo-Japanese alliance and the worsening of relations between Russia and Japan. This relationship ended in 1904 with the Russo-Japanese war. Taking a broader look at the problem, one can say that the outcome of the Sino-Japanese War and the change of roles on the Asian playing field signaled that the era of purely European or Euro-American policy ended because of a new player arrived – Japan.
The first Sino-Japanese War became the first war for Japan after the Meytszi restoration. Modernization and reform of the army and navy had shown their strength, training, and discipline. Japan, due to the introduction of universal military service, had created quite a strong fighting army that proved its effectiveness on the battlefield. The great countries, which began the reinforcement of their armies at that moment, received a huge impetus to the further development, both on land and at sea.
Becoming the main Japan’s rival, Russia also started to conduct an active policy in East Asia. In fact, Russia had two strategic goals in this area; firstly, to oust Japan from the territory of the southern tip of the Liaodong and secondly, to continue the construction of the railway line from Siberia to the East, namely, through China. The result was a series of agreements, secret and open, and the branch of the railway, which ran to the Far East, was built. Thus, in many ways, Russia tried to keep control of Northern Manchuria.
Taking advantage of the weakening of China, in 1898, Russia signed an agreement on a 25-year lease of the Liaodong Peninsula and began construction of the naval base in Port Arthur. At the same time, Germany leased Qindao, and the UK – Weihaiwei. In addition, Russia and Japan also defended their rights of the Korean peninsula. To counter Japan, Russia tried to find representatives in the Korean state. After an open confrontation and the establishment of a pro-Japanese government (after Korea had royal refuge at the Russian legation), Russia took a more advantageous position on the Korean peninsula for a while. It was also one of the reasons that followed the Japanese military activity.
Because of the intervention of the three European powers, Japan once again had to realize the weakness of its position. Despite the victory in the war, only one recommendation from the westerners was enough to prevent Japan from going to the mainland and setting up in Port Arthur, their military base. Perhaps, without even wanting to, Russia taught the Japanese a lesson: the one stronger was always right. This lesson was well-learned, and for a long time, Japan did not hesitate to demonstrate this knowledge in a tough policy towards its neighbors, Korea and China.
The First Sino-Japanese War and Modernity
The regional order, which remained in Southeast Asia for decades, was unstable. The question of what China had called historical differences with Japan periodically updated. At the same time, China clearly meant not only the war years of 1937-1945, which began with the Manchurian Incident, but also a long-standing event. The Chinese foreign policy since 1895 sought to cancel the Treaty of Shimonoseki, and the Japanese foreign policy sought to confirm it.
It may also include a search for points of contact in the matters of history between China and South Korea, as well as the discussion of accessories Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu), which began in 1895 and remained the subject of a territorial dispute until now. “The treaty’s terms – in particular, its transfer of Taiwan to Japan – modified the regional order in ways we still live with today,” says Professor Holmes, recalling the need to pay great attention to a possible new conflict.
Regularly analyzing current relations with Japan, the Chinese side referred to the 1894-1895 war. For example, the Chinese air force general Liu Yazhou, a member of the CPC Central Committee, the political commissar of the PLA National Defense University, recollected in his analytical publications on the Diaoyu Islands and Sino-Japanese relations:
Japan won the Yellow Sea battle … In January 1895, the Japanese cabinet decided to establish the sign of sovereignty on the Diaoyu Islands which was still owned by the Qin Dynasty. It planted the seeds of the Diaoyu Islands dispute.
However, nothing is over yet. Reasoning possible future development of China and Japan relations, General Liu Yazhou devoted an entire treatise to it. His argumentation allowed estimating how high the level of the suspicion of the longtime enemy was: “Now the balance of power between China and Japan has undergone fundamental changes.” In the past, Japan twice tried to interrupt the process of development of the country, but today, China is able to oppose such attempts actively. The worst example of such an interference can be the humiliation of China and the biggest success in Japan. Obviously, the resentment is as fresh and painful as it was 120 years ago. It may seem strange that in the 21st century, two well-developed Asian countries are ready to fight for “uninhabited rocks in the East China Sea.” However, both sides of the protracted conflict are resistant enough and very serious in their intentions.
Victory in the war turned Japan into a leading regional power that was equal to the European ones. Korea, although formally was not a participant in an armed conflict, was one of the losers. The country remained a subject of the claims of foreign countries, and only for a short time, it gained independence. For China, the war was a disaster as the country had lost the dominant position in the region. The war showed the corruption and incompetence of the Qin officials. On this quite depression background, China was going to have to change to survive. The defeat of 1895 had a great effect on the mood of an entire generation of young politicians and set a new vector of China’s development for decades to come. The results of the First Sino-Japanese War began as prerequisites for two other major wars. External participants of the conflict were involved in the further clarification of the relationship, which soon led to the events of the Russian-Japanese war, and (indirectly) of the First World War. Lastly, the territorial disputes that had arisen at the signing Treaty of Shimonoseki, which has not been settled so far, remain source of tension in the region. The first naval battle of the First Sino-Japanese War took place near a small island of Pungdo in 1894.