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Assignment #2: Prospectus
The first Sino- Japanese war: Causes and consequences
The first Sino-Japanese war was fought between the years 1894 and 1895. The Qing dynasty in China and the Meiji Japan fought over control of Korea and Japan emerged victorious. Not only was the Qing dynasty defeated, Japan’s victory brought out the weakness in the Chinese military and also established Japan as the regional power of that era. As a result of the defeat China made sweeping changes and westernized its military power. An analysis of this war is important as this would lay the basis for the future wars fought between China and Japan and also lead to various reforms within China and Japan. Relations between China and Japan are frosty even after a century and an analysis of the early tensions and wars would give a clear understanding of the existing acrimony between China and Japan. Although much has been written about the war and its consequences, there still exists differing opinions about what exactly started the hostilities and war.
Payson. J. treat in his article titled, “The Cause of the Sino-Japanese War, 1894”, gives three reasons for the Sino-Japanese war. He says that Japan went to war with China because it felt threatened by Russia’s plan to build the railway line across China. An exploitation of China by Russia would have been detrimental to Japanese interests and hence it was said that it went to war. Another reason he gives is that Japan had successfully reformed the country and it military and that it wanted to test its new army on China. The final reason that he gives and thinks was the most plausible cause for the war was the fact that Japan was acting in the interests of Korea. Japan went to war with China to liberate Korea as Korea, although an independent country was a vassal state of China and was controlled by it (Treat 149, 157). Whatever the reasons, Japan went to war with a completely unprepared China. The reason for the Chinese defeat in the war was primarily due to the different methods of reform that China and Japan underwent since the 1860’s. It was not just the Japanese military that was at war but the whole country as such; ideologically the Japanese were entirely different from the Chinese (Lone). Pumin in his analysis of the war and writing 120 years after the war states that while the Qing dynasties reforms were about Self-strengthening and was concerned about keeping the dynasty alive and well, the Japanese reforms were long termed and aimed at turning Japan into a powerful super power (Pumin 15). Although the western powers that China would win owing to its military size, it became clear that although it was big, it was not modern nor did it have the requisite ammunition for a war. Japan was strategically and militarily powerful and with the victory asserted its dominance over the region. Pumin concludes his article by saying the defeat in the war proved to be good for China in the long run. It lead to the demise of the Qing dynasty, modernization and the beginning of a true revival movement in China that ultimately lead to the establishment of People’s republic of China in 1949 (Pumin 19). What China realized from the defeat was that the self strengthening movement was a failure as it did not bring about modernization of the military or the country.
Although the Japanese were militarily superior then the Chinese at the time of the war the Chinese defeat was also partly due to the inefficiency of its military. Although it was big and competent to face a war, there were internal issues that limited the potential of the Chinese army and its navy. Elman in his article, “Naval Warfare and the Refraction of China’s Self-Strengthening Reforms into Scientific and Technological Failure, 1865–1895” states that China during this time was in a semi-colonial state and that there was corruption and lack of coordination among the provincial officials that lead to inefficiency and limited the modernization program that the Qing dynasty initiated (Elman 288). Elman also states that the Qing dynasty may have fallen as a result of the war but the defeat brought about a major change in the Chinese empire and how it viewed Japan. He says that after the war, China looked into western technology and literature to augment its power, but since the Japanese had done that before them, it so happened that the Chinese officials were sent to Japan to learn about the western war strategies and other things (Elman 311, 323). Wright, in hi detailed book about the Chinese navy not only details the improvements the Chinese did to their navy after 1860 but also lists the problems that led to its defeat in the Sino-Japanese war (Wright 2001). Shiping in his paper, “The Meiji Restoration (1868) and the Late Qing Reform (1898) Revisited: Strategies and Philosophies” argues that the Meiji dynasty reforms in Japan was successful because it came not from abour i.e the rulers but from below, groups of people who were bent on reform. Chinese reform on the other hand was heavily influenced by the rulers and this limited the scope of the reform. The cultural elements of both the countries also played a huge role in determining the course of the reforms and their success (Hua 3, 8,17). Silberman also elaborates on this idea of the Japanese reform happening from below in his article, Bureaucratization of Meiji state: the problem of succession in the Meiji Restoration, 1868-1900. ” The war proved to be a turning point for China and shattered any belief of Chinese superiority and made them reappraise their role in the world (Paine 5).
Although there have been numerous causes that has been attributed to the first Sino-Japanese war, what remains clear is that it had major consequences, especially for the Chinese. The defeat played an important part in its modernization program and the change in political culture. Japan as a result of its victory emerged as the regional power of the era.
Treat. J. Payson. “The Cause of the Sino-Japanese War, 1894.” Pacific Historical Review.8 (1939). 149-157. Print.
Pumin, Yin. “The Defeat that Changed China’s History.” Beijing Review. 21 Aug. 2004. 15-19. Print
Elman. A. Benjamin. “Naval Warfare and the Refraction of China’s Self-Strengthening Reforms into Scientific and Technological Failure, 1865–18951.” Modern Asian Studies .38 .2 (2004): 283–326. Print.
Hua, Shiping. “The Meiji Restoration (1868) and the Late Qing Reform (1898) Revisited: Strategies and Philosophies.” East Asia. 21.3 (2004):3-22. Print.
Silberman, Bernard S. “Bureaucratization of Meiji state: the problem of succession in the Meiji Restoration,1868-1900.” Association of Asian Studies.35.3 (1976): 421.430 Print.
Paine, S.C.M. The Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895: Perceptions, Power, and Primacy. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2003. Print
Lone, Stewart. Japan's First Modern War: Army and Society in the Conflict with China, 1894–1895. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1994. Print.
Wright. N.J. Richard. The Chinese Steam Navy 1862-1945. London: Chatham Publishing. 2001. Print.
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