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THE CAUSE OF AND EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE SINO-JAPANESE WAR OF (1894-1895)

 

 

 

                          CONTENTS

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION........................................  1 

CHAPTER 2: THE ANNEXATION OF LIUCHIU...........................  2

 

CHAPTER 3: THE TREATY OF KANGHWA...............................  3

 

CHAPTER 4: SOLDIER'S MUTINY....................................  4

 

CHAPTER 5: THE 1884 COUP D'ETAT................................  4

 

CHAPTER 6: THE TIENTSIN CONVENTION.............................  5

 

CHAPTER 7: THE TONGHAK REBELLION...............................  6

 

CHAPTER 8: THE OUTBREAK OF WAR.................................  7

 

CHAPTER 9: CONCLUSION..........................................  8

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:.................................................. 10

 

 

 

 

 

                         PREFACE

 

 

     During the writing of this paper I encountered several problems. The first and most serious being the lack of material in English concerning the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895. While the amount of information covering the conduct of the Sino-Japanese war of 1937-1941 was overwhelming the "first" Sino-Japanese war seems to have been relegated to the realm of unimportance.

     Although there is little to no data about the play of the war there is a decent variety of information concerning the events leading up to the war both from the Chinese viewpoint and from the Japanese and Korean viewpoints.

     The focus of my paper is on these events leading up to the war from the views of the three major participants, the Chinese, the Japanese and the Koreans. And how the difference of the Chinese and the Japanese viewpoints affected each nation's conduct.

Another of the problems I encountered was the modern personal computer which makes a mockery of the phrase "user friendly". Again due to a paucity of adequate information (no one, not even the Graduate School of Computer Science at Yonsei University, was able to correct the operation of my word processing program or my printer) and my inability to use the footnote function I have been forced to use a mere roman numeral surrounded by brackets to represent footnotes, i.e. [1]. Additionally the print quality is somewhat on the poor side and regrettably will remain so until I can afford to buy a new printer; in other words,it may be some time.

 

 

  

 

 

 

                         CHAPTER 1:

                        INTRODUCTION

 

     The events leading up to the start of the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895 were not a series of random events which inadvertently led to the clash of China and Japan. They were instead a series of carefully planned moves by the Japanese to lead China into the war as part of the new expansion program initiated after Japan's reform party had successfully taken control of the Japanese government and led their country on an economic and territorial expansion program (also known as the Meiji restoration). The territorial expansion was of course made possible by  military strengthening.


China also had been involved in a reform movement of it's own. Economic, political and militarily but the remaining archaic institutions still existing in a China that had made little or no progress in it's ten year reform doomed China's attempts at reform from the beginning. The governmental corruption  and lack of direction that had been present in China for hundreds of years served to undermine attempts by many government officials to effect progressive change and real military and economic strengthening.

     Since the major political reforms in Japan the tiny nation has had a secret plan for invading and seizing the territory of neighboring nations. As Sato Shinen (a prominent Japanese scholar of the Tokugawa period) said in his book entitled Kodo Hisaku [A Secret Assimilation Policy].

    

     The method of invading other nations must begin with the one    which is weak and easy to take. Now, among all nation of the     world, there is no other territory easier for Japan to take     that China's Manchuria, because the territory is near   Japan,       separated by water and a distance of less that 800 li...           Undoubtedly, sooner or later, the territory must belong to         us. But are we to get only Manchuria? No. The decline and             fall of the whole nation of China will begin with the loss of     Manchuria. After we obtain Mongolia. then Korea and China will           be secured in succession.[1]

 

Another noted scholar and a reform leader prior to the Meiji restoration, Yoshida Shoin, wrote in 1854.

 

     We should now speed up our military preparations with adequate      supplies of war vessels and artillery, and then we should....      instruct the king of the Liuchiu Islands to send us tribute     and order Korea to send her princes to Japan as hostages and   to present tribute as she did in ancient times. The territory   of Manchuria in the north should be ceded to us and that of    Formosa, Luzon, and other islands in the south should be annexed. [2]

 

 

 

                     CHAPTER 2:

                 THE ANNEXATION OF LIUCHIU

 

     In a brilliant first move of the new assimilation policy Japan used an incident in which fifty sailors from Liuchiu were massacred by the savages living on Formosa. The Japanese envoy demanded reparations from China for the death of the fifty sailors and by doing so insinuated Japanese suzerainty over Liuchiu. In an effort to avoid responsibility for the incident China replied that they were not responsible for the actions of the savages on Formosa and that the savages and Formosa were  outside the sphere of Chinese influence. This was the opening the Japanese had been waiting for, and in 1874 the Japanese sent troops to Formosa to punish the savages of Formosa. The Japanese built roads and made other militarily essential improvements while they were there. China also sent troops to Formosa upon hearing of Japans expeditionary force in an effort to compel Japan to leave Formosa. At this point Japan was bargaining from a position of power, having seized formosa; and demanded reparations from China  for their military expedition and the construction they had done. Although Japan received indemnity from China money was not what they were after.  Primarily Japan was interested in having China concede Liuchiu by making China pay an indemnity. The mere act of paying an indemnity to Japan for the death of sailors from Liuchiu was as good as an admission that Liuchiu was indeed a part of Japan. China made these payments and admissions in spite of the fact that she had long claimed Liuchiu as her own and indeed the inhabitants of Liuchiu too, thought of themselves as Chinese. Although this settlement helped China's position in Formosa by removing the Japanese it also confirmed Japan's claim to Liuchiu which became a Japanese district in 1879.

 

 

                         CHAPTER 3

                     TREATY OF KANGHWA

    

     In the same way they had engineered the annexation of Liuchiu they were simultaneously preparing to seize Korea. In March of 1873 while the Formosa trouble was brewing, Japanese Foreign Minister Soejima  was sent to China to complain of the Korean impoliteness towards Japan and implied that China should exercise her power over Korea and help to improve relations between Korea and Japan. The Tsungli Yamen, again trying to avoid responsibility as it had in the Formosa situation, replied that Korea was completely independent in her domestic and diplomatic affairs. This was another break Japan had been hoping for. The minister said nothing in rebuttal and quietly went back to Japan. Preparations to annex Korea had begun. [2]

      In reality plans to annex Korea had been under way for some time. Japan felt that Korea had greatly insulted her by refusing a Japanese mission. But above that Japan had long felt that Korea as a weak neighbor had the possibility of being swallowed up by one of the European powers and that would place a European enemy geographically too close to Japan for them to be able to maintain proper national security. [3] For these two reasons Japan had been intending to launch a military expedition to Korea as early as 1873 [4] The first move by the Japanese was to send a warship to survey the harbors in Korea and the coast of the Liaotung Peninsula in 1875. As the ship was passing Kanghwa Bay they sent some small boats to survey the mouth of the Han River which was blocked by the Koreans. The Japanese warship fired on and destroyed the Korean forts on either side of the river. The following year Japan sent seven ships and about eight hundred troops to Kanghwa Island with the intention of forcing Korea into signing an unequal treaty. The result was the treaty of Kanghwa in which Japan was given numerous rights, the most important however was not the trading rights but the provision that stated Korea was an independent nation and this opened the door for future Japanese aggression. After Japan forced the treaty of Kanghwa on Korea they informed the Tsungli Yamen. Prince Kung replied that Japan should have consulted with China before entering into a treaty with Korea but Japans's reply was that China had said Korea was autonomous in it's foreign affairs. Of course the Tsungli Yamen did not actively dispute this and that further prompted the Japanese aggression.

    

 

 

                            CHAPTER 4

                      SOLDIER'S MUTINY

 

     Since the treaty of Kanghwa was signed under duress Korea still relied on China for much assistance. And Li Hung-Chang in an attempt to show that China was still conducting Korean foreign affairs and to keep the obvious Japanese expansion in check attempted to induce the U.S. and other european nations to sign trade and friendship pacts with Korea.

     Since the treaty of Kanghwa the Korean court had been split into two factions, a pro-Japanese group (the Min faction) and a pro-Chinese group led by Tae Won Gun. Tae Won Gun though, had been losing prestige and retired. After his disappearance from political power members of the Min faction caused a mutiny by embezzling funds intended for the military. Tae Won Gun took this opportunity to incite the underpaid soldiers to riot. Many members of the Min faction were killed. The mutineers also killed a Japanese military advisor and surrounded the Japanese legation. This inspired the Japanese to send troops to quell the outbreak and China responded in kind with troops of it's own. In the end, Korea signed a peace  document with Japan which required Korea to pay indemnity to Japan and allowed for the permanent stationing of Japanese soldiers in Korea to protect the Japanese legation. Following this incident both China and Japan had soldiers permanently stationed in Korea and the stage had been set for a major confrontation.

 

 

 

                    CHAPTER 5

                    THE 1884 COUP D'ETAT

 

     Two years later in 1884 Yuan Shih-kai, the Chinese commander who had stayed in Korea after the permanent stationing of troops there, made a secret alliance with  the Min faction in order to stall Japanese plans. Japan, on the other hand began to support the revolutionary party of Kim Ok kyun. A confrontation was inevitable and it happened in December of 1884. The Japanese minister to Korea, Takesoe Shinichiro, secretly conspired with the leader of the opposition party, Kim Ok Kyun, to Kill many members of the Min party and take the palace. The Japanese backed Kim faction set fire to several nearby buildings during the opening ceremonies of the first Post Office in Seoul and then rushed to the Imperial Palace asking that Japanese troops be brought to the palace to protect it. The Japanese soldiers killed many important members of the Min clan. Some members of the Min clan escaped to the headquarters of the Chinese soldiers and Yuan led his soldiers to the imperial palace to suppress the rebels. The Japanese were defeated and driven out of Seoul. During there retreat from the capital the Japanese troops were harassed by the Korean populace who clearly supported the Chinese. Takesoe burned the Japanese legation and also fled to the coast where the leaders of the rebellion escaped to Japan. Upon hearing of the uprising the Japanese sent a military force under Inouye Kaoru, to punish the Koreans. The Chinese likewise sent a military force under Wu Ta-Cheng. The two forces arrived at the same time and Japan began negotiations with Korea (Wu was not permitted to supervise the Negotiations as he had intended to). Negotiations were concluded when Korea agreed to pay yet another indemnity to Japan and to rebuild the Japanese legation. The plot by Takezoe was of his own design and was not the product of "official" Japanese policy. It was however in line with the general policies Japan had been applying to the Korean situation and did help to further their overall plan.

 

 

 

                         CHAPTER 6

                  THE TIENTSIN CONVENTION

    

     In 1885 the Tientsin Convention was signed Li Hung-Chang and Ito Hirobumi in which both China and Japan agreed to withdraw troops from Korea and to suspend any more training of Korean troops. But the most important section of the treaty and the part that was going to eventually draw these two nations together in war was the stipulation that each must inform the other if they intended to dispatch troops to Korea. The treaty also recognized Korea as a co-protectorate of China and Japan. This part of the treaty was accepted reluctantly by Li who had to consider China's ongoing conflict with France and her generally weak military and economic state. Li felt that China was not militarily prepared for a major conflict with Japan and his actions at this junction and hereafter were influenced by this fact.

     After the signing of the treaty China and Japan had no further military conflicts while Japan concentrated on military buildup and was temporarily content with the privileges the treaty afforded. China on the other hand still was playing a major role as a protector of Korea.

 

 

 

                          CHAPTER 7

                   THE TONGHAK REBELLION

 

Although Japan made no overtly aggressive moves in the nine years following the signing of the Li Ito convention Japan did continue to prepare for it's eventual plan of taking Korea and waging war against China at the same time. Prior to the outbreak of the Tonghak Rebellion, the incident which led to the outbreak of the war, Japan had been sending Japanese militarists to Korea to organize the Heavenly Inspired Heroic Corps (a group of anti-government agitators). In 1994 after the assassination of Kim Ok Kyun the TongHak rebellion erupted. The TongHak rebels were a ultra-conservative party who spurned western influence and learning and frequently assassinated corrupt government officials. Due to Korea's long history of corrupt government the populace was generally receptive to the ideas of the TongHak group. The Heavenly Inspired Heroic Corps, who's cadre were Japanese trained, were at this point supporting the Tonghak rebel's military actions to a small degree. This was done so the Japanese would have an excuse to send in troops to "suppress" the rebellion. As the rebellion was going on the Japanese minister to Korea continually insisted that Japan was not going to send soldiers or warships to help in the suppression of the rebels. At the same time, June 1st 1984, the Japanese legation's translator met with Yuan and suggested that the Chinese send troops to quell the rebellion as Japanese businessmen were suffering hardships. Yuan reported this information to Li Hung-Chang but Li had already been convinced by the Japanese counsel at Tientsin that China should send troops to help eliminate the TongHak rebels. Clearly the Japanese were engineering the beginning of the war by manipulating the Chinese into sending a military force to Korea (before yuan had been able to report the Japanese translators suggestion to Li, Li had been already been approached by the Japanese counsel) Although they had claimed up to that point that they would not send troops they had indeed already prepared to send 7-8000. This decision had been reached by the Japanese Cabinet at the urging of Mutsu Munemitsu as early as June 15 1894. At the time Mutsu had a strong following of war hawks, one of whom was the Deputy Chief of the Army Staff, General Kawakami Soroku. In private meetings between Mutsu and Kawakami during the first week of June they had agreed among themselves that Japan should send a large force to Korea and since those meetings Kawakami had the soldiers available and at the ready for a speedy deployment.

     When Li sent a dispatch to the Japanese court informing them that China was sending 1500 troops to Korea a dispatch was received from the Japanese consulate saying that Japan was sending troops to Korea too. It is important to note that Li received the Japanese dispatch before the Japanese Court received the Chinese dispatch. Again Japan had prepared for a military encounter and had lured China into the trap.

 

                   

 

                     CHAPTER 8

                    THE OUTBREAK OF WAR

 

     Although the declaration of war was not made until August 1st 1984 the war actually started sooner. Li Hung-Chang who had all along hoped for peace (he was all too aware of the poor state of readiness of the Chinese Military) still wanted to believe that a war with Japan could be avoided. Yuan on the other hand was not fooled. When he saw the arrival of the 7000 Japanese troops, their dispatch to Seoul, their subsequent seizure of the Korean court and their expulsion of Chinese officials he immediately requested 8000 more soldiers. The soldiers arrived but not for another month and a half. Li continued to claim that Japan would not start the war and he continued to conduct negotiations with the Japanese. On July 25 1894 Li's hopes of a peaceful settlement vanished when the Japanese Navy sunk the Chinese transport ship Kow Shing in the Korean bay. At the same time the Chinese troops stationed in Yashan were surrounded and attacked by Japanese troops. The war had begun.

    

 

 

                         CHAPTER 9

                         CONCLUSION

 

     It is clear from the order, timing and from the events leading up to the war that the Sino-Japanese war was not an accident. But instead was a result of the national policy of Japan; a policy of reform, economic and military strengthening and territorial expansion for both economic and security reasons. Since the Meiji restoration began, to their defeat at the end of World War II the Japanese Nation had been slowly increasing it's economic power through industry and foreign trade. Streamlining it's government by borrowing ideas from european nations. Increasing it's military strength by buying european ships that China had turned down in a previous offer, and again, imitating western techniques in the organization of it's armed forces. And in a bold plan for territorial expansion they intended to create a strategically important buffer of territory around their island by first seizing Liuchiu then trying to occupy Formosa. Their plan continued with the forceful implementation of unequal treaties on Korea and persistently stirring up anti-government agitators, knowing this would give them the excuse they needed to send in troops under the pretense of quelling the rebellions that ensued. Although they were not completely successful (their desire to own Manchuria was foiled by the triple European intervention) they did succeed in annexing Korea and gaining military superiority in Asia.

    To be sure, the entire nation of Japan was not a bloodthirsty machine, but the government was home to a group of war hawks who were able to persuade the nation and win the support of the people for it's aggressions.

 

     China too had gone through a reform of sorts, but theirs could not compare to that of Japan's. The Chinese government had been plagued by corruption and a lack of initiative to correct the corruption for hundred's of years. Those in the governmental service who honestly tried to improve China's situation, like Li Hung-Chang, were fighting an uphill battle. Their attempts at  economic revitalization were hampered by their inability to accept foreign techniques wholeheartedly. They had no plan for streamlining the government and their military strengthening efforts were thwarted by the corruption of officials (such as the Empress Dowager embezzling funds intended for the purchase of warships to build her summer palace; the same warship which Japan later bought and scored a fine record of victories over the Chinese fleet) and their lack of centralized military command. The corruption was so bad that when the war actually started the Chinese warships involved in naval engagements only had three shells per gun.

     The outcome was thus, inevitable. Japan's hostile overtures went unchecked by China in it's weakened state leaving the road to the Sino-Japanese war wide open.                       

 

 

                            NOTES:

 

[1] and

[2] Li, Chien-Nung. and Ingalls, Jeremy.

           The Political History of China 1840-1928. Princeton:

           (D. Van Nostrand Co, INC. 1956) p. 127.

 

[3] Nish, Ian.

           Japanese Foreign Policy 1869-1942, Kasumigaseki to                 Miyakezaka. London.

           (Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd. 1977) p. 34.

 

[4]                     "                      p. 26-28.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Li, Chien-Nung. and Ingalls, Jeremy.

           The Political History of China 1840-1928. Princeton:

          D. Van Nostrand Company, INC. 1956.

 

Hook, Brian. (editor)

            The Cambridge Encyclopedia of China. Cambridge:

           Cambridge University Press. 1991.

 

Immanuel C. Y. Hsu.

          The Rise of Modern China. New York.

          Oxford University Press, Inc. 1990.

 

Asimov, Isaac.

          Asimov's Chronology of the World. New York.

           Harper Collins Publishers. 1991.

 

Howard, Richard C.

            The Chinese Reform Movement of the 1890's: A Symposium.

 

 

Eckert, Carter J. et al.

          Korea Old and New A History. Seoul.

           Ilchokak, Publishers. 1990.

 

Kajima, Morinosike.

          A Brief Diplomatic History of Modern Japan. Tokyo.

          Charles E. Tuttle Company. 1965.

 

Nish, Ian.

          Japanese Foreign Policy 1869-1942, Kasumigaseki to                 Miyakezaka. London.

          Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd. 1977.