chapter  2
24 Pages

The Sino–Japanese War, the Tripartite Intervention, and Japan’s ‘postwar management’

The Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 finally ended the mutual acquiescence that had lasted for so long between China and Japan and, for the first time in modern history, sent masses of Japanese soldiers to the continent. As such, the event was monumental enough. However, it was also a watershed, not only of Japanese and Chinese modern history, but of international history in general. As the diplomatic historian William Langer observed, the war ‘marked the transition of the Far Eastern question from a state of quiescence to one of extreme activity. From 1895 until 1905 the problems connected with China and her future demanded the untiring vigilance of the European powers. More and more they came to dominate the course of international relations.’1 Although one could argue that, on the Sino-Japanese side, the state had been far from quiescent before the war, the scope and extent of its repercussions certainly excelled everything experienced before in East Asia. The factual side of the Sino-Japanese War and its immediate aftermath

has been the subject of a number of detailed studies already, and for our purpose only the briefest outline will suffice:2 At the beginning of June 1894, on the occasion of the Tonghak riots, the Korean government requested China to send military assistance and quell the uprising. China complied and, after notifying Japan to this effect (as stipulated in the Tianjin Treaty), dispatched its troops. However, Japan immediately responded by sending troops of its own, allegedly for the protection of its nationals and diplomatic personnel, although its size quadrupled the Chinese contingent.3 After this, Japan’s rather provocative actions in Korea and towards China relentlessly pushed the situation toward war. Finally, Japan declared war on China on 1 August 1894. Although unexpected by most foreign observers, the development of the

war soon turned out to be immensely successful for Japan. In mid-September 1894 the Japanese navy defeated China’s Northern Fleet in the Yellow Sea and Japan’s army won the battle of Pyongyang; in November Port Arthur on the Liaodong Peninsula fell; and finally, in February 1895, Weihaiwei on the Chinese coast was taken as well. Already in spring 1895, representatives met, first in Hiroshima and then

in Shimonoseki, to negotiate a peace treaty, largely on Japan’s terms. On

17 April 1895, Li Hongzhang, Ito-Hirobumi and Mutsu Munemitsu signed the Peace Treaty of Shimonoseki. The treaty stipulated China’s acknowledgement of the independence of Korea, the payment of a large indemnity to Japan, the cession of Taiwan, the Pescadores and the Liaodong Peninsula, as well as a commercial section that granted Japan and the Western powers considerable commercial privileges and opened new treaty ports in China. Until full payment of the indemnity, Japan would keep its troops stationed in Weihaiwei. The commercial section of the treaty very much pleased Britain; the cession of Port Arthur, however, troubled Russia and Germany. Thus on 23 April 1895, less than a week after the Shimonoseki Treaty was signed, Russia, France and Germany intervened and gave the ‘friendly advice’ (conseil amical) that Japan retrocede the Liaodong Peninsula for the sake of peace and stability in East Asia. The Japanese government saw no other way than to accept the advice and to inform the public of the fact by imperial edict in mid-May. As a consequence of the Tripartite Intervention and the changed political situation in East Asia, the Japanese government started the so-called ‘postwar management’ (sengo keiei), at the center of which stood an ambitious armament program of 10 years’ duration, and which had a considerable impact on Japan’s foreign politics and domestic life in the decade after the Sino-Japanese War.