Japan's Territorial Gains - the 1890's
November 1, 1988

During the 1890's Japan began to expand its territories. With Reference to China, Russia and Korea, explain how this occurred.

The Meiji Restoration had brought Japan out of its isolationism into the world. Here it met many other countries - China among them. China had always looked down on Japan, and Japan knew it; she was eager for this situation to change. The Restoration had also brought Japan into contact with Western countries, complete with their technology. Japan accepted the new techniques, and China did not - Japan had the edge.

Western nations also saw that China was weak and started taking advantage of it. Japan saw her opportunity and joined in. The first thing to go was China's snobbishness - Japan was granted trading rights and each country's citizens were allowed to travel in the other country. This agreement was called the Treaty of Teintsin, and it was signed in 1871.

Japan and China had long squabbled over who owned the Liuchiu Islands, each country laying claim to them. When some sailors from one of the Islands were marooned there the Taiwanese murdered them, and Japan claimed that the men murdered were Japanese citizens. This meant that she was eligible for compensation, a fact which China did not like. They disputed the claim, saying that both the Liuchiu Islands and Taiwan were Chinese property, which made the problem a domestic one. Japan responded by invading Taiwan - China backed down and paid up the compensation. Japan then withdrew, but five years later formally annexed the Liuchius.

Japan then looked at Korea. The nation was backward and old- fashioned, but still full of promise. Japan traditionally regarded Korea as a potential enemy, and their concern was heightened by increased Russian interest in the area. Korea was still controlled, as it had been for hundreds of years, by the Chinese. Since China was weak, Korea was unstable. Japan then set about splitting the Chinese and Koreans apart.

Japan tried to establish diplomatic relations - this failed, and when they tried again they were rejected a second time. The Japanese threatened force and the Koreans gave in. The two countries signed a treaty, in which Japan formally recognised Korea as a separate nation (even though Koreans did not) and gave both countries trading ports in each country. The Chinese regarded this move as insulting and said so, but Japan kept quiet. As time (in years) went on Japan became more involved in Korean affairs and China proportionately less. The Chinese were worried but could do nothing - things reached a climax in 1894 when both countries sent troops in. This lead to war between the two countries.

The Japanese army was much more efficient than the Chinese, and soon pushed them out of Korea and back into China. The Port Arthur naval base was captured and the army crossed the Yalu River. The Japanese navy went just as well - this was mainly because it was more modern and efficient, and the Chinese were corrupted and this caused a severe lack of ammunition. Chine surrendered in February 1895.

The Treaty of Shimonoseki saw Korea acknowledged by China as a individual country, and saw China lose the Liaotung Peninsula, Taiwan, and the Pescadores Islands. Japan got four more ports to trade with and also received the much-waited for "most-favoured" trading status. China also had to pay 200 million taels.

Russia, France and Germany suddenly intruded. They had performed a "Triple Intervention" and asked Japan to give back the Liaotung Peninsula to the Chinese. Japan had no option as the powers were too string for them. The Japanese people were really pissed off and hated the Europeans for it - especially the Russians, who seemed to be the main instigator in the whole thing.

The Boxer Rebellion in China put that country in a grave financial and economic position, and other nations from around the world pitched in to help. They all sent troops, and eventually the Rebellion was crushed. With this, the troops began to move out, but the Russians stayed on in Machuria. It was plain to the Japanese that the Russians intended to stay there for a while, and so, not surprisingly, they were worried. They decided that they alone were not enough to beat the Russians if hostilities were to break out, and so started seeking a European alliance. They found one with the British.

The Anglo-Japanese Alliance, as it was called, was signed in 1902. This Treaty set the scene for Japan's outlook for many years to come, and gave them confidence in any hassles with other countries. At the run of the century, at the end of the 1890's, Japan looked set to become very powerful. It had been a long twenty years, but the best was yet to come.