The Defeat that Changed China's History
The First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 altered China's past and has left the nation in reflection ever since
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UPDATED: August 18, 2014 NO. 34 AUGUST 21, 2014
The Legacy of a War

Exactly 120 years after its outbreak, the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 continues to evoke complex feelings among the Chinese people. The conflict, better known in China as the Jiawu War, started with the Battle of Asan on July 25, 1894, and ended with the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki on April 17, 1895. The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), which ruled China at the time, was defeated during the war.

The defeat brought unprecedented chaos to the nation and accelerated its degradation into a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. Even today, the trauma of this war lingers in China.

Fifty-four years prior to the conflict, in 1840, the First Opium War broke out between China and Britain, after which China's closed-door policy came to an end and several treaty ports were opened to foreign trade. Following that war, China embarked on a road toward industrialization.

However, following the defeat of the Qing Dynasty in the Jiawu War, the nation's efforts to strengthen itself were put on hold. The signing of the inequitable Shimonoseki Treaty exposed the dynasty's weakness to imperialist Western powers, and the following invasion by the Eight-Nation Alliance in 1900 further reduced China to an unstable, turmoil-ridden society subject to foreign aggression. The Jiawu War is thus regarded as a major turning point in China's modern history. Japan, however, went on to invade dozens of countries and regions in Asia for over half a century following this war.

The lessons of defeat drawn from the Jiawu War are still relevant today. At present, right-wing activists in Japan regard China's growth as a threat, attempting to dismantle Japan's post-World War II pacifist Constitution and use the United States' "pivot-to-Asia" strategy to contain China. Territorial disputes between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea remain unsettled.

Under such circumstances, China should remind itself of the scars left from the Jiawu War and improve its national strength in order to maintain peace. Reflecting on the war is vital—not as a means to seek revenge, but to stop the revival of militarism as promoted by right-wing Japanese politicians. The Chinese nation must prevent history from repeating itself.

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